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Howard Dean, the progressive hero in the 2004 presidential race and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, this morning gave his surprising endorsement of South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg to be the next chairman of the DNC. Buttigieg is considered an outsider in the race, trailing establishment favorite Thomas Perez and progressive favorite Keith Ellison.

Buttigieg is “the outside-the-Beltway” choice, Dean said on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC Wednesday. “Our party is old and creaky, including me,” Dean said, citing Buttigieg’s age, 35.

Ellison, a Minnesota congressman, has been the favorite of the Left so far, garnering endorsements from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Perez, Barack Obama’s labor secretary, meanwhile has backing of Obama alumni like former Vice President Joe Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

The DNC chairman race has been fiercer than normal, as the party reels in the wake of 8 years of bleeding on the local level and Hillary Clinton’s unexpected defeat in the 2016 election.

Dean, a former governor of Vermont who now works as a not-exactly-a-lobbyist, was the Left’s favorite in the 2004 presidential race, and he headed the DNC in the 2006 and 2008 elections when the party took over the House, the Senate, and the White House as well as winning most governorships.

Since then, the party has steadily collapsed. “Our party is in trouble,” Dean said.

Democrats had 29 governorships on the day Obama was sworn in. Today there are 18 Democratic governors, and as the sun rose the day after Election Day, that number looked likely to shrink.

When Obama came into office, Democrats controlled legislatures in 27 states. Today, it is 12 states.

Dean argued Buttigieg, who lacks the backing Perez and Ellison enjoy, could win the chairmanship race on the second ballot, calling him “everyone’s second choice.”

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Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner’s commentary editor, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Tuesday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.

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