He doesn't need the party's regular donors to keep his campaign running. Even without a majority of the delegates, Dean would still have leverage. "If Dean doesn't get the nomination, the party will have to make its peace with Dean," said an influential Democratic lawyer. "He is the validator of whether or not the party is the right place for his voters."Dean has made waves by implying that either he can't or won't necessarily swing his supporters to the eventual nominee -- if it's not him. This is mostly an empty threat; where will Dean go, if not along with the nominee? If it's subtle angling for the VP slot, I think quite a few Deaniacs might lose their enthusiasm on election day, and not vote for a co-opted Whoever/Dean ticket. But if the convention is fractured by several delegate-carrying possibilities and no clear nominee, and if Dean can show his clout by bringing out the grass roots machinery in the primaries, even a delegate deficit doesn't kill him, though the DLC center of the party will consider him the last resort until the bitter end.
The real gooser is that the party is aware that the earlier a nominee emerges, the more time is left to move to the center, make peace, and tear into Bush. If that's the thinking behind Wes Clark, Lieberman has no chance without some early delegate counts. In addition, if that's the thinking behind the Clark push, so far there's no traction for Clark to become a clear leader.
Interesting days ahead.