Huffpost Politics
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Sen. Harkin Backs Dean For HHS Secretary

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The idea of nominating Howard Dean to head up the Department of Health and Human Services has the backing of at least one prominent national Democrat.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who endorsed Dean's presidential campaign in 2004 and is rumored to be in the HHS running himself, applauded the idea of the former DNC header taking over the cabinet post vacated by Tom Daschle.

"I think that would be a very good move," Harkin told the Huffington Post. "He brings all the background and experience. He's very strong on prevention and wellness, which I'm very strong on. I think he'd make an outstanding secretary of HHS."

Asked if he had spoken to White House on the matter, Harkin demurred: "I'm not going to get into that," he said after a pause.

Dean's hopes of taking over HHS -- he would, those who know him say, take the job if offered -- is, at this point, not a campaign. The former Vermont Governor has and will remain mum on the notion because, as he himself admitted, the surest way to not be chosen is to actively pine for a post. In progressive circles, however, supporters of Dean insist that he is best suited for the job, having managed health care in Vermont and served as a doctor himself.

Whether this endorsement helps or hurts is a topic of debate. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Dean's frosty relationship with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will be the main impediment to his ending up at HHS. Others are concerned that a major netroots movement to appoint Dean will actually turn the White House off the notion. They don't want it to seem like they are "bending to the demands of the left," as one Democrat put it -- not because they aren't concerned with progressive priorities, but because the choice will be criticized as an effort in political pacification.