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Al Gore will endorse Howard Dean tomorrow:

Former Vice President Al Gore intends to endorse Howard Dean for the Democratic presidential nomination, a dramatic move that could cement Dean’s position in the fight for the party’s nod.

Gore, who lost to President Bush in the disputed 2000 election, has agreed to endorse Dean in Harlem in New York City on Tuesday and then travel with the former Vermont governor to Iowa, sight of the Jan. 19 caucuses which kickoff the nominating process, said a Democratic source close to Gore.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Dean will return from Iowa in time for Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in New Hampshire.

Dean’s campaign declined to comment.

There’s nothing sinister in the secret source or lack of comment from Dean — they’re just saving the good stuff for tomorrow. That’s political stage-setting, and no different than President Bush holding a display turkey in Baghdad.

What’s the endorsement mean? If I had to guess, it means no one will stop Dean before the North Carolina primary vote and if he isn’t stopped there, then he’ll be the nominee.

It also means John Kerry is finished. Like Gore, Kerry is a moderate-liberal Senator with a long history of national exposure. Failing to get the nod from Gore says nothing good about his chances, and lots bad.

And Gephardt? It certainly can’t help him. In fact, I can’t think of a single major endorsement for Gephardt. He’s failed to dew up the union endorsements, which by all rights should have been his, and I don’t think even Nancy Pelosi has spoken up for him.

Of course, the Big Endorsement will come from the Big Cahuna of Democratic politics — but I don’t expect Bill Clinton to endorse anyone until the convention next summer. Why? Because it’ll make for big ratings and great theater.

How the Gore endorsement will play out in the national election next fall is trickier to handicap.

Enough Democrats think that Gore had his victory stolen by Bush & Co., that having their man back on the campaign trail could very well prove as energizing as Dean’s populist anger. But energy moves in a circle — Republican voters could very well come out in droves, too, just to kick Gore again.

And in the South, where Gore lost every single state, his nod could hurt more than it helps. Not that Dean is likely to do any better there in ’04 than Gore did in ’00.

UPDATE: One emailer asked, “What about Lieberman?”

Well, what about him? The brutal truth is, his campaign is on the rocks — and losers don’t get bigtime endorsements.

Privately, however, he must be fuming. All the position flipflops he went through to be Gore’s running mate bought him nothing but grief from conservative Democrats, and nothing at all from Gore.