Dean: I'm a 'huge Hillary Clinton fan'

Howard Dean has come around to the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency, with the onetime critic now saying he’s a “huge Hillary Clinton fan.”

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The former Democratic presidential contender known for rallying the party’s progressive base — and for an oddly executed yelp that contributed to the collapse of his 2004 campaign for president — told CNN that he thinks she’d make a “terrific president.”

"I am a huge Hillary Clinton fan," Dean said. "I just am. Not because I hope to get a job. I know her; I've known her for a long time. I think she has an enormous mental capacity to do analysis and let the chips fall where they may."

He added: “If she is president, which I hope she is, I think she is going to be a terrific president.”

Dean's the latest former Clinton foe to offer support for the highly likely 2016 hopeful.

Liberals, though, remain unsatisfied with the idea of the former secretary of State as the Democratic nominee, and have been searching for an alternative to the presumed front-runner.

Dean himself made headlines last year when he criticized Clinton and suggested he might run for the presidency, pledging to encourage “other politicians” to run to emphasize liberal priorities.

While Dean said he's not yet endorsing Clinton, he sounded a different note in his interview with CNN, saying he won’t run against her and that he hasn’t “seen anything that alarms me about Hillary Clinton at all.” 

But he warned that "there's going to be opposition, and it's not going to be lightweight opposition."

One option, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is "new and refreshing," said Dean, and "incredibly straightforward." Of another, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Dean said he was a “big fan” and had chatted with him about his ambitions.

"I have spoken to him about this," Dean said. "He came to see me about it a year ago. He is a very solid guy who has done a terrific job as governor. I like the way he thinks, and I like the way he approaches problems and gets things done.

“But Hillary Clinton has 100 percent name recognition and huge favorability numbers,” he added. “It's a very uphill climb for somebody who wants to run against her."

The developing GOP field is largely an array of fresh faces within the party, first- or second-term lawmakers and governors that have built national profiles over the past couple of years. The comparable generational gap Clinton could face if she runs — she’d be 69 when sworn in — may be her greatest liability, Dean said.

“Hillary, she has been on the scene since, what, 1992?" he said. "To elect Hillary, the country would have to do something we've only done once in my lifetime, with Reagan over Carter, which is the country would have to go back a generation. Usually, you don't go back."

But he universally panned the GOP field, calling Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), both Tea Party darlings, the “wing-nut brothers,” and suggesting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is too flawed because of scandals that have marred his administration.

"If it's Christie, people are going to look at Bridge-gate and Hoboken-gate and all that stuff and go, 'Why not join with a safe person who is a proven commodity?' 'Fuggedaboutit' is not a proven commodity.

“The only candidate that I would be concerned about is Jeb Bush, but then you get more of the same, and how is he going to denounce his brother's presidency?" he said.