Robert Novak, using every Democrat source he can muster, offers us this fascinating take on current Democratic heartburn:

Before a single vote has been cast anywhere, thoughtful Democrats across the country are reaching a melancholy conclusion. Howard Dean is close to clinching the nomination. The question is not merely whether he can be stopped but also whether he should be stopped.

This poses a dilemma that was discussed during a small, private dinner party last week attended by people actively engaged in politics for much of the last half-century. They viewed Dean’s increasingly probable nomination with loathing and fear that it benefits George W. Bush. But to try and stop him now, they agreed, may open a bloody split in the Democratic Party not seen since the great divide of 1972.

This situation is made possible by Democratic reforms following the tumult of 1968. In 1972, at least, the party establishment fought to the bitter end attempting to block the nomination of George McGovern, because his loss of 49 states was widely anticipated. The final touch to the reforms has been added in this cycle by Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe, whose front-loading of primaries was designed to pick an early nominee.

Ahhh….Terry McAwful, what a good job you have done for the party.