First among the priorities for the party is the selection of a new leader. There are three places in the Democratic Party that provide institutional leadership positions. As of now there is the leader of the DNC who heads the party, the house minority leader and the Senate minority leader.
When we take a look at the house we have Nancy Pelosi who is not an effective leader at all. The mainstream press gives her a pass most times on the issues, mostly because she is not charismatic. The other reason is that since the Democrats have very little power to actually derail the Republican agenda the media has very little use for her.
A glance at the Senate and we have Harry Reid. Here is somebody who can foil the Republicans but we have to take into account that he is a deal-maker. He is not a charismatic leader by any stretch and is highly regarded as being an insider who can help move legislation. His track record as somebody that can speak to ordinary people on the issues that count is uncertain at best.
That leaves us with the the DNC. Terry M, who was a Clinton insider, has been effective at raising money but not at shaping a message. Thats where Howard Dean comes in. Say what you want about him and his implosion leading up to New Hampshire but he has a strong message, and has strong leadership qualities. He is exactly what the Democratic party needs at this moment in time. The pary lacks a vision and a message and Dean could help provide that going forward.
Could John Kerry provide leadership? He has an institutional position in the Senate to do so. Not having a leadership position means he is free to speak his mind but we will have to wait and see what happens. The Democratic party has tended to not treat the losing candidates so well. I am certain he will not fade away for a few years like Al Gore did but only time will tell if Kerry can be an effective leader.