“I used to be on Dean’s bandwagon but I feel as if he’s imploding,” said medical student Eliza Shulman, 29.
“I was really scared when I saw him on TV. I can’t believe I used to be for that guy. It’s embarrassing.”
Strategists for Democratic rivals said they were stunned by Dean’s primal screams after the Iowa caucus vote put rivals John Kerry first and John Edwards second, respectively.
“I don’t know how he’ll ever be able to convince voters that he has the gravitas, temperament and judgment to be president,” said one.
In the tirade, a raging Dean swung his fists as he vowed to fight on - then hoarsely screamed upcoming primary states one by one, before letting out a banshee shriek - “AAARGH!!!”
Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway said: “This was the latest episode in the new reality show - Howard Dean’s Freak Show.”
She suggested, as did several Democratic consultants, that Dean’s furious, vein-popping outburst - now being played all over the internet, TV and talk radio - compounded the problems he’d created with multiple gaffes on everything from the Iowa caucuses to Osama bin Laden’s guilt.
“He comes across either as a child throwing a temper tantrum and taking his ball and going home from the sandbox, or a grown man whose temper is disturbing,” Conway added.
But not everyone found it disturbing.
“I liked his enthusiasm. He didn’t have a defeatist attitude,” said retired teacher Fran Philippe, 65, of Concord, New Hampshire.
But at the same rally, Sarah Pendleton, 36, a bank employee, was totally turned off by Dean’s rant-o-rama. “He looked like a football jock who was mad because he lost,” said Pendleton.
Veteran strategists said they had rarely seen such an outburst, in which Dean howled and vowed to “fight and fight and fight”.
Some recalled Richard Nixon’s bitter taunt after losing the race for California governor in 1962: “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore”. Nixon did come back - but it took him six years.
Dean’s outburst achieved instant-classic status among political operatives - and struck such a chord with the public that DJs were busting hip-hop remixes of it.
GOP pollster Bill McInturff pointed to the remix and the ridicule all over talk radio and said: “It’s terrible when you get the worst possible outcome in Iowa and then you make yourself the source and butt of humour.”
“None of this is helpful in terms of a rebound in New Hampshire - which is unfortunate, since he’s still my favourite candidate.” He meant that Republicans would love to run against Dean.
Democratic rival Wesley Clark was asked what he thought of the rant. The retired general smiled and insisted he hadn’t seen it.
Jim McLaughlin, a Republican strategist, said it was possible for Dean to recover, but only if he wins Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
“He looked like he was going off the deep end. This guy just isn’t ready for prime time,” he said.
Maybe Dean’s learned a lesson. He took a calm approach to the pressure yesterday.
When heckled, he didn’t unleash a tirade, but led the crowd in a chorus of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.