Dean Says His Run for the White House Is Over

posted 2004-02-18 14:02:16 by stevemay

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- Howard Dean, bowing to the political realities of a 17-contest losing streak, ended his Democratic presidential campaign Wednesday but promised to keep his ``campaign for change'' alive while supporting his party's eventual nominee.

For now, the former Vermont governor did not endorse either of his top rivals, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts or Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. He called both men before his announcement to tell them his decision.

"I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency,'' Dean told a crowd of cheering, flag-waving supporters. "We will, however, continue to build a new organization using our enormous grass-roots network to continue the effort to transform the Democratic Party and to change our country.''

Dean sounded a theme of party unity, saying, "The bottom line is that we must beat George W. Bush in November, whatever it takes.''

He ruled out running as a third-party or independent candidate, but he also said he and his supporters would continue to be a force for change: "We are not going away. We're staying together unified all of us.'' He vowed to "continue to campaign for change,'' working to keep his issues alive.

``There is enormous institutional pressure in Washington against change, in the Democratic Party against change,'' Dean said. "Yet, you have already started to change the party and together we have transformed this race. The fight that we began can and must continue.''

As Dean spoke, he was flanked by his wife Judy, a physician whose rare appearance on the campaign trail had been the subject of discussion of whether she was a proper political wife. Dean drew cheers when he saluted her for starting the debate in the country "about whether a woman needs to gaze adoringly at her husband or follow her own career.''

Dean's free-fall from the spot of top contender for the Democratic nomination began in January with poor showings in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary and culminated in Tuesday's loss in Wisconsin's primary. In all, Dean was winless in 17 contests.

He exits the active race certain in the knowledge that he will live on in the annals of U.S. politics for shattering Democratic fund-raising records with $41 million collected in a single year -- as well as on late-night television and Internet parodies for a high-octane concession speech on the night of the Iowa caucuses that he's likely never to live down.

Once a long-shot candidate, the Internet phenomenon filled his campaign coffers and attracted thousands of supporters through the spring and summer, pushing him to the head of the crowded Democratic field.

Historians will judge, but Dean and his devoted supporters are convinced that they more than anyone else defined the Democratic debate through his unwavering criticism of President Bush, the Iraq war and Democrats who helped Bush push his agenda through Congress.

Nothing could dissuade the 640,000 people who joined his campaign via his Web site. They contributed $41 million last year and then pumped millions more this year into a campaign that was faltering even before Iowans dealt the first blow.

As he left the Vermont governor's office in January 2003 after nearly 12 years, Dean had a presidential campaign staff of a half-dozen and about $157,000 in the bank.

But one of those staffers had found a then-obscure Internet organizing site, known as Dean became the first political candidate to sign up for it and suddenly thousands of people were finding him, organizing local events and fund-raisers and slowly making him a force.

His blunt speaking style and full-throated opposition to the Iraq war at a time when almost all of the other major contenders were trying to explain their support for it gave him an edge.

Even then he was still little more than an afterthought, but he had raised enough money to begin competing and was relentless in appearing everywhere he could. By February last year, he had begun focusing his criticism not just on Bush but on his fellow Democrats, accusing them of being too timid in fighting for the party's core principles.

"I'm Howard Dean and I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,'' Dean declared at a Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington last year that caught everyone's attention. The line had been a staple of the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Dean tapped into Democrats' nagging belief that their national leaders had lost their way and were too blindly allowing Bush and the Republicans to set the agenda.

But even at that early stage there were signs of Dean's penchant for speaking before all the facts were straight. He apologized to rival John Edwards for mischaracterizing the North Carolina senator's position on the Iraq war, and offered his regrets to foe Bob Graham for dismissing him as a second-tier candidate.

Each misstep, though, seemed only to embolden Dean and his supporters.

Dean stirred controversy in November for saying he wanted "to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,'' then quieted the uproar by winning the endorsement of two of the country's largest unions -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union.

Dean then snagged one of the biggest prizes -- the backing of former Vice President Al Gore, the nominee in 2000.