10
Feb
04

‘I’m Not Going to Quit’ After Wis., Dean Says (washingtonpost.com)

‘I’m Not Going to Quit’ After Wis., Dean Says (washingtonpost.com): “‘I’m Not Going to Quit’ After Wis., Dean Says
Lagging Candidate Adjusts Original Tactic of Making the State His Final Stand Feb. 17
By John F. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 10, 2004; Page A04
GREEN BAY, Wis., Feb. 9 — Former Vermont governor Howard Dean implored Wisconsin Democrats on Monday to ‘keep this debate alive’ with a victory in the Feb. 17 primary, even as he suddenly revoked an earlier statement that he would drop his presidential bid if he loses here. ”

In a day of surprising about-faces, Dean began the day in Madison with a rare formal speech — he usually speaks without notes — in which he told his Wisconsin supporters the power to end or revive his once high-flying campaign is “in your hands.” He forecast the themes he would strike in a week of last-stand campaigning to slow the march by front-runner Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) to the nomination, including a new proposal to tighten significantly regulations on lobbyists.

By the time he got to Green Bay, however, Dean had changed his mind. In an interview with local television stations, he said, “we’re going to find a way to stay in one way or the other.”

At a later news conference, the candidate said he had reached this conclusion gradually — without a decision meeting or extensive discussion with his staff or family — over the past couple of days after many supporters at campaign stops here and in Maine on Sunday urged him not to drop out. “They don’t want to quit, and I’m not going to quit on them,” he said.

“I know — obvious contradiction,” Dean said. The candidate raised more than $1 million in an e-mail appeal to supporters last week, saying that anything less than a Wisconsin victory would “put us out of the race.”

Dean’s change of mind alters the complexion of the Wisconsin race, and potentially of the next several weeks of the Democratic nominating contest. It earlier had appeared that the next eight days — with Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark challenging Kerry on Tuesday in Virginia and Tennessee — and Dean fighting for life here could be the climactic chapter of the nomination battle.

Dean maintains that he is counting on a come-from-behind victory here, which he believes would slow Kerry’s momentum and allow time for voters in the 10 states — including large ones such as California and New York — casting ballots in the March 2 “Super Tuesday” primaries to get a “second look” at the candidates.

He will not stay in the race, Dean said, if it becomes mathematically impossible for him to become the nominee, nor will he wage a “a quixotic campaign that’s going to attack the nominee.” But he asserted that Kerry’s rise after winning in the Iowa caucuses has been too rapid for his record and electoral prospects to be properly “vetted” by voters and the news media. “It’s time to stop the rush to judgment by the media and pollsters,” he said.

The candidate himself is hoping to promote that vetting here. At a time when polls show that finding the “most electable” Democrat has been a dominant concern of primary and caucus voters, Dean belittled the prospects that Kerry and Edwards would face in a general election battle against President Bush. Inasmuch as both men voted for the Iraq war and the No Child Left Behind education bill, and both support keeping at least some of the tax cuts Bush signed, Dean said in a fall debate that the president would be able to turn to the Democrat and ask, “Why don’t you just support me?”

In a special appeal to Wisconsin voters, who have a decades-long tradition of suspicion toward the influence of moneyed interests in politics, Dean called for vastly expanding disclosure regulations for lobbyist meetings with Washington officials.

The current lobbyist registration rules, which require lobbyists to register every six months, should be changed to require online registration within 48 hours after a lobbyist contacts anyone in the legislative or executive branch. In addition, rules that now require lobbyists to report their contacts in general terms would be tightened to require the names, times and specific subjects discussed during lobbyists’ meetings with public officials. Dean’s proposal would prohibit lobbyists from making political contributions, something Edwards has also backed.

“Wisconsin knows that what is on the line in this primary is the very heart and soul of the Democratic Party — and the very heart and soul of this country,” Dean said at his Madison appearance, which drew about 250 enthusiastic backers. “The way to beat George Bush is to nominate a candidate who stood up to him when it mattered.”

In Green Bay, Dean acknowledged to reporters that if he does not win Wisconsin — leaving him winless so far except for the nonbinding District primary, even as he has amassed delegates — the lack of resources probably will require him to wage a less traditional campaign.

Dean said he could not identify a moment that caused him to change his mind about his Wisconsin deadline. He said his decision-making style is to let ideas “incubate unconsciously for a long time.”

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