Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: “By Thomas Ferraro
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean headed toward an anticipated defeat in the Wisconsin primary today but trained his focus on next month’s big round of contests and said, ‘I’m optimistic’. A loss in Wisconsin, however, would be his 17th without a victory in the Democratic nominating process so far. And according to his former campaign chairman, Steve Grossman, another dismal showing would effectively end his race for the White House.

Dean had agreed with such assessments a week ago. But he has since vowed to push on, saying other backers convinced him he still had a shot and must remain as the party’s progressive voice.

“I think we are in reasonable shape,” the former Vermont governor told CBS’s “Early Show” as he made the rounds on television morning talk shows. “I’m optimistic.”

The anti-war, anti-Washington maverick, who lost his front-runner status a month ago to U.S. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, said he had the money and staff to regroup.

“Our campaign is not in turmoil at all. We are moving forward and we are going to go to ‘Super Tuesday’ and on beyond that,” Dean told NBC’s “Today Show”.

On “Super Tuesday”, March 2, 10 states — including California, New York and Ohio — vote in the process to pick a Democrat to challenge U.S. President George W. Bush in November.

Despite Dean’s optimistic talk, a senior aide said it remained unclear how far he will go, and in what form he would proceed.

“A lot depends on today and what happens here,” the aide said.

Polls show Dean trailing Kerry by a 2-to-1 margin in Wisconsin, and running about even with U.S. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

Some backers have said that if Dean loses Wisconsin, they expect to call him on Wednesday and suggest he end his bid.

“I’m sure you’ll get those calls,” said Roy Neel, Dean’s campaign manager. “But there are a substantial number of people saying, ‘this isn’t over,’ that this race is good for the party.”

Dean plans to spend Wednesday at home in Burlington, Vermont, reassessing strategy, and Neel said he had begun writing a schedule leading up to the March 2 contests.

Grossman departed as Dean’s campaign chairman this week, saying he would back Kerry if Dean fared poorly in Wisconsin and that such a loss would effectively end the race.

A number of aides said “everything will be on the table,” when Dean re-evaluates his campaign.

The former Vermont governor already has toned down his attacks on Kerry and promised to back the eventual nominee.

“My thought about this is we’re not going to do anything to tear down the Democratic nominee,” he told CBS. “And if Senator Kerry is the Democratic nominee, we need to support him.”

One option being considered is for Dean to continue to work with the movement he established for his White House bid on behalf of social and political change.

Dean’s campaign for presidency has been a wild roller coaster ride.

He helped reshape the 2004 Democratic campaign by tapping in early to voters’ concerns about the war in Iraq, health care and the soaring federal deficit — energising Democrats and sharpening criticism of Bush’s administration.

With his Internet-based organisation, Dean also smashed fund-raising records and connected with legions of new political activists.

But while he soared to the top in the polls last year, he never saw his following translate into victories, losing first in Iowa with a poor third-place showing and then in New Hampshire to Kerry, whose surprise win in Iowa fuelled what has been a steady drive to the nomination.”


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