- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2003

The success of Howard Dean’s cross-country tour last week has inspired the former Vermont governor to try to break a $10.3 million Democratic fund-raising record set by Bill Clinton in 1995, campaign organizers say.

During the three-day “Sleepless Summer Tour,” Mr. Dean visited 10 cities and raised more than $1 million — the amount President Bush collected in one recent fund-raising dinner. The average contribution to Mr. Dean’s campaign was $58.60.

The $10.3 million aimed for the quarter ending Sept. 30 is the amount Mr. Clinton raised during the similar period in 1995 and was the best performance by any Democratic presidential candidate in a single quarter in the year before an election.

The rallies and various fund-raisers along the 6,100-mile route attracted more than 40,000 people. One of them, Cheryl Dehnt from Leander, Texas, said she hadn’t been politically active until now.

She came to the fund-raiser in Austin because “Dean is the first guy who gives us hope, that there will be a chance … I saw him first on TV, and he was the first one who was telling the truth,” she said.

In a restaurant called Ruta Maya on the outskirts of Austin, Mr. Dean shouted, “Texas is going to be a Democratic state again. … If you elect me as the Democratic nominee, I will give you a reason to be proud again for voting Democratic.”

Responding to cries of “We want Dean, We want Dean,” he said: “Don’t yell so loud, because Karl Rove will hear you down in Crawford.”

Although the campaign tried to have blacks and Hispanics on the podium in every city, the hands holding the blue “Howard Dean for America” placards were mainly white.

Mr. Dean considers as unfair the criticism from fellow Democratic candidates and Republicans that he can motivate only the “Birkenstock liberals.” “Nobody is asking those questions to one of the other white candidates. It’s just because we are out and doing very well,” he said.

“We are working on diversity. … Our prime message is very powerful to the African-American community. It’s about health insurance, about jobs, about education. The African-American community did not support the war on Iraq.”

As a physician, Mr. Dean appeared to gather trust on the streets, and the campaign stressed his professional training, with placards saying “The doctor is in town.” James Pankratz, a 54-year-old social worker from Milwaukee, said, “Dean as being a doctor understands the need for national health care.”

A few months ago, the former governor was running behind most of the other eight Democratic candidates for the primaries, which kick off with the District’s primary in January. In the latest Zogby poll, Mr. Dean leads New Hampshire, with 38 percent approval from likely Democratic voters, 21 percentage points ahead of the second-best candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Critics say Mr. Dean could peak too early.

“We have momentum,” he said. “Keeping it is going to be a struggle.”

Mr. Dean has about 339,000 supporters and wants to increase that number to 450,000 by the end of the month. His staff totals more than 120. Volunteers were recruited mainly on the Internet.

His next big event will be the Democratic National Convention’s debate in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday.

“We are expecting to be attacked there,” Mr. Dean said. “But I will handle that.”

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