- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Howard Dean is emerging as the front-runner to head the Democratic National Committee, but the former Vermont governor and failed presidential candidate has some DNC members saying he is too liberal to broaden the party’s base.

Using the grass-roots organizing and Internet skills that made him the pre-primary favorite for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Dean has won broad support among the 447 DNC members who will elect a new chairman Feb. 12.

But some Democratic leaders say he is running into opposition and doubts from many party officials who say his socially liberal positions on homosexual civil unions and abortion, and his position against the U.S. invasion of Iraq make him the wrong choice to unite and rebuild the party.

“He’s perceived by some elements in our party as being on the extreme side,” said Arizona State Democratic Chairman Jim Pederson. “I don’t think that’s correct because he served as a pragmatic governor. Still, if Dean is the winner of this election, he has some outreaching to do” to party centrists and swing voters.

Voicing a view widely held in the party, he said Mr. Dean is “the front-runner” and that “if the election were held today, he would probably win.”

Few Democrats were willing to speak frankly on the record about party opposition to Mr. Dean’s candidacy, but privately, some agreed with Mr. Pederson that the former governor came with a lot of left-wing, ideological baggage and a shoot-from-the-hip style that could prove polarizing.

It is no secret within party circles that former President Bill Clinton and his wife, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, do not want Mr. Dean to be party chairman, and that they saw his presidential candidacy as an effort to pull the party away from the more centrist policies of Mr. Clinton’s presidency.

Mrs. Clinton, who may be considering a 2008 presidential run of her own, has stayed out of the DNC fight, but her husband is said to be working behind the scenes to keep Mr. Dean from being elected.

Mr. Clinton reportedly asked DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe to run for another term, but Mr. McAuliffe, who was Mr. Clinton’s chief fund-raiser, declined.

The centrist Democratic Leadership Council, which Mr. Clinton once chaired, was one of Mr. Dean’s foes in the presidential primary race, though it has had little to say about the DNC contest.

Still, some DLC leaders at the state level have embraced Mr. Dean, including Scott Maddox, the Florida Democratic chairman, who joined his 11-member DNC delegation in endorsing the Vermonter for the post last week.

“I’m from the conservative end of my party … but I’m perfectly comfortable supporting Dean because I know he will lead and organize this party, and that’s what we need,” Mr. Maddox said. “What we need in a party chairman is enthusiasm and a willingness to do things differently. I think issues are secondary things that you look for in a chairman.”

Running just behind Mr. Dean is former Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, followed by Simon Rosenberg, who heads the centrist New Democrat Network.

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