- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2004

NASHUA, N.H. — Near the end of his second town hall forum of the morning yesterday Howard Dean was hit with a question he’s never heard in two years on the presidential campaign trail.

Josh Locke, a 16-year-old student from Nashua Christian Academy, wanted to know if he could pray aloud for Mr. Dean.

“That would be great,” the former Vermont governor told him. “I could use a couple of those right now.”

Mr. Dean has fallen from odds-on favorite to also-ran in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination after coming in third in the Iowa caucuses on Monday night. He has also become the butt of jokes across the nation for his post-caucus speech to supporters, which included a primeval screech and exhorting his young volunteers not to give up.

Now, with his lead in the polls in New Hampshire gone, Mr. Dean is trying to figure out what works for him before he falls so far behind in the nomination contest that he cannot recover.

On Thursday night it meant going on television with his wife, Judy, to be interviewed by Diane Sawyer for ABC. He also appeared on the David Letterman late show on CBS to read the “Top Ten” list of ways he can turn his campaign around. Item number one was: “Oh, I don’t know … maybe fewer crazy, red-faced rants.”

In Nashua yesterday, it meant a subdued stump speech, which still covered his basic message of opposing President Bush’s tax cuts and delivering the country from the powerful and into the hands of the people.

“The president is the servant of corporations,” Mr. Dean told about 200 supporters who packed an upstairs room at Martha’s Exchange restaurant. “He’s forgotten who the Constitution says is supposed to run this country. That’s what this election is all about.”

Mr. Dean stood on a raised stage in a suit with a red tie. Often he spoke with one hand in his pocket, and rarely did he punctuate any of his old punch lines with more than a wry smile — a big change from Iowa, where he fed off the energy of the crowds that came to hear him speak.

But yesterday Mr. Dean was losing his voice, and it was difficult to tell how much that was responsible for the quieter tone and how much was a reaction to the way his Iowa speech was received.

Mr. Dean said for him it’s still straight ahead.

“I can’t talk very loud, but I think the passion is still evident,” he told reporters at a brief news conference after the Nashua town hall forum.

“I feel pretty good about the direction we’re going,” he said. “I’m a human being, I make mistakes, but because of that I’ll be able to take the White House back for ordinary Americans.”

Betty Gimber, a Nashua resident and longtime Dean supporter, said she was surprised how Mr. Dean’s post-caucus speech was portrayed.

“To me, it wasn’t anger, it was a smile on his face, he just was energized,” she said.

Barbara Glover, 52, who also watched Mr. Dean yesterday, said the Iowa performance made her not less but actually more inclined to support Mr. Dean on Tuesday.

“Because he did do that, that told me how real a president he’s going to be. I just think that was wicked cool,” she said.

Mrs. Gimber said Mr. Dean did seem more subdued yesterday than when she had seen him in the past, but she expects his passion will come back, and it’s not hurting him anyway.

“I think it’ll come back, but I still think he has his message that gets across,” she said.

As for Josh, the student who asked to pray for Mr. Dean, not only is he too young to vote, but he said he wasn’t sure he would have voted for Mr. Dean. But he was happy with how Mr. Dean received the prayer.

During his prayer, he asked God to help heal Mr. Dean’s cold and that the Lord be allowed to do his work through Mr. Dean and all of the candidates.

“That’s the one thing about running for president — I’ve been doing this for two years, you’re the first person ever to do that,” Mr. Dean told him.


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