- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2004

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Howard Dean recovered some of his support in the New Hampshire primary last night that he’d lost since his poor third-place finish in Iowa last week, but remained a badly damaged candidate.

Although he gained slightly on front-runner John Kerry, Mr. Dean could not recapture the lead after his dramatic fall in the polls from first place less than two weeks ago.

In an interview on CNN last night, Mr. Dean said he feels “good” about his distant second-place finish.

“We came in a solid second place,” he said. “We did what we needed to do.”

Supporters who gathered last night at a cavernous field house on the campus of Southern New Hampshire University appeared forlorn as they watched the returns on giant screen televisions that were drowned out by Aretha Franklin songs screaming from nearby speakers.

But they, like Mr. Dean, remained upbeat.

“It’s just one state,” said Kevin Murphy, 25, a volunteer from Chicago. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

“Everyone predicted he would fall apart after Iowa,” he added. “But he was able to keep it together and move on. We’re going to keep fighting.”

During the day, supporters for every candidate clustered around the entrances of the polling places across the state, making one final effort to pitch their man.

In some cases, it was a defensive pitch.

“Our time is now,” read signs for Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who many Democrats say is too young to be president and should wait until 2008 to run.

Those supporting Mr. Dean - known as Deaniacs - carried signs that read, “Hope Not Fear; Vote Dean.”

Several Dean supporters said they weren’t sure whether it was simply a message of optimism or a subliminal call on Democrats not to fear Mr. Dean himself.

Certainly, Mr. Dean’s primal scream - and the hot temperament it symbolized - scared away some supporters.

Many said they were wary of him already and fled the moment the news began playing and replaying his hysterical response to losing in Iowa.

Others already had made that decision before Iowa.

Connie Williams, 71, of Portsmouth, sent Mr. Dean $100 in the fall. But in recent weeks, she backed away.

“Dean didn’t come on personally with people,” said Mrs. Williams, who voted for Mr. Edwards yesterday.

After polls showed Mr. Dean plummeting into the teens last week, he began to bounce back over the weekend.

Tim MacKinnon, 28, a sociology graduate student at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, said he was alarmed by the speech at first.

But after a while, his anger turned away from Mr. Dean and toward the television news organizations that kept playing the clip over and over again.

“Everybody was making fun of Dean so much it made me come back to him,” he said.

Another prominent reservation harbored by Democrats about Mr. Dean is his ability to win the general election next fall.

“Dean really got tripped up by this word ‘electability,’” Mr. MacKinnon said. “But if you’re just talking about ideas, Dean is the guy.”

He recalled when Bill Clinton campaigned across New Hampshire in 1992 and was dogged by accusations of an affair with Gennifer Flowers.

“Everybody said Bill Clinton wasn’t electable,” he said. “But then he won. Twice.”

Anyway, Mr. MacKinnon said, he thinks Mr. Dean is the only Democrat capable of raising the $200 million through the Internet expected to be needed to match President Bush’s campaign war chest.

“Dean has an inexhaustible source of funding,” he said.

Woven into the thinking of most New Hampshire Democrats is a cagey strategy for how they pick their candidate.

Rebecca Reilly, 34, a programmer for a public-television station in Portsmouth “liked Kerry a lot” and said, “Dean was inspirational.”

She voted for Mr. Edwards yesterday.

Ms. Reilly said she knew Mr. Kerry would win handily and not need her vote. But she also was highly impressed by Mr. Edwards and wanted to keep him alive for future primary dates and, possibly, as a running mate for Mr. Kerry or Mr. Dean.

No matter what happens with Mr. Dean in the coming weeks, she said, the party owes him an enormous debt of gratitude.

“Dean is really important to the Democratic Party,” Ms. Reilly said. “He got the party to talk about the things they were afraid to talk about.”

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