- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

Howard Dean retreated yesterday from all seven of Tuesday’s primaries, hoping to save his dwindling cash supply for television ads in states with later primaries that hold more promise of victory for him.

The decision comes one day after Mr. Dean replaced his campaign manager and on the heels of two big losses in states where he had previously held commanding leads in the polls.

Aides to Mr. Dean said they realized the strategy could destroy the stumbling campaign but hoped that big victories in states on Feb. 7 and Feb. 17 would reignite the campaign.

“Governor Dean is off campaigning in key states holding contests on February 3rd and February 7th,” the campaign posted on its Web site yesterday afternoon. “We will be focusing resources and effort on the February 7 contests in Michigan [and] Washington [state], February 8 in Maine and February 17 in Wisconsin.”

Just two weeks ago, Mr. Dean was leading in most polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the nation’s first nomination contests. But in both, Mr. Dean lost to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts by double digits.

After his distant second-place finish in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Mr. Dean said he would travel to South Carolina, Missouri and other states with primaries next week. His latest schedule has his first stop in Michigan, where Mr. Dean is expected to do well among union voters and carries a huge number of delegates but doesn’t vote until Feb. 7.

While it is unclear whether Mr. Dean will still travel to states with primaries on Tuesday, the campaign has pulled all advertising in those states.

“We are going to try everywhere, but what we are really looking at is the delegate count,” Mr. Dean said Wednesday night after announcing the shake-up in his campaign.

“I think you are going to see a leaner, meaner organization,” he said. “We had geared up for what we thought would be a front-runner’s campaign. It’s not going to be a front-runner’s campaign. It’s going to be a long, long war of attrition.”

The switch in campaign leadership came as little surprise to Dean supporters close to the campaign who were growing frustrated by the rapid descent in Mr. Dean’s political fortunes.

Joe Trippi, the campaign manager who resigned Wednesday, led the campaign from obscurity less than a year ago to leading contender by pioneering the extensive use of the Internet to attract supporters, create volunteer lists and raise money — more than any other Democratic candidate in history. Mr. Trippi himself has become somewhat of a cult hero to thousands of the most loyal Dean supporters.

Causing even more turmoil among Dean supporters is that Roy Neel, Mr. Trippi’s replacement, is a Washington lobbyist with longtime ties to former Vice President Al Gore.

“I’m really concerned with this,” one supporter wrote in a posting on the candidates’s Web site. “Joe Trippi was the reason this campaign ever got off the ground floor. This new guy is a lobbyist and the very definition of Washington insider. What gives?” Others e-mailed Mr. Trippi “mental hugs” and accepted the leadership change.

“Say it ain’t so, Joe!” wrote another. “We’ll miss you, but we still have your back.” If Mr. Dean completely opts out of states with Feb. 3 primaries, he is expected to lose badly in South Carolina and Missouri.

Missouri, with 74 delegates on the line, has the most up for grabs Tuesday. It had been written off by all the campaigns until Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, who is from Missouri and was expected to win easily there, dropped out of the race last week.

The latest polls show Mr. Kerry leading Missouri with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina with 9 percent and Mr. Dean with 6 percent, according to a poll released by the Kansas City Star. Thirty-five percent remain undecided.

In South Carolina, Mr. Edwards holds a slight edge over Mr. Kerry, who is closely trailed by New York’s the Rev. Al Sharpton. Mr. Dean remains under 10 percent.

While South Carolina only has 45 delegates to offer, it has become a symbolically important state because it is the first contest in the South. Since the 1960s, winning Southern support has been crucial for Democrats to take the White House.

It is also significant because it is the first state with a sizable block of black voters, who are one of the most reliable groups of Democratic supporters.

Democrats in South Carolina say they have been inundated with ads from Mr. Edwards and Wesley Clark, who is from Arkansas and hopes to do well in South Carolina. Mr. Kerry has largely neglected the state since kicking off his campaign there in the fall, but has popped back on the screen with victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“It’s really a two-man race here,” said Phil Noble, president of the South Carolina Democratic Leadership Council, referring to Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kerry. He wasn’t surprised by Mr. Dean’s decision to concentrate elsewhere.

“When you’re in tough situations, you make tough decisions,” he said. “If they work, you’re brilliant and if they don’t, you’re an idiot. Only the voters will tell us.”

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