- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The race for Democratic National Committee chairman narrowed yesterday when former Rep. Martin Frost of Texas dropped out, making front-runner Howard Dean the likely choice to be elected party leader on Feb. 12.

Mr. Frost, once considered by some Democrats to be Mr. Dean’s strongest rival, ended his candidacy yesterday after AFL-CIO political leaders decided not to endorse anyone. The former congressman, who held several party leadership positions in the House, said he called Mr. Dean and “congratulated him for running a strong campaign.”

Democratic officials said the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education, made up of 23 members of the labor federation’sexecutive council, could not reach a consensus on a candidate and chose instead to issue a statement of principles that it urged the DNC chairman to adopt.

Mr. Dean, a former governor of Vermont, whose unsuccessful 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination failed to win a single primary outside of his home state, shot into a clear lead in the contest this week when he won the endorsement of the Association of State Democratic Chairs with 56 votes. His nearest rival, Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler, came in second with 21.

Also abandoning the race yesterday was former Ohio state Democratic chairman David Leland, who then endorsed Mr. Dean. That left only three remaining challengers to Mr. Dean’s candidacy: Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network; former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer; and Mr. Fowler, the son of former DNC chairman Don Fowler.

Democratic state chairmen around the country said that if the election were held today, Mr. Dean would win a majority of the 447 party leaders, who will meet here next week to elect a new chairman.

But there are doubts about Mr. Dean’s tough anti-war rhetoric and shoot-from-the-hip style, which got him into trouble when he ran for president, and some Democrats wondered whether it could happen again if he becomes the party’s chairman.

“Your greatest strength can sometimes be your greatest weakness. Dean’s a plain talker, a shoot-from-the-hip guy, and that can be appealing. But he will have to be careful, should he become DNC chairman, because everything he says will be carefully scrutinized,” said outgoing Iowa state Democratic Chairman Gordon Fischer.

Last week, Arizona state Democratic Chairman Jim Pederson said that Mr. Dean was “perceived by some elements in our party as being on the extreme side.”

Mr. Dean, who ran for president as a fierce opponent of the Iraq war, remains the darling of the party’s anti-war left wing, but Mr. Fischer said he will have to appeal to the party’s centrists and its other political constituencies if he is to unite Democrats.

“Dean will definitely have to reach out to all elements of the party,” he said.

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