Sunday, December 12, 2004

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean yesterday made a national pitch to head the Democratic Party, saying he will create a 50-state strategy to win new voters.

“I really believe we have to stand up for being Democrats,” Mr. Dean said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We have a message to sell. I frankly think it’s a better message than the Republicans’; we’ve just got to figure out how to get it out there.”

Mr. Dean was the only one of eight candidates for Democratic National Committee chairman to appear on the Sunday talk shows. Other candidates are: former Rep. Martin Frost of Texas; former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk; former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb; former Clinton administration chief of staff Harold Ickes; former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard; New Democratic Network President Simon Rosenberg; and South Carolina political strategist Donald Fowler.

The former Vermont governor said the Democratic Party has to “look at what the Republicans do well” and establish a grass-roots base of office holders.

On Saturday, Mr. Dean told party leaders, “I want to do what the Republican National Committee does; they’re better organized than we are.”

All of the candidates addressed the Association of State Democratic Chairs on Saturday in Orlando, Fla., although Mr. Dean said yesterday he has not decided whether he will seek the vote in February to replace outgoing party chief Terry McAuliffe.

“I am going to run if I think that I can win, if I think they really want me,” Mr. Dean said.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and assistant minority leader, declined to endorse Mr. Dean on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I’m not going to be endorsing Howard or any particular candidate. I hope we find the right person,” Mr. Durbin said. “Howard Dean made a great contribution to the American political scene. I want him as part of the leadership of the Democratic National Committee, even if he’s not the chairman.”

Former Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, who served on the September 11 commission, said last week that Mr. Dean would do a good job as chairman but “he’s going to have some ‘splainin’ to do, as Ricky Ricardo used to say.”

“Which Howard Dean are we talking about?” Mr. Kerrey asked. “If we’re talking about the Howard Dean who was governor of Vermont, I would say, fine. But if it’s the presidential candidate Dean, I would say, probably, no.”

The New Republic published an editorial opposing Mr. Dean, saying, “The liberal base is simply not large enough to win a national election.”

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