Al Gore Campaigns For Dean In Detroit
Bill Pugliano  /  Getty Images
Al Gore campaigns for Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean Sunday at a church in Detroit. Michigan holds its Democratic primary on Saturday.
By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 2/4/2004 12:18:52 AM ET 2004-02-04T05:18:52

Although the odds of Howard Dean winning the Democratic nomination look long as voters cast their ballots in seven states Tuesday, some of Dean’s allies in Congress continue to voice support for him.

“My guess is the race is far from over and it won’t be wrapped up” in Tuesday’s round of contests, said Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J. “I think as long as Howard Dean is going someplace and doing something constructive, I’m with him.”

As of Monday, Dean had the support of 35 House members and two Democratic senators.

As ex-officio "superdelegates," all Democratic House members, senators and governors have a vote at the Democratic National Convention this summer.

Superdelegates account for nearly 40 percent of the 2,162 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.

Resisting the pundits
Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, who is leading the Dean effort among Democratic House members, said Dean supporters are resisting the idea that the race for the nomination should be considered effectively over when television pundits say it is over. “That’s not the way it’s going to work,” Lofgren said late Monday in a telephone interview.

Asked about Tuesday’s contests, Lofgren said, “I hope he gets some delegates. He may or he may not.”

Despite raising a record $40 million last year and claiming that he had the support of millions of formerly disaffected voters, Dean fell far short of expectations by placing third in the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses and second in last week’s New Hampshire primary.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who won both Iowa and New Hampshire, is now considered the front-runner for the nomination.

Holt acknowledged that “any candidate who doesn’t know when to quit can damage the party. But I don’t see any reason we should think about Gov. Dean doing that any more than Sen. Lieberman, Sen. Edwards or Sen. Kerry or the other contenders doing that.”

Need for 'critical scrutiny'
Lofgren warned against a precipitous rush to rally around the front-runner. “None of the other candidates has really received critical scrutiny,” she contended. “If we end up selecting by a coronation a candidate who can’t survive because of issues that later develop, that would be a disaster for the Democrats.”

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Holt also argued for the virtue of putting the contenders through more primary seasoning. “Going through contested primaries for weeks or months is not necessarily a bad thing,” he said.

Asked about the current mood of the House members supporting Dean, Lofgren said, “People are rolling up their sleeves for a long march.”

Also ranking as “superdelegates” are former party leaders, such as Al Gore, who has endorsed Dean.

Kerry gains supporters
In recent days, Kerry has gained momentum in the battle for superdelegates, winning the backing of Washington Gov. Gary Locke, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Rep. Mark Udall of Colorado, and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Democrats in Michigan and Washington state vote this Saturday, while Maine Democrats hold their caucuses on Sunday.

The Wisconsin primary, in which 72 delegates are up for grabs, is on Feb. 17.

A total of 300 delegates will be selected in those four contests, compared with the 269 being chosen in Tuesday’s contests.

Can Dean lose all seven contests on Tuesday and still win Michigan, Washington, Maine and Wisconsin?

“Sure, it’s possible,” Holt said, adding, “I’d like to see him back on the air with advertising.” Due to lack of money, Dean appears to be able to air advertisements only in Wisconsin.

In an interview off the Senate chamber Tuesday afternoon, Cantwell told, “Everybody can have a different strategy but obviously every day that goes by, more and more delegates are being decided and at some point in time the odds get more difficult.”

As for her state's caucuses on Saturday, Cantwell said, “I think John Kerry is going to do very well. Howard Dean has built an enthusiastic base of support from people particularly in the Seattle area but Kerry is tailor-made for the state with his views on the environment, energy, trade and technology and I think people realize that.”

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, whose state votes Tuesday and who is supporting Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, said, "Just as I didn’t feel it was appropriate for everybody who didn’t win in Iowa or New Hampshire to fold their tent and go home, I’m not going to suggest that somebody that doesn’t win today in one of these states should fold their tent and go home. Their fund-raising ability will in large part dictate when it’s time to fold their tent and go home.”

He added, “Delaware is a state that has yearned for respect in the presidential nomination proves, just for someone to pay attention to us. The Lieberman family, starting with Joe, has lavished our state with attention.”

Meanwhile in a message to Dean loyalists, campaign CEO Roy Neel said Monday, “we have raised roughly $3 million dollars in the last two weeks.” Neel said Dean and his high command have “decided to use our resources to build strong organizations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine and Washington in addition to an aggressive advertising campaign in Wisconsin.”

Dean brings in 'new blood'
Despite the disappointments in Iowa and New Hampshire, Holt said, “Gov. Dean has performed a very useful service to the party by bringing in new people.”

Holt contended that the Democrats must have “new blood” and lots of small-contribution donors if they are to beat President Bush.

“Even an excellent standard campaign would be a losing campaign. We need to bring in some people who didn’t vote in 2000. I see Dean as the best person to do that.

Asked why Dean hasn’t so far attracted a wave of new voters to carry him to victory, Holt replied, “I’m still puzzling over that. Maybe there’s been too much attention to how voters think other people think of the electability of the candidates.”

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