msnbc.com news services
updated 2/5/2004 9:41:01 AM ET 2004-02-05T14:41:01

Howard Dean told supporters Thursday he will be out of the race for the Democratic nomination for president if he fails to win the Wisconsin primary, declaring “all that you have worked for these past months is on the line on a single day, in a single state.”

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Asked if Dean plans to end his campaign if he loses in Wisconsin on Feb. 17, Dean spokesman Jay Carson said: “It’s a moot point because we are going to win Wisconsin. ... This is an e-mail to supporters to let them know how important Wisconsin is to the campaign.”

In the e-mail distributed Thursday, Dean wrote: “The entire race has come down to this: we must win Wisconsin. ... We will get a boost this weekend in Washington, Michigan, and Maine, but our true test will be the Wisconsin primary. A win there will carry us to the big states of March 2 and narrow the field to two candidates. Anything less will put us out of this race.”

In a fund-raising plea, Dean asked supporters for $50 contributions so he could raise $700,000 by Sunday to pay for advertising in Wisconsin.

“We must launch our new television advertisement on Monday in the major markets in Wisconsin,” he said. “To do that I need your help.”

Dean, once the front-runner with $41 million in campaign funds, has failed to win a single delegate contest since voting began with the Iowa caucuses Jan. 19. He finished a distant third in Iowa, behind John Kerry and John Edwards, and was runner-up to Kerry in the New Hampshire primary Jan. 27. He did not win any of the seven states that had caucuses or primaries Tuesday.

Dean earlier had vowed to remain in the race through March 2, the “Super Tuesday” election day featuring 10 contests for delegates. He has targeted Wisconsin’s Feb. 17 primary for an all-out effort to slow Kerry’s march toward the nomination, part of a long-shot strategy of winning delegates if not first place in the elections themselves.

Dean plans to campaign in Michigan, yet the former Vermont governor has acknowledged that he probably can’t win there in Saturday’s caucuses. But he hopes to pick up enough delegates to keep him in the race.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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