updated 1/11/2005 12:55:23 PM ET 2005-01-11T17:55:23

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean, once the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination whose candidacy stumbled, has decided to seek the party’s chairmanship, several Democrats said Tuesday.

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Dean’s entry into the race raises questions about whether the former Vermont governor will make another bid for the presidency in 2008. The chairman’s job carries a four-year term and many Democratic National Committee members have said they prefer a chairman who would devote all his energy to serving a full term.

Dean spokeswoman Laura Gross declined to talk about the governor’s plans but said he would send a message about those plans to DNC members on Tuesday.

Several Democrats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Dean is a candidate for the chairmanship.

Dean joins a field that includes former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer, former Texas Rep. Martin Frost, Democratic activists Simon Rosenberg and Donnie Fowler, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Leland.

Throughout 2003, Dean was the leading Democrat for the presidential nomination, securing the backing of former presidential candidate Al Gore and impressing party leaders with his ability to raise millions — and attract scores of followers — through the Internet.

His strong opposition to the Iraq war energized rank-and-file Democrats.

But just a year ago, Dean’s candidacy faltered in the Iowa caucuses as he finished third behind Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Dean’s bizarre “yeee-ah” shout during a post-caucus rally in Des Moines was played over and over on television.

He effectively ended his campaign Jan. 27, 2004, when he finished second to Kerry in the New Hampshire primary.

Moderate Democrats have been searching for an alternative to Dean for the chairmanship, concerned that the former governor would lead the party in a more liberal direction. Some senior Democrats have approached current chairman Terry McAuliffe about staying in the job.

Democrats will vote on party chairman in early February.

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