Skip to comments.Dean Tells Aides Edwards Is 'Stronger' Candidate
Posted on 02/21/2004 4:59:04 PM PST by blam
Dean tells aides Edwards is 'stronger' candidate
By Julian Coman in Washington
The massed ranks of "Deaniacs" - crestfallen supporters of the failed Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean - are on the verge of backing his former rival John Edwards, in what would be a last-ditch boost for the senator's campaign.
Howard Dean and John Edwards Although many among the Dean faithful are saying in their favourite meeting places - online chatrooms - that they cannot face backing either Mr Edwards or John Kerry, the two remaining contenders for the Democrat nomination are engaged in a frantic battle to woo Dr Dean's 650,000 followers.
Early signs are that many Deaniacs - and indeed their hero - are on the verge of backing Sen Edwards, who has mounted a populist campaign and, unlike Sen Kerry, has generally refrained from attacking Dr Dean.
In a private conference call, Dr Dean told his aides that Sen Edwards would be "the stronger candidate" to beat President Bush. On Dean internet sites, supporters are buzzing with the possibility that diverting their support to Sen Edwards could turn the Democratic race upside down. "I've voted Democrat, all my life," said one Deaniac. "But I will not support John Kerry."
Dr Dean has so far refused to publicly endorse either of the frontrunners, although he has stated that he will support the eventual nominee. And while the former Vermont governor has refused to give up the most sought-after prize - his lengthy list of financial contributors - one Edwards campaign worker confirmed on Friday: "We're working on it."
Dr Dean's presidential bid attracted tens of thousands of first-time voters. Through an innovative grass-roots campaign based on the internet, the Dean movement raised $50.3 million (£27 million), more than any other Democratic White House campaign in history. More than 600,000 people registered online as Dean supporters, while 318,884 made an average contribution of $80 (£43).
According to the Republican Party strategist Rick Davis: "Dean could broker pretty good power. I think he is going to play a big role in deciding who the next nominee is going to be."
The Kerry and Edwards teams are salivating at the prospect of Deaniac support, although it will be hard-won. Mr Edwards has had three lengthy discussions with Dr Dean since his withdrawal from the race, but has failed to gain a public endorsement.
The stakes are high. After one of the most spectacular implosions seen in American politics, Dr Dean has failed to win any of the 17 presidential primaries contested. Nevertheless, senior Democrats believe that his unprecedented network of committed activists could make the difference in a close contest with President Bush. That relies, however, on them winning over the hundreds of thousands of Deaniacs. Despite their well-chronicled loathing of Mr Bush, many Dean supporters are struggling to summon up enthusiasm for two Washington senators.
One online petition has urged the Dean camp not to share donor information with either Senator Kerry or Edwards.
"Many Dean supporters were for one man only," said one campaign aide. "John Kerry is not too popular among the hard core who have energised this race."
Certainly, neither candidate can afford to turn his back on them. The wooing of Dr Dean and his fan base began even before he dropped out of the race. A Democrat delegation has travelled up to Vermont, Dr Dean's home state, to urge him to turn over the coveted list of names. There is even speculation that the former governor will be appointed Democratic Party chairman as a consolation prize, as part of the drive to keep Deaniacs interested.
Senators Edwards and Kerry, meanwhile, are showering their erstwhile opponent with compliments. "The Democratic Party truly owes Governor Dean a debt of gratitude for the tremendous energy he has brought to our party," said Mr Kerry, while according to Mr Edwards: "Howard Dean has energised and revolutionised this race and excited a whole new generation of young Americans."
"It's as simple as this," a senior Democrat adviser told The Telegraph. "If the Democrat nominee, whether it is John Kerry or John Edwards, fails to engage the Deaniacs, he will not win the election. Apart from anything else, he will not be able to raise enough money to compete with the Bush campaign. Dean created a fund-raising machine. It will be a disaster if that dies with his campaign. But I predict that Dean will be a central figure in the coming election."
Mr Kerry, until now the clear Democrat frontrunner, is in particularly dire need of the kind of funds that the Dean campaign generated last year. Despite - or perhaps because of - notching up victories in 15 out of 17 primaries, the campaign is almost penniless and Mr Kerry has mortgaged his Boston home for more than $6 million (£3.2 million). By contrast, the Bush campaign, which has barely started, announced on Friday that a record $150 million (£80.2 million) has been raised towards the President's re-election.
I hear that, but I tend to doubt it....my thinking is that, since the ambulance chaser is such an empty suit, he'd be hardput to go up against a Bush campaign fashioned around "experience".
Voters will want some seasoning in these trying times (I hope!)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.