Dean urges supporters to back Democratic nominee

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(Host) Howard Dean has made his first public appearance since bowing out of the presidential race last week. He was in New Haven, Connecticut, Thursday night, where he told his supporters that he would encourage them to back Senators John Edwards or John Kerry for now. And he urged them to stay together behind the eventual Democratic nominee.

Amy Jeffries of WNPR was there for Vermont Public Radio.

(Jeffries) In what could have been a campaign stop as Super Tuesday approaches, Dean instead made another concession speech to a hotel ballroom full of supporters and campaign refugees.

(Dean) “So you’re not done yet, huh?” (Sound of crowd cheering.)

(Jeffries) Dean for America is not totally disbanding, but rather regrouping. Dean said that on March 18 he would unveil a plan for a new national organization utilizing the grassroots network that grew from his campaign to carry forward the policies he promoted as a candidate.

(Dean) “A lot times people give up when their candidate doesn’t win they say, ‘Okay, that’s all I can do,’ and they go into hibernation. You can’t afford to do that because we are fortunate enough to live in a country where politics really matters. And politics from now on is going to be ours.”

(Jeffries) Dean still has not endorsed any of the remaining Democratic candidates, but he again said he will back the eventual nominee and discouraged his supporters from being tempted by any third party candidate.

(Dean) “If one of you, or some of you want to go and work for Senator Edwards, or Senator Kerry, I encourage that. But when we leave the convention in Boston in July we need to come back together again to fight for the progressive values that are going to keep the Democratic Party true to its roots.”

(Jeffries) Dean led the polls in last year’s run-up to the Democratic primaries, but was winless in 17 states. His campaign folded February 18 when he placed third in Wisconsin.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Amy Jeffries.

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