Supporters at Dean Meetup still committed to candidate

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(Host) It’s been a year since a few Howard Dean supporters first logged on to They hoped the Web site could connect them with other Dean supporters. The monthly Internet-generated meetings that ensued have been linked to Dean’s meteoric rise. Wednesday night, according to the Dean campaign, nearly 200,000 people were signed up to attend Dean Meetups around the country.

VPR’s Susan Keese dropped by the Meetup in Brattleboro to see how supporters there are taking their candidate’s recent decline.

(Keese) Before the Meetup started, coordinator Franz Reichsman compared Howard Dean to Moses. Both led their people forward, he said but never quite made it to the Promised Land.

(Reichsman) I don’t think the campaign is over in terms of Kerry being the nominee. I think Howard’s chance of winning the nomination is small. But I don’t think it’s zero.

(Keese) Reichsman called Dean a hero for standing up to Bush administration policies. He said Dean had rejuvenated the Democratic Party by forcing the other candidates to stand up too. If and when the time comes, he said, he’d be happy to work for whichever Democrat is the nominee.

But as supporters trickled in the mood became more hopeful. Gone was the heady excitement of the last Meetup, a few weeks before Iowa and New Hampshire. Gone too were many of the younger faces in last month’s crowd.

But the 40 or so people in the room made it clear that they weren’t giving up yet. Volunteers who pounded the pavement in New Hampshire, promised phone calls to Maine before the weekend’s caucuses. They agreed to write personal notes to voters in Virginia and Wisconsin. Some remarked that Dean picked up seven delegates on Tuesday and nine, compared to Senator John Kerry’s 13, in New Hampshire.

Deanne Kleopfer of Brattleboro said she sees plenty of good reasons for Dean to remain in the race.

(Kleopfer) People don’t want Howard to give up. We want those delegates. We want to broker that damn convention. All we have to do is remind people of why we’re in this race and that’s what Howard is running around doing. He’s telling people, I’m in the race because there’s a whole bunch of people who want me in this race and we can make a change in what’s going to happen.

(Keese) But Anthony Schein, a 20-year-old college student, said he worries that new voters energized by Dean will sour on politics if the race drags on and ends in disappointment.

(Schein) What’s important to me is that people don’t lose and get turned off. And whoever the Democratic nominee is doesn’t return to the problems that Democrats have had in 2000 and 2002, of apologetic Democrats who sort of believe in some sort of social justice, but can’t quite say, Yes, we’re Democrats.

(Keese) Even the most determined supporters seemed to agree, they’ve got their work cut out for them.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese in Brattleboro.

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