Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s run for the Democratic
presidential nomination, after starting strong and only recently
slowing down, officially came to an end yesterday. Less than a day
after placing a distant third in the pivotal Wisconsin primary,
Dean announced his withdrawal from the White House contest.

“Today my candidacy may come to an end — but our
campaign for change is not over,” Dean said in a statement on
his website. “Although my candidacy for president may end
today, the most important goal remains defeating George W. Bush in
November, and I hope that you will join me in doing everything we
can to support the Democrats this fall.”

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who leads the race, thanked
Dean for energizing the campaign following the announcement.

“The Democratic Party truly owes Governor Dean a debt of
gratitude for the tremendous new energy he has brought to our
party,” Kerry said in a speech yesterday in Dayton, Ohio.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who finished second in the
Wisconsin primaries, echoed Kerry’s statement.

“Howard Dean has brought so much to this race — not
just his ideas and passion for change, but hundreds of thousands of
Americans who had never participated in a campaign before,”
Edwards said in a written statement.

Dean’s poor finish in Wisconsin has been typical of his
performance in all 17 primaries thus far. Although his national
delegate count is second only to Kerry — Dean leaves with 201
pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention, while
Kerry has already gained 608 representatives — Dean’s
campaign had tapered off over the past month while his
rivals’ campaigns gathered speed. Dean staked much of his $40
million campaign nest egg on the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire
primary last month, both of which he failed to win.

“I don’t think Howard Dean’s been a contender
since after Iowa, so I’ve seen it as a two-person race since
after Iowa,” said political science Prof. Jenna Bednar,
saying Kerry and Edwards have been top candidates for the
nomination.

In the weeks leading up to Wisconsin, Dean vacillated over the
importance of the state to continuing his candidacy. In a Feb. 5
interview with The Michigan Daily in Royal Oak, Dean said Wisconsin
held most of his campaign resources. But as late as Tuesday, he
told the New York Times that he would likely prolong his bid
regardless of the outcome in Wisconsin.

Even after his decision to pull out of the race, Dean still
signaled some hope for his cause.

“Dean for America will be converted into a new grassroots
organization,” Dean said in a speech from Burlington, Vt.
yesterday, referring to his campaign effort. “We need
everybody to stay involved. We are — as we always have
— going to look at what you had to say about which directions
we ought to be going in, and what we ought to continue to do
together.”

Ramya Raghavan, chair of Students For Dean, said she found her
candidate’s desire to run despite costly primary losses
inspiring, though at times confusing.

“He still wants to continue Dean for America and continue
advocacy work, which I think speaks volumes of his character.
… That to me is still the mark of a great political
leader,” Raghavan said.

“I was a little surprised first when he said he would drop
out after Wisconsin and then when he retracted that,” she
added.

Raghavan said that she expected most Dean supporters at the
University to swing toward Kerry’s campaign following the
former governor’s withdrawal.

Like Dean, Raghavan said she will support any Democratic
candidate that appears to have the ability to defeat President Bush
in the November presidential elections.

The former governor’s campaign has left its footprint on
the Democratic contest, despite his early withdrawal. Dean set a
party record last year for most funds raised in the third quarter
of the fiscal year, having earned $15 million during that time
period.

Online fundraising, one of Dean’s principle campaign
tools, has also popularized the Internet as a medium through which
to generate large finances by collecting small donations from
individuals. For example, on Feb. 5 alone the campaign raised more
than $474,000 through online donations of about $50 each, according
to Dean’s website. This personalized campaign approach,
coupled with certain socially liberal policies — such as
repealing all of the Bush tax cuts — constituted Dean’s
effort to differentiate himself from the other candidates and
redirect the party faithful from some of the Clinton
administration’s policies.

Finally, Dean’s exit from the race also increases the
distance between the frontrunners and the runners-up, isolating
Kerry and Edwards as the two viable candidates for the nomination.
Kerry and Edwards have won 74 percent of the representatives
between them, while the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich
of Ohio have a combined 5 percent of the delegates.

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