Dean, after charm offensive, says campaign's on rebound

Weekend polls in N.H. awaited to see if effort has convinced voters

January 24, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MANCHESTER, N.H. - One day after a public relations offensive to counter the fallout from Iowa, Howard Dean's campaign pronounced itself on the mend yesterday.

But the impact on New Hampshire's voters was unclear, and every campaign was waiting for the weekend polls to determine whether Dean had succeeded in persuading New Hampshirites that his third-place finish and emotional concession speech in Iowa were aberrations.

The candidate was in a reassuring mode. "Things have started to turn a little bit," he told several dozen volunteers at a phone bank in Milford. "We're back on the upswing, and you know what? New Hampshirites love to undo what Iowa does."

Voice still hoarse, Dean was much livelier in public than he has been since arriving here Tuesday from Iowa. In a trio of town hall meetings, he continued to mention his experience as a budget-balancing governor and to deride Washington politicians for promising more than they can deliver. While he drew a large crowd last night in Keene, some of his earlier audiences were smaller than normal but generous in their warm applause, including many people who said they were undecided.

"If you just want to change presidents, go to the polls on Tuesday and vote for whoever you want," Dean told about 100 people at the Lions Club in Londonderry just after 8 a.m. "But if you really want to change America, I ask for your vote. I think we need somebody outside the Washington game, somebody who just doesn't promise everything, somebody who's actually balanced budgets and delivered health care."

Several strategists said Dean had probably done as much as he could Thursday night to steady his campaign, with his debate performance, the lengthy interview he and his wife granted to ABC News and his self-deprecatory appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman.

The challenge facing him was complex: to demonstrate humor, acknowledge error, display a calm and presidential demeanor but still remind his constituents of the passionate, antiwar insurgent who first attracted them.

"I thought he did what he had to do to stop the blood-letting and let the healing begin," said Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist not affiliated with any of the campaigns. "Now it's time to recapture his fire, go out there and charm his neighbors."

Since the Iowa caucuses, Dean's support has steadily declined in polls. One strategist for a rival campaign, alluding to Dean's base of support, said, "Everybody's asking the same question: Where's the floor?"

Still, members of Dean's staff said the energy level at the grass roots was rising. Karen Hicks, the New Hampshire state director, said the phones had returned to pre-Iowa ringing levels, with some people calling to say they were outraged at how frequently the raucous Iowa concession speech was being replayed. The candidate continued to walk a careful line. In a news conference yesterday afternoon, Dean told reporters, "All I want is a candidate who tells the truth."

In response to a voter's question about the Federal Reserve, Dean also said he thought its chairman, Alan Greenspan, had become too political and should be replaced. He later clarified that he would not remove Greenspan from office but simply appoint someone else when the time came.

At each of Dean's events yesterday, a voter stood to praise either his Thursday night performances or the now-famous concession speech.

"Just for the record, I really enjoyed your speech in Iowa," a woman from Derry said at the morning forum.

"So take that, CNN," Dean responded over the applause.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.