Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dean: Wounded, Maybe, but Moving Forward ; despite Criticism over the Confederate Flag, He Maintains Momentum, Including with His Offer to Forgo Public Financing

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dean: Wounded, Maybe, but Moving Forward ; despite Criticism over the Confederate Flag, He Maintains Momentum, Including with His Offer to Forgo Public Financing

Article excerpt

Despite facing some of the most withering attacks of the campaign so far - which this week led him to make a rare public apology - Howard Dean is showing new signs of strength in the Democratic nomination battle.

This week, the former Vermont governor flexed his financial muscle by announcing he was considering opting out of the public financing system, which he said would allow him to compete more effectively against President Bush - assuming he could continue to raise money at his current rate. The move was unprecedented in more ways than one: Not only has no Democrat ever declined federal matching funds, but Dr. Dean chose to leave the final decision up to his supporters, conducting an unusual vote by e-mail and telephone, with the results to be released sometime this weekend.

In addition, Dean was Thursday expected to receive the coveted endorsement of the Service Employees International Union, the largest union in the AFL-CIO, giving him a massive organizational structure on the ground, and giving his campaign a counterweight to charges that he lacks blue-collar and minority support.

These developments come amid a firestorm over Dean's comments about trying to appeal to white Southerners with confederate flags on their pickup trucks - a remark that drew furious criticism from opponents. To some extent, the controversy overshadowed Dean's public-financing announcement: He began his speech by offering regrets for his "clumsy" words. On the network news that night, NBC and CBS focused on the flag controversy; only ABC focused on the campaign-financing vote.

Together, these events underscore Dean's ongoing - but not necessarily unbreakable - hold on the front-runner's spot. For weeks, his lead has made him the focus of the race, and he has shown a talent for monopolizing the spotlight with moves such as this week's financing vote. …

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