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Wisconsin marks end of line for Dean

Ex-Vermont governor urges backers to fight for Democrats

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was the first Democrat to file papers to run in the 2004 presidential race.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was the first Democrat to file papers to run in the 2004 presidential race.

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CNN-USA has extensive live coverage all night of the impact of Howard Dean's withdrawal from the presidential race, John Kerry's win in Wisconsin and John Edwards' surprising second-place showing there. Follow developments as they happen with reports and analysis all evening.
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Howard Dean tells supporters that he will 'continue to fight for a strong America.'
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CNN's Candy Crowley on Howard Dean's dilemma.
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Tuesday, February 24: Hawaii, Idaho Democratic caucuses; Utah primary

Sunday, February 29: Puerto Rico Republican primary

"Super Tuesday," March 2: Primaries in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Georgia; caucuses in Minnesota

When is your primary? For key dates in the 2004 election season, see our special America Votes 2004 Election Calendar
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Howard Dean
Democratic candidates

BURLINGTON, Vermont (CNN) -- Capping a spectacular political rise followed by an equally dramatic fall, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said Wednesday that he would stop campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Dean told his supporters in Burlington that he was "no longer actively pursuing the presidency," but he urged them to continue to be involved in the primaries.

"Sending delegates to the convention only continues to energize our party. Fight on in the caucuses; we are on the ballots," Dean said.

"Use your network to send progressive delegates to the convention in Boston. ... We are not going away, we are staying together, unified, all of us."

Dean said he would not run as a third-party candidate and urged his followers to support the eventual Democratic nominee.

"The bottom line is that we must beat George W. Bush in November, no matter what," he said.

Dean's decision came after a distant third-place showing Tuesday in Wisconsin. He failed to win a single state in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. (Full story)

The former governor has phoned Sen. John Kerry, the front-runner in the race, and Sen. John Edwards, who finished a close second in Wisconsin, a Dean campaign source said. He hopes to meet with Edwards this week, the source said.

Dean did not say if he would endorse any of his rivals.

The 55-year-old doctor, who was governor of Vermont for 11 years, was the first Democrat to enter the 2004 race, filing papers to run in May 2002. With no national profile or large-state political base, he was considered the longest of long shots.

But Dean seized on Democratic anger over President Bush's policies, particularly the war in Iraq, and moved quickly to the top of the polls. Using the Internet, his campaign also built a grass-roots network of dedicated followers called "Deaniacs" and raised more than $40 million.

The high point of his campaign came in December when he captured the endorsement of former Vice President Al Gore, the man who lost the presidency to Bush in 2000.

Dean said Wednesday his candidacy showed that Democrats could win voters' support "by standing up and telling the truth and not worrying about polls and focus groups."

He said his campaign will be converted into a new grass-roots group that will remain active in Democratic politics.

'Scream' end of dream?

Dean's campaign appeared to have peaked too early.

His rivals began to question whether he had the temperament or experience to go up against Bush.

The war, one of his central issues, faded in potency somewhat after the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but it regained some political power when former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay said he doubts stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq.

Dean, known for his outspokenness, also made statements that raised some eyebrows, including opining that he wanted to be the candidate for white Southerners with Confederate flag emblems on their pickups.

Then, leading up to the Iowa caucuses in January, Dean got into a political slugging match with Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, his chief rival at the time. With the two of them sparring, Kerry and Edwards surged among voters increasingly motivated by the issue of electability.

Dean came in third in Iowa, where his performance was capped by his "I Have a Scream" concession speech, which TV networks ran endlessly. He never recovered.

"I now know that I have a speech that's going to go down in the annals of American presidential campaigns," Dean said after his loss in Wisconsin.

A week after Iowa, Kerry beat Dean handily in New Hampshire, where the latter once had a lead of more than 30 points in the polls. With his war chest largely gone, Dean replaced his campaign manager and started making strategic retreats through the campaign calendar to find a state where he could beat Kerry.

Wisconsin was seen as the final stop. But in the closing days of the campaign, Dean's message was overshadowed by questions about whether he would drop out of the race.

The final blow came Monday, when his campaign chairman, Steve Grossman, left abruptly after saying publicly that he would switch his allegiance to Kerry if Dean didn't win in Wisconsin.

In the last month of the campaign, Dean had criticized Kerry as a Washington insider who accepted special-interest money and supported too much of Bush's agenda.

But Dean has insisted he would support the eventual Democratic nominee to get rid of Bush, who he said was worse than former President Nixon.

CNN's Candy Crowley and John Mercurio contributed to this report.

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