DAVENPORT, Iowa – Howard Dean (search), looking for an edge with Iowa voters on the eve of the caucuses, got a show of support Sunday from his campaign-shy wife and a stalwart of the Democratic Party — former President Carter (search).
"I wanted to come today, I wanted to say thank you to Iowa and to support my husband for president, Howard Dean," said Judy Dean in a five-sentence speech — her first of the nearly yearlong campaign.
A physician who has eschewed the political trail, Judy Dean was a surprise guest who gave her husband a chance to soften his image as a candidate of outrage railing against Washington insiders.
Earlier in the day, Dean joined Carter at church services in Plains, Ga., and the former president and Noble Peace Prize winner praised the candidate's "courageous and outspoken" stands, in particular his steadfast opposition to the Iraq war.
Dean is in a tight battle for pre-eminence in Monday's presidential caucuses with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search), North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt.
Judy Dean's visit was planned in just 24 hours. Campaign manager Joe Trippi said Dean asked her to come to Iowa after Ruth Harkin, wife of Dean supporter and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, suggested that it might help.
As Dean flew to Iowa from Georgia, Judy Dean took a separate charter flight from their home in Burlington, Vt. She boarded his plane, then media photographers were lined up to catch the image of them deplaning together.
Judy Dean, known professionally as Judith Steinberg, prefers to stay out of politics. She told the crowd that she hasn't been able to come to Iowa as much as she'd like because she has a son in high school, a daughter in college and patients who depend on her daily.
She appeared nervous and her voice shook as she read from a brief prepared statement. She then hugged her husband and held his hand for several moments while the crowd of several hundred cheered and applauded her.
Dean then thanked "my incredibly wonderful wife for spending her Sunday in Iowa."
"I appreciate this very much," he said. "I thank you, dear."
Dean skipped a precious 24 hours on the ground in Iowa to attend Carter's church in Georgia, where the 39th president offered kind words but no endorsement.
The two men joined worshippers at the 131-member Marantha Baptist Church, where Carter teaches Sunday school most weeks, and afterward the former president introduced Dean as "my friend, our visitor and a fellow Christian."
Carter thanked Dean for opposing the war, which the Georgian called "unnecessary and unjust," and expressed his appreciation for the work Dean did on Carter's losing bid for re-election in 1980, although Dean said it only amounted to licking envelopes and answering telephones.
"I made an announcement in advance that I'm not going to endorse any particular candidate, but I have been particularly grateful at the courageous and outspoken posture and position that Governor Dean has taken from the very beginning," Carter said during their eight-minute appearance together after the Sunday services.
Dean thanked Carter for being a moral example for all Americans and for getting him into politics. "He did what I hope to do in Iowa tomorrow night," Dean said.
For much of the campaign, Dean has been perceived as one of the more secular candidates in the race, spending little time talking about religion. Dean left the Episcopal Church about 20 years ago in a dispute with the Burlington, Vt., diocese, which opposed a bike path he championed to cross lakefront property it owned. He joined the Congregational Church.
In recent weeks, however, he has spent more time talking about religion and mentioned that it played a role in his decision in 2000 to sign landmark legislation giving marriage rights to gay couples — a reason he never cited four years ago.
Carter said Dean rival Wesley Clark also plans to attend services with him soon.