MANCHESTER, N.H. – A calmer Howard Dean (search) emerged on the campaign trail Tuesday, trying to revitalize his campaign with a subdued style focusing on policy issues that contrasted with his scrappy outburst to a stunning Iowa loss.
"Those of you who came here intending to be lifted to your feet by a lot of red-meat rhetoric will be a little disappointed," Dean said as he began a toned-down speech to New Hampshire (search) voters who will help decide his fate Jan. 27.
The Dean campaign was regrouping after a distant third-place finish in Iowa, a stunning turnaround from his co-favorite status at the start of the year. The former Vermont (search) governor was trying to restore credibility to his outsider campaign with a win in New Hampshire, where polls show him in the lead but his once-commanding advantage long gone.
"We need to win here in order to prove to people that their vote matters and that we can elect somebody who's not from Washington who's willing to stand up and say what's right instead of just what's popular," Dean told reporters.
Dean's new focus relies less on an outrageous appeal to Democratic passions and more on policy ideas and his record as Vermont governor.
Dean said he was giving his own version of the State of the Union address in advance of Bush's speech to Congress Tuesday night. He painted a bleak picture of life under Bush -- about 3 million jobs lost in the last three years, more than 40 million people without health insurance, an $8 trillion increase in the debt and bankruptcy at a record high.
He said he was able to solve similar problems in Vermont by providing health care for nearly every child and balancing the budget without cuts to education or other key services. He made his signature argument that Bush led the United States to an unnecessary war and that the Washington Democrats he is running against supported it.
Dean aides said the sharper new message, perhaps to be echoed in an upcoming ad, are a subtle jab at John Kerry and other rivals with Washington ties. The aides argue that Dean's stance on civil unions and the war show that he is willing to take stands when polls show them to be unpopular.
Dean plans to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the next week on TV, radio and mailings to argue that while his rivals are suddenly promising change, he has produced it during his political career.
"I promise you that if you make me the president of the United States, I will restore the honor and the dignity and the respect this country deserves," Dean said. The audience responded with a 45-second standing ovation that broke up the otherwise seated, polite response to Dean's new style.
These are the same arguments that Dean has been making for months. But he made his case in the measured tones of a debate champion instead of his customary fist-pumping shout.
On Tuesday, Dean found himself having to explain his bellowing, guttural response of the night before at a post-election Iowa rally. "We will not quit now or ever," he shouted to supporters, his hoarse voice rising to a scream.
"You've got to have some fun in this business," he said Tuesday in appearances on the talk shows.
Later in the day, at a rally in Concord, N.H., there was shouting but not from Dean. Hecklers interrupted his speech at least five times, including one at the start of the speech who was dragged out while throwing punches.
Dean stayed calm though each disruption and during one responded by singing the national anthem into the microphone. The crowd, which included rocker Joan Jett, joined in the singing to drown out the heckler's yelling, then followed by chanting, "Howard Dean! Howard Dean!"
Dean, the financial front-runner among Democrats with more than $40 million raised last year, made another appeal for cash, telling donors he needed $1 million by next week's New Hampshire primary.
Dean spokesman Jay Carson said that doesn't mean the campaign is short on money. He declined to reveal how much it has on hand, beyond saying it has plenty. The candidate has opted out of public financing, freeing him from spending limits.
Voter surveys in Iowa Monday night held surprising news for the former Vermont governor, whose Internet-driven candidacy attracted scores of young supporters.
In Iowa, Dean underperformed among several groups that were supposed to be key to his success. Kerry beat him among young adults, liberals, heavy Internet users, those who strongly disapproved of the war with Iraq and first-time caucus-goers.
Dean's distant third-place finish erased any air of invincibility around the campaign. His advisers argued Michael Dukakis recovered from a third-place finish in Iowa in 1988 to win the New Hampshire primaries, although Dukakis didn't have competition from another lawmaker from a next-door state. Although he won the nomination, Dukakis lost in November 1988 to George H. Bush.
Dean was governor of neighboring Vermont for nearly 12 years, while Kerry has represented next-door Massachusetts in the Senate for 19 years. Dean hopes his new underdog status will help him in famously independent New Hampshire.