MILWAUKEE – Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean (search) said Sunday that he regretted burning through most of the $41 million his campaign raised last year on losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.
"We took a gamble and it didn't pay off," Dean, the one-time front-runner for his party's nomination, told NBC's "Meet the Press."
The former Vermont governor laid out his campaign strategy, looking past the next round of primaries and caucuses in seven states on Tuesday, with an eye toward the Feb. 7 caucuses in Michigan and Washington state and the Wisconsin primary 10 days later.
"We probably won't win someplace by Feb. 3, with the possible exception of New Mexico," he said. New Mexico is one of the seven states with contests on Tuesday.
Some of Dean's supporters have said he needs to post a win soon to keep raising money and remain a viable candidate. Dean acknowledged that he has talked to some labor leaders about the strategy, but said they have not reduced their support "as of this discussion."
"But," he added, "we will be meeting with them later in the week."
Now that he's been knocked off the front-runner's perch, Dean is attempting to position himself as the chief rival to John Kerry (search), winner of the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. On Sunday, Dean said Kerry owes the country an apology for taking donations eight years ago from Johnny Chung, who later pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions. Dean said Kerry lacks principle and that he is "incensed by his hypocrisy."
"He misrepresented himself, grossly misrepresented himself, as a candidate who would take on special interests in Washington," Dean told reporters aboard a flight from Milwaukee to Detroit. "That is factually untrue. He is part of the problem and not part of the solution. We cannot go on in this country having United States senators and public officials gather their money from people who they then perform favors for."
Dean has complained about reports that Kerry collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists during his Senate career. Kerry dismissed the charge, saying such donations made up only a tiny portion of his total fund raising. "You are talking about 1/2 of 1 percent," Kerry said.
Although Kerry won the first two contests, Dean vowed to press on in the race, maintaining that "this race is about delegates." He was quick to point out that he has more delegates at this point than Kerry.
Dean has 114 delegates to the Democratic convention, to Kerry's 103, of the 2,162 needed to win the nomination, according to an Associated Press tally. A total of 269 delegates are up for grabs in the seven states. Democratic delegates are awarded proportionately based on the popular vote cast within individual congressional districts as well as a state as a whole.
Dean insisted that he won't play the spoiler if he doesn't have enough delegates to win.
"I'm not going to do anything that's going to harm the Democratic Party. If we get blown out again and again and again ... if somebody else gets more delegates and they clinch it, of course, I'm not going to go all the way to the convention just to prove a point," Dean said.
During his one-hour appearance on the show, Dean continued his criticism of Sen. Kerry as a Washington insider with deep ties to special interests, charging that the Massachusetts lawmaker has raised more money from lobbyists over the past 15 years than any other senator.
"That is exactly what's wrong with American politics and that's why 50 percent of the people in this country don't vote," Dean said.
Kerry said lobbyist donations made up only a tiny portion of his total fund-raising. "You are talking about 1/2 of 1 percent," Kerry said while campaigning in Fargo, N.D.
"My record speaks to that. I have fought powerful special interests every step of the way," Kerry said.