SEATTLE, Wash. – The day after losing seven states, Howard Dean (search) said Wednesday that his Democratic rivals would not be a change from President Bush and predicted he will win the Washington state caucuses Saturday.
"Any Democrat is going to be an improvement over George Bush," the former front-runner said. "He's the most far right radical president we've had in my lifetime. But the truth is, it'll be more of the same."
Dean did not name any of his Democratic rivals and said he would support whoever is the party's nominee. But he was clearly taking a shot at front-runner John Kerry (search) when he argued that change would not come from a senator who takes more lobbyist donations than any of his colleagues and who has only seen three bills of substance passed into law of the more than 300 that he's introduced.
"Never in my lifetime have we faced as critical of a struggle over the heart and soul of this country and of this party," Dean said. "We have never so badly needed a real change in leadership."
Speaking to reporters on a flight to Madison, Wis., Dean singled out Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, and Sen. John Edwards (search) of North Carolina.
"I think Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards are fine people, but they've been in Washington," he said. "Ergo, they've been in the debating society and they haven't done much."
He said his rivals are winning by using his message of standing up to Bush.
"We've had a great effect on the Democratic Party, all of us," he told several hundred supporters gathered in a Madison nightclub. "Finally they've found a little spine."
The former Vermont governor has not even come close to winning any of the nine contests that have been held so far, including seven losses Tuesday. He said he is hoping for a better performance in the states that hold contests this weekend -- Michigan and Washington state on Saturday, Maine on Sunday.
"We are going to win the Washington caucuses," Dean said to a standing ovation from hundreds of supporters in a Seattle hotel ballroom.
Dean said he also hopes he can win Maine, but conceded he probably won't win Michigan.
"I don't think we'll carry Michigan, but I think we'll get some delegates there and that's what I'm working hard at," he told WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo, Mich. A total of 128 pledged delegates are at stake.
Dean harkened back to the speech that launched his insurgent campaign to stardom a year ago. In twin speeches before Democrats in Washington and California last February, Dean asked why other Democratic candidates had supported President Bush's tax cut, his education plan and the war in Iraq.
"I'm still waiting for the answers," Dean said, uncharacteristically reading from a prepared script.
"Our economy is at risk, our international reputation is in disrepair," Dean said. "The fabric of our society is being torn apart. These are not petty political differences to be papered over by gamesmanship in Washington, D.C. This is a fundamental disagreement about the very nature of what it means to be an American."