WASHINGTON – Democratic White House hopeful Howard Dean (search) abandoned his bid for the presidency Wednesday, a day after he lagged far behind in yet another state primary.
"I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency," Dean told a crowd of cheering, flag-waving supporters in Burlington, Vt.
The former Vermont governor said that though he was stopping his formal campaign, he made an impact on American politics.
"We have exposed the dangerous radical nature of George W. Bush's agenda," Dean said. "We stood up for what was right, not what was popular."
Dean wasn't shutting down his entire grassroots campaign, but instead ending his formal candidacy for president of the United States.
Dean's Web site, www.deanforamerica.com, also announced his plans Wednesday before the news conference.
"Today my candidacy may come to an end — but our campaign for change is not over," Dean said in the Internet statement. The Web has been a crucial means of communication for the Dean camp.
The new Dean campaign will be a fund-raising organization that concentrates on "Dean for America" causes and on keeping his supporters energized, party sources told Fox. But his name will still be on ballots in many states.
Dean — the presumed front-runner until primary season began in late January — wound up a distant third in the Wisconsin primaries Tuesday, with 18 percent of the vote.
He ended his campaign for president Wednesday after losing all 17 primaries and caucuses to date by a significant margin.
"This is to be expected," former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler (search) told Fox News Wednesday. "It’s time for him to do what he’s going to do today."
Dean has been impressed with Democratic rival John Edwards (search) and suggested on the campaign trail that he would make a better nominee than opponent John Kerry (search), but the governor has decided to stay out of the Kerry-Edwards contest, a Dean aide said.
Dean did not endorse another candidate and sources said he had no plans to do so anytime soon. Instead, Dean intends to devote his efforts to finding more of his own supporters to help defeat Bush in the November general election.
But Steve Grossman (search), who last week departed as chairman of Dean's presidential campaign, told Fox News that he wanted to try to "be helpful in building bridges between the Dean organization and the Kerry organization."
Interviewed on Fox News Channel's "DaySide," Grossman said he hadn't talked to Kerry in recent days and had no affiliation with the Kerry campaign. He recalled the Dean camp's earlier statements that if they lost in Wisconsin, "then and only then" would they reach out to Kerry.
A High Rise, a Fast Fall
Once a long-shot candidate, the Internet phenomenon filled Dean's campaign coffers and attracted thousands of supporters through the spring and summer, pushing him to the head of the crowded Democratic field. But his fall seemed even faster than his rise.
"It’s amazing how he was riding so high for so long," Fowler told Fox. "The campaign collapsed in a very brief time. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before."
The leader in national polls — and more important state polls in the first states of Iowa and New Hampshire — Dean seemed poised to win the nomination in a runaway. In the end, he never won a single state through 17 contests.
But Dean and others within the Democratic Party said his candidacy wasn’t all for naught.
"We have led the party back to considering what its heart and soul is, although there is a lot of work left to do," Dean said.
Fowler said he infused new life and excitement into the Democratic presidential race.
"He’s invigorated the party," Fowler said. "He and the force of his personality contributed greatly to a central focus by Democrats on this message that’s working with the American people right now."
Dean exits the active race certain in the knowledge that he will live on in the annals of U.S. politics for shattering Democratic fund-raising records with $41 million collected in a single year.
He also made his mark on late-night television and Internet parodies for a high-octane concession speech on the night of the Iowa caucuses that he's likely never to live down.
The news of Dean leaving behind his presidential bid came a day after he told supporters in a Madison, Wis., ballroom that "we are not done."
"The transformation we have wrought is a transformation of convenience, not conviction," he said Tuesday night. "Let's fight on. Never give up."
Dean accepted credit for himself and his supporters for charting a new course for this election season.
"You have already changed the Democratic Party and we will not stop," he declared to cheering supporters Tuesday. "You have already written the platform of the Democratic Party for the convention."
Spending the past nine days in Wisconsin did not seem to help his last chance at staying in the race for the White House.
An exit poll found his voters were likely to have decided before last month, and just one-fifth said they decided on Tuesday. Dean's strongest performance was among young adults, and he tied Kerry and Edwards with that group.
The exit poll was conducted for Fox News and other media by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
While he struggled to remain in the Democratic presidential race, Dean also lost a court skirmish at home Tuesday. A judge ruled in a lawsuit that he could not claim executive privilege and seal for 10 years a broad swath of his gubernatorial records.
Even before the news leaked, it seemed unlikely that Dean would have much of a campaign organization left to accommodate a continuing bid for the White House. Staff members were making plans to leave their jobs and even his campaign chairman defected to Kerry this week.
He also appeared on the verge of losing his remaining organized labor support. Several prominent unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (search ), withdrew their support of Dean in recent weeks.
Fox News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Carl Cameron, Ellen Uchimiya, Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.