MONTPELIER, Vt. – One-time Democratic presidential front-runner Howard Dean (search) said Thursday he is focusing his new political organization on dislodging right-wing Republicans from positions of power across Washington and holding both political parties accountable.
"To defeat George Bush, the Democratic Party and its nominee must stand up strong for our principles, not paper over our differences with the most radical White House in our lifetime," Dean said in a statement posted on the group's Web site. "We must directly expose the ways in which George Bush's policies benefit the privileged and right-wing ideologues."
Dean, who dropped out of the presidential race a month ago without a win, said he has developed plans and an organization — Democracy for America (search) — to recruit progressive candidates to run for Congress, city council and state legislatures. He was scheduled to announce his plans at rallies Thursday in Seattle and San Francisco and in New York City on Friday.
The former Vermont governor focused particularly on congressional races, planning to raise money for "candidates for whom financial support could be the key to winning and whose election will be key to winning back a House of Representatives that has become the tool of the Republican right wing."
That kind of rhetoric, paired with record-setting fund-raising, helped propel Dean to the top of the crowded Democratic presidential field last year. It all fell apart when voters began casting their ballots in January. When he dropped out he had spent more than $50 million and had not won a single contest. He did finally score a victory, in his home state of Vermont, after dropping out.
The national Democratic leadership recognizes that Dean's Internet-fueled campaign and his willingness to take on the president tapped into a deep anger among some voters. They hope to nurture the newfound support and build it into a winning coalition in November.
Dean made clear, however, that he won't be a quiet force. He will expect Democrats to hold to their principles.
"Democracy for America will be committed to promoting an America where candidates and office holders tell the truth about policy choices and stand up for what they believe," he said. "The era when politicians equivocate about matters as fundamental as war and peace must end."