BOSTON – Howard Dean (search) formally released the 201 delegates who supported his failed presidential bid and urged them on Monday to vote for John Kerry (search) at this week's Democratic National Convention (search).
He said the ultimate decision rests with the delegates, but that he asked them at a private meeting to drop any rogue campaigns on his behalf.
"I have released my delegates," Dean told reporters after the meeting. "I've asked them all to vote for the Kerry-Edwards ticket."
Many of the delegates leaving the hotel ballroom said they had been enthusiastic Dean supporters but they were united behind Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards.
"In the primary season I thought he was the best candidate, but unfortunately a majority of people didn't," said Jacob Crumbine, 19, a Dean delegate from Vermont, the only state he won. "I think Kerry is a good candidate. Edwards is a good candidate. Now I'm excited to go to the Fleet," the sports arena where the convention is being held.
Several supporters said they were impressed that Dean didn't tell them what to do, but instead explained to them how he had come to the decision to support Kerry and asked them to follow his example. "He's consistent in his approach of asking his supporters to make a decision themselves," said Sandra Frankel of Brighton, N.Y., who worked for Dean in the primaries but traveled to Boston as a Kerry delegate. "But he encouraged them to follow his example of supporting the Kerry-Edwards ticket."
There was a short-lived effort to draft Dean from the floor of the convention for vice president. Organizers of that campaign disbanded it a couple of weeks ago, but Dean addressed it in his delegate meeting.
"I've told them I don't think there's anything to be gained by trying to put in a vote for me for vice president or president and I hope they won't do that," he said. "This is a very independent minded group of people but a very enthusiastic group of people and I don't expect there to be any votes to the contrary on the floor."
Dean's staff said he carried 121 committed delegates to the convention and 80 superdelegates, including 34 members of Congress. All of them have been asked to throw their allegiance to Kerry on Thursday.
Dean takes great pride in turning some of the major operations of his campaign to people organizing at the local level. He pioneered the use of locally organized house parties to raise money, a technique that the Kerry campaign now uses.
Prior to the meeting with his own delegates, Dean talked up Kerry and Edwards, urging delegates to work on campaigns up and down the ticket because that would help in the presidential race as well.
"We need to be in every state fighting for every vote," he told District of Columbia delegates.
"You have to do the work," he urged California delegates.