WASHINGTON – Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean (search) said Saturday that positive responses from key supporters have reinforced his determination to keep talking tough even though some congressional Democrats have suggested he should tone down his rhetoric.
"People want us to fight," Dean told the national party's executive committee. "We are here to fight."
Addressing Iowa party activitists later Saturday in Des Moines, he added: "We need to be blunt and clear about the things we're going to fight for. I'm tired of lying down in front of the Republican machine. We need to stand up for what we believe in."
"We can use some of your passion," Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, told Dean at the Iowa fundraiser.
Over the past week, Dean described Republicans as "pretty much a white, Christian party" and said many in the GOP "never made an honest living."
Several Democratic lawmakers distanced themselves from their chairman. Republican officials called on him to apologize. After weathering the criticism, Dean forged ahead with the GOP scolding at the meeting of Democratic National Committee leaders.
Yet some Democrats say the former Vermont governor should not remain the center of attention.
"Privately, people have said they don't want Howard Dean to become the story because we have more important issues to talk about," said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000.
"But publicly we will continue to give Howard Dean our strong support," she said.
One of Dean's predecessors at the DNC, Don Fowler said, "The controversy over this statement or that statement is a blip and only a blip." But Fowler complained about leading Democrats who aired their gripes last week. "Even if they don't like it, they should have enough sense not to make those comments," Fowler said.
At the session in a downtown hotel, Dean accused Republicans of trying to suppress the vote, selling access to the White House for lobbyists and basically being dishonest with the public.
"The reason the Republicans are in trouble is because there are so many cases where they say one thing and do something else," Dean said.
He said President Bush's education initiative, the "No Child Left Behind (search)" program, cuts school spending and a clean environment plan, the "Clear Skies Initiative (search)," permits more pollution.
A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee said Dean would rather sling mud than discuss serious matters.
"Dean's inflammatory rhetoric makes it clear that Democrats have no vision and would rather pander to the maniacal fringe than talk about the important issues facing our country," Tracey Schmitt said.
On political fundraising, the DNC trails the Republican Party by more than 2-to-1 despite Dean's reputation as a potent fundraiser. The Democrats have raised almost $19 million so far this year.
Dean said he is bringing in $1 million weekly and that $100,000 was received, unsolicited, from online donors during a 24-hour period in the past week as the furor over his remarks grew.
Records show the DNC took in $13.8 million over the first three months of 2005, compared with $8.4 million during the same period in 2003, the last year without a federal election. Terry McAuliffe was party chairman then.
Dean has given more than $1 million from the DNC to state parties. He said the DNC plans to share some of the money Dean raises for the national party when he is in a state. Both of these moves are winning him support from state party leaders.
In his remarks, Dean made few references to the recent brouhaha.
But when a DNC member joked that the best way to get the chairman's attention was to "jump up and down," a grinning Dean fired back: "That's my job."
The crowd of Democratic activists burst into applause.