WASHINGTON – Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean (search) headed to Capitol Hill Wednesday to fire up his party base by lighting up an issue Democrats have been hot about for months — the alleged suppression of African-American votes in Ohio during last fall's presidential election.
Dean, who was in Washington Tuesday night in part to offer a spirited defense of Sen. Dick Durbin (search), D-Ill., over remarks he made comparing prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay to some of the world's most heinous regimes, released a Democratic study on Wednesday that described voting problems in Ohio last November.
"The results show that our election system failed the citizens of Ohio," Dean said.
Among the charges laid out, the study concludes that 52 percent of African-Americans in Ohio reported significant problems at the polls and, on average, African-American voters waited three times as long as white voters to vote.
According to the report, the systemic problems plaguing Ohio's voting process included: voter suppression, negligent and poorly trained election officials, long lines, problems with registration status, polling locations, absentee ballots and provisional ballots, and unlawful identification requirements at the polls.
Dean suggested the report backed up his claim that Republicans worked actively to suppress the African-American vote.
"It's been widely reported over the past several years that Republicans do target African-Americans for voter suppression. It's very clear here while there was no massive voter fraud, and I concur with the conclusion — it's also clear that there was massive voter suppression," Dean said.
But one scholar involved in the study quickly backed away from that notion.
"Where the partisan bias came from, where it went, we really have no basis for making any assertion about that and I don't believe the report makes any statements about that," said Cornell University professor of government Walter Mebane Jr.
Dean was forced to come back later and amend his statement.
"While we certainly couldn't draw a proven conclusion that this was willful, it certainly has the appearance of impropriety," Dean said.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman wasted little time in responding.
"The report is pure political fiction," he said.
Dean's attacks on Republicans are not new. At a $700,000 fundraiser on Tuesday night, the Democratic chairman made several tough remarks, within the bounds of political rhetoric, and sounded off one of his frequent chants.
"Borrow and spend, borrow and waste, borrow and spend, borrow and waste," he said with a chorus behind him. "You cannot trust the Republicans with your hard-earned taxpayer dollars."
Dean also seemed eager to help rehabilitate the image of Durbin, who just hours before attending the fundraiser went to the Senate floor to offer a tearful apology for likening the treatment of Gitmo detainees to the Nazis, Soviet gulag guards and Cambodia's Pol Pot. Dean offered a show of support.
"A man who is willing to stand by our troops, a man who has fought for all that is right about America, Senator Dick Durbin, we thank you very much," he said.
For his part, Durbin was emphatic in his support for the troops.
"We have 150,000 of the best and bravest Americans. Our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, people that we love in your family and in other families who, as I speak to you tonight, literally risk their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world," Durbin said.
Following an apology that most Republicans seemed willing to accept as sincere, the White House took the high road on Wednesday.
"I think it was the right thing to say to our men and women in uniform," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
Durbin and Dean may have been beaten up lately over their penchant for controversial comments, but no signs reveal ire among rank-and-file Democrats. In fact, they are expressing strong support.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Brian Wilson.
FOX News' Mone'Sha Carter contributed to this report.