Dean Backer: Supporters Have 'Paid a Price'

Because they bucked "traditional American politics" to back Howard Dean's (search) presidential candidacy, many of his top supporters have "paid a price," a chief New York backer said Tuesday.

Judith Hope (search), a former chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, refused to elaborate on the remark made during a formal kickoff of the former Vermont governor's New York campaign.

Seeking to fire up a crowd of about 100 supporters in a conference room adjacent to the state Capitol, Hope took note of the state lawmakers, local party leaders and union officials on hand.

"Many of us who stand on this stage today have paid a price for our support of Howard Dean," Hope said, adding that the supporters had "shown great courage."

"He is not always an easy candidate to keep your commitment to, but he is a very, very important candidate to stay true to," Hope added.

Asked later if she would elaborate on her comment that supporters have "paid a price," Hope said: "No. I don't want to make too much of that."

"Suffice it to say the field of candidates includes many candidates who come out of traditional American politics and Howard is challenging traditional American politics in a very fundamental way, so for many of us it took a little extra courage to step up to the plate for Howard," the former state party leader said.

The Dean event appeared designed to remind New Yorkers, on the day of the crucial New Hampshire primary, that there is a race beyond the Granite State.

While predicting Dean would finish a strong second in New Hampshire, Hope said that no matter what happened there, "I do not believe Howard will ever leave this race."

New York's Democratic presidential primary is March 2.

Recent independent polls have shown Dean well ahead of his rivals in New York, but no polls have come out in the state since the once front-running former Vermont governor finished third at the Iowa caucuses last week behind Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.