NASHUA, N.H. – Howard Dean (search) on Wednesday accused Wesley Clark (search) of being a closet Republican (search), sticking to his word to strike out at rivals encroaching on his lead in the Democratic presidential race.
"I think General Clark is a good guy, but I truly believe he's a Republican," Dean told a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, where Clark is narrowing Dean's lead in the polls. "I do. Harry Truman once said if you run a Republican against a Republican, the Republican's going to win every time."
In response, Clark told reporters after a national security speech in New Hampshire: "I'm a Democrat."
A spokesman, Bill Buck, said Clark is a committed Democrat who supported Bill Clinton (search), Al Gore and other Democratic candidates. He said Dean's comment "smacks of old-time negative politics" that will turn off voters.
"If Howard Dean wonders why his poll numbers are dropping in New Hampshire, he should look in the mirror," Buck said.
Dean said he isn't changing his campaign in response to Clark's momentum, but his remarks are part of increasing criticism of the retired Army general from Dean's campaign. Dean, the former governor of Vermont just west of New Hampshire, noted that Clark voted for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and attended Republican fund-raisers in recent years.
"I do not think somebody ought to run in the Democratic primary and then make the general election the Republican primary between two Republicans," Dean said to applause from the crowd.
After the New Hampshire appearances, Dean flew to Des Moines, Iowa, for a statewide bus tour that will continue through Monday's caucuses.
He was joined by Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, actor Martin Sheen and director Rob Reiner for a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds where they were met by hundreds of supporters, including union workers.
Dean arrived on stage, to chants of "We Want Dean," in a bus decorated with campaign signs that he called the "people-powered express."
"We're going to have some fun in the last five days, but the fun has to end in victory. But the victory is not for the Dean campaign," he said. "The victory is for us because it's time to take this country back.
"The folks in Washington have been there a long, long time and they aren't going to give up without a fight," Dean added. "I can't do it without your help."
Dean's campaign has been distributing fliers at Clark's appearances in New Hampshire, criticizing his past support of Republicans. Dean also criticized Clark's statement during a debate last fall that while software jobs are moving to India, Americans can do other jobs.
Clark has said he doesn't approve of sending jobs to India, but Dean repeated criticism Wednesday that Clark would be indifferent to jobs going overseas.
New Hampshire holds its primary on Jan. 27, eight days after the Iowa caucuses. Polls show Dean and Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt are leading in Iowa, with Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina not far behind.
Dean said Monday that the race is "very close" and he will step up his criticism of his rivals in the lead-up to voting in Iowa.
Gephardt's campaign responded to Dean's criticism of Clark by taking a slap at both candidates' records on trade.
"We're not going to fix the jobs issue in America by having one candidate with the wrong record on jobs going after another candidate with the wrong record on jobs," said Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy.