WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Howard Dean (search) finished his Iowa campaign Monday night the way he began -- impassioned and defiant of his Washington rivals.
"We have not begun to fight," Dean shouted to supporters after a startling and distant third-place finish behind Sens. John Kerry (search) of Massachusetts and John Edwards (search) of North Carolina.
Dean bounded onto stage, high-fiving supporters with a wide grin and waving an American flag. He looked determined not to appear disappointed.
"We will not quit now or ever," the former Vermont governor shouted to supporters. "We want our country back for ordinary Americans."
In an interview with The Associated Press, Dean sounded more reflective. "Of course, I'd rather come in first, but we didn't -- and we're alive," the former Vermont governor said. "We just need to fight like crazy. I'm determined to take this country back from George Bush, who cares more about corporations than ordinary Americans."
Dean blamed the loss on attacks he suffered as the one-time front-runner. His rivals pummeled him with criticism, saying he didn't have the foreign policy experience or temperament to lead the country.
A third-place finish takes the target off his back, Dean said. "There will be a lot less incoming flak, that's for sure," he told The AP.
Dean has raised $40 million, more than any rivals, though there are questions about how much the fast-spending campaign has in reserve.
"We have an organization in 50 states," Dean said, "and we're going to use it."
Of course he's disappointed, Dean said, but "all I know how to do is work, and that's what I'm doing."
He responded to criticism by painting his rivals as Washington politicians tied to special interests who wouldn't stand up to President Bush on the war and other issues.
"We were pretty much the target of everybody for a long time," Dean said on CNN's Larry King Live. "And it's hard to sustain that."
Dean congratulated Edwards and Kerry on a strong finish, but said he told them "we would see them around the corner, on the other side of the block, starting tomorrow morning." He said he would win in their home states and across the country.
Dean racked up endorsements from Al Gore and Sen. Tom Harkin, and words of praise from Jimmy Carter, all of whom won the Iowa caucuses in the past. The establishment embrace did him little good.
Dean did well among young adults, a group he was counting on for victory, but he was not as strong as Kerry, according to an entrance poll of caucus-goers. Dean got the support of a fourth of young adults, Kerry got a third. He also fared poorer than Kerry among those who strongly disapproved of the war in Iraq and those who had more education.
The poll was conducted for the National Election Pool -- made up of The Associated Press and the TV networks -- by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.
Many of the supporters at Dean's caucus night party at the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines were out-of-state volunteers. Marla Camp of Austin, Texas, headed straight for a beer to mark a disappointing end of 10 days working in Iowa.
"We really felt some good things coming in," she said. "Our confidence level has been pretty high."
Camp predicted that the loss would only serve to mobilize Dean supporters around the country.
"It can only make us stronger," she said.