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Dean Changes Staff, Strategy; Kerry Wins Key Endorsement

Dean unveiled his “leaner, meaner” campaign by heading to a major rally at Michigan State University on Thursday. Michigan’s Democratic caucuses on Feb. 7 will select 128 delegates to the national convention, a number far larger than any of the states voting on Feb. 3.

The decision to largely bypass states like South Carolina and Missouri is part of a new strategy devised during a daylong campaign session in Vermont Wednesday.

“We’re going to try everywhere, but what we are really looking at is the delegate count,” Dean said.

As a part of this new approach, campaign sources said that they would not run television ads in any of the states holding primaries on Tuesday.

It was during those deliberations that Dean also announced that Roy Neel, a former adviser to Vice President Al Gore, would take over as chief executive officer of his campaign.

“Roy brings enormous experience both in management and national politics,” Dean said in a statement Wednesday night. “He will be an invaluable resource to our campaign.”

Joe Trippi, the campaign strategist who had at one point led the campaign to the top of the polls and the head of an Internet movement, resigned rather than take a lower position in the campaign.

With Neel at the helm, Dean pledged to continue the campaign, saying it was “marathon not a sprint.”

“I think you are going to see a leaner, meaner organization,” Dean told reporters Wednesday night. “We had geared up for what we thought would be a front-runner’s campaign. It’s not going to be a front-runner’s campaign. It’s going to be a long, long war of attrition.”

Despite the candidate’s confidence, the campaign announced several moves aimed at saving money in the next few weeks. In addition to the decision to not run ads, campaign officials reportedly asked staffers to forgo their paycheck for the next two weeks.

Even as the operation scaled back in the short-term, Dean’s national campaign chairman warned that the former Vermont governor must win a primary in the next two weeks to remain financially competitive with the Kerry campaign. “Success in the next ten days is absolutely essential” if Dean is to maintain the army of small donors that have fueled the campaign, Steve Grossman told the Associated Press.

“Now, we have to give them a return on their investment pretty soon, which is why we have to put a win on the boards sometime between now and Feb. 7 to restore and revitalize their sense of the campaign’s momentum,” Grossman said Wednesday.

According to some analysts, the Dean campaign hopes Michigan may serve as the backdrop for his political turnaround. One factor seen as helping the former governor is the ability for people to participate in the caucus via the Internet, a fact that could bolster participation from the legions of Web supporters.

As the Dean campaign continued to restructure its staff and strategy, Kerry picked up a key endorsement and apparent momentum in the fight for South Carolina’s delegates.

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, the state’s top African American Democrat, formally endorsed Kerry Thursday, saying he expects the Massachusetts senator to do well in Tuesday’s primary.

“When you look at the future, who has the resume, who has the experience to bring our country back together again?” Clyburn asked. “My choice is John Kerry.”

Kerry had largely ignored South Carolina since announcing his campaign there in September 2003. But with his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire and Clyburn’s backing, Kerry hopes to challenge North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Edwards, who was born in South Carolina, has said he must win the Palmetto State to remain competitive.

Some analysts have said Kerry should campaign hard in South Carolina to defeat Edwards and force him out of the race.

“There are all sorts of strategic challenges; to me one of the most interesting is John Kerry, does he attack John Edwards in South Carolina?” David Brooks said on The NewsHour Wednesday. “Lee Atwater, the Republican charming analyst of a few years past, said in this situation you have got to shoot the wounded and John Edwards is wounded.”

Kerry, Edwards and the other five candidates for president will all descend on South Carolina tonight for what could be a critical debate ahead of next week’s contests.

The primary calendar picks up speed in the next two weeks, with South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Delaware holding contests on Feb. 3; Michigan and Washington on Feb. 7; Maine on Feb. 8 and Virginia and Tennessee on Feb. 10. Those contests will award 15 percent of all the delegates to this summer’s national convention.

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