Harkin threw his support behind Dean at a rally in Iowa.
“For me, one candidate rose to the top as our best shot to beat George W. Bush,” Harkin said. “That person is Gov. Howard Dean.”
Harkin called Dean “the Harry Truman of our generation” and said “Howard Dean is really the kind of plain-spoken Democrat we need.”
Meanwhile, Dean was campaigning in New Hampshire and answering questions regarding an NBC news report on comments he made about the Iowa caucuses on a Canadian television program in 2000.
On the public affairs program, called “The Editors,” Dean criticized the unique format of the caucuses, which requires voters to gather in small groups and debate before participating in a head-count vote.
“If you look at the caucuses system, they are dominated by the special interests in both parties,” Dean said on the program, according to NBC. “[And] the special interests don’t represent the centrist tendencies of the American people. They represent the extremes. And then you get a president who is beholden to either one extreme or the other, and where the average person is in the middle.”
Dean further said that a person with a job and kids “can’t stand there and listen to everyone else’s opinion for eight hours about how to fix the world.”
Dean defended himself by saying he is a person that speaks his mind and that he has a different attitude about the caucuses after spending time campaigning in Iowa.
“I have spent nearly two years here in Iowa, talking to Iowans and campaigning in all 99 counties,” Dean said in a statement released late Thursday. “I believe it’s time to stand together, in common purpose, to take our country back — and the Iowa caucus is where it all begins. I support the Iowa caucus and I have already promised … that if elected, the Iowa caucus will be first again in 2008.”
Democratic candidate Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., criticized Dean for the remarks he made in 2000.
“To me, it’s a cynical attempt to participate in the Iowa caucuses if that’s the way he feels about it,” Gephardt said. “I don’t find that people are extreme in any way. They’re very moderate, they’re very sensible, very central.”
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., also won an Iowa endorsement Friday as State Attorney General Tom Miller said he supports Kerry in the presidential primary.
“John Kerry has the character, skill and judgment to win a national election for president and perform in a way that will make us all proud,” Miller said. “Since his days as a prosecutor, Kerry has always stood up to special interests to protect the rights of ordinary Americans.”
Dean continues to be the Democratic front-runner in most national polls and holds a slim lead in Iowa based on a KCCI-TV poll conducted Jan. 5-7 that asked likely caucus-goers who they support. Dean received 29 percent, Gephardt followed closely with 25 percent, and Kerry came in third with 18 percent. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.