Al Gore said, “Howard Dean really is the only candidate who has been able to inspire at the grassroots level all over this country the kind of passion and enthusiasm for democracy and change and transformation of America that we need in this country.”
“We need to remake the Democratic Party; we need to remake America; we need to take it back on behalf of the people of this country. So I’m very proud and honored to endorse Howard Dean to be the next president of the United States of America.”
Gore won the 2000 Democratic presidential primary and the popular vote in the general election, but lost the electoral vote to President Bush after the Supreme Court ruled that a recount in the closely contested state of Florida was unconstitutional.
Gore’s endorsement is expected to give Dean a boost with loyal Democrats and party officials. The former vice president also flew to Iowa to campaign with Dean. The former Vermont governor has been locked in a close race in Iowa with former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri ahead of the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus on Jan. 19.
“This is huge,” Donna Brazile, Gore’s 2000 campaign manager, said according to The Washington Post. “This gives Dean the credibility he’s been lacking, from someone from the inside of the party. This will give Dean a tremendous boost in locking down the nomination.”
Dean is scheduled to appear in a Democratic candidates debate in New Hampshire Tuesday night. In the Granite State, Dean has built a double-digit lead over the rest of the field.
The candidates participating in the debate will include Gore’s running mate in the 2000 presidential election, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.
Lieberman, appearing on NBC’s Today show Tuesday, said Gore had departed from his principles in endorsing Dean.
“Al Gore is endorsing somebody who has taken positions in this campaign that are diametrically opposite to what Al himself has said he believed in over the years: strong on defense, for tax cuts and against walls of protectionism that take away jobs,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman who had earlier said he would offer Gore a job in his administration if he won the election said such an offer is now “less likely.”
Other Democratic presidential hopefuls said they were disappointed that Gore passed them over in favor of Dean, but were determined to continue battling Dean for votes.
“I respect Al Gore. I worked with him in the Senate, and I endorsed him early in his hard fought campaign for the presidency four years ago,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in a statement. “But, this election is about the future, not about the past. I have the experience and the vision to reverse George Bush’s radical agenda and put America back on track on my first day in office. This election will be decided by voters, across the country, beginning with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
Gephardt’s campaign echoed Lieberman’s comments on the incongruity between the records of Gore and Dean.
“We’re clearly disappointed, because Dick Gephardt fought side by side with Al Gore to pass the Clinton economic plan, pass the assault-weapons ban and defend against Republican attacks against Medicare and affirmative action, said Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith. “On each of these issues Howard Dean was on the wrong side.”
In Harlem Tuesday morning Gore urged fellow Democrats to follow former President Reagan’s “11th commandment” and not criticize fellow candidates, which Gore said could weaken the party’s chances to retake the White House.
“This nation cannot afford to have four more years of a Bush-Cheney administration,” Gore said. “We can’t afford to be divided among ourselves to the point that we lose sight of how important it is for America.”