The former front-runner said he will quit if he has been eliminated.

WASHINGTON – Facing more primary election losses, Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean said Sunday he would continue to take his antiwar, anti-establishment message to voters around the country for weeks to come but that he would quit if someone else secures the nomination.

“I’m not going to do anything that’s going to harm the Democratic Party. If we get blown out again and again and again … if somebody else gets more delegates and they clinch it, of course, I’m not going to go all the way to the convention just to prove a point,” the former Vermont governor said Sunday.

The one-time front-runner made the remarks as the campaign headed for a multi-state showdown on Tuesday. Democrats in seven states – Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Carolina – vote Tuesday with 269 delegates at stake, more than 12 percent of the 2,162 needed to secure the nomination.

As Dean vowed to continue his long-shot campaign, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe on Sunday backed off suggestions than any candidate who had not won a caucus or primary by Tuesday should quit the race.

“If you’re not winning, then you can’t raise money and you can’t get your message out,” McAuliffe said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

‘Let the voters decide’

But he said the earliest a candidate likely would secure the delegates for nomination would be March 10. And 35 more states will vote before that, he said, including the delegate-rich states of California, Georgia, New York and Ohio on March 2 and Florida and Texas on March 9.

“We’ve got huge states coming up,” he said. “Let the voters decide.”

Speculation about candidates dropping out reflected the quick rise of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts as the front-runner for the nomination. After back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Kerry on Sunday appeared poised to dominate Tuesday’s voting as well. Polls showed him leading in several of the states and closely competitive in the rest.

He spent the day in North Dakota, and planned to spend the evening there watching his home state New England Patriots play the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl. He was flying to Albuquerque, N.M., after the game.

Dean, who raised a record $41 million last year and spent almost all of it by the time he lost in New Hampshire, was not advertising in any of the seven states voting Tuesday. He called his massive spending in the first two voting states a mistake.

“We took an enormous gamble and it didn’t work,” he said during an appearance from Milwaukee on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He conceded he “probably won’t win” any of the Tuesday states, “with the possible exception of New Mexico.”

He flatly rejected the suggestion that he should quit, however. He noted that he leads in delegates pledged or selected so far and insisted he will continue to win delegates, particularly in Michigan and Washington on Feb. 7 and in Wisconsin on Feb. 17.

Outsiders

Eager to slow Kerry’s momentum, Dean and other rivals Sunday tried to differentiate themselves.

Dean again cast himself as an outsider able to reform Washington, criticizing Kerry for being the top Senate recipient of cash from lobbyists. “That is exactly what’s wrong with American politics,” Dean said.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said his humble Southern roots as well as his limited time in Washington made him a better choice than Kerry, born wealthy and a Washington veteran.

“There are differences between John Kerry and John Edwards, including the place we come from, the way we grew up, my own personal experience with some of these issues, like job loss issues,” Edwards said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I know how the Congress works,” he added. “On the other hand, I haven’t been there for 15 or 20 years and become part of that system.”

Campaigning in Lawton, Okla., retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas also cast himself as an outsider.

“I’m the best qualified person to represent this party and let me tell you why,” Clark said. “I’m not an insider. I’ve never cut backroom deals, and nobody owns me. That’s true.”



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