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Top aide: Dean weighing post-primary options

But former Vermont governor says 'we're in no matter what'

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MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean may abandon his Democratic presidential bid if he loses the Wisconsin primary this week, a senior campaign official said Sunday, but Dean told interviewers he would remain in the race "no matter what."

"The confusion comes from people writing stories that don't know what they're talking about," he told a Milwaukee television station. "We're not dropping out after Tuesday, period."

In a posting on the Dean weblog Sunday evening, campaign manager Roy Neel wrote, "I just talked to Gov. Dean a few minutes ago and can tell you unequivocally, that no decision has been made about the nature of our campaign after Wisconsin, that he is determined to go forward, keep fighting, to advance the message of this movement all the way, to defeat George Bush, to change American politics."

Neel did not say whether advancing the "message of the movement" meant that Dean would stay in the race as a candidate.

Dean told supporters in an e-mail message February 5 that his campaign could end if he does not win the state's primary, but later suggested he may continue.

The senior campaign aide said "absolutely no decisions" have been made about what to do after Tuesday's vote. But the aide said Dean is considering several options in case he does leave the race, including setting up a grass-roots organization and working with his supporters to continue influencing the Democratic debate.

Asked what considerations would go into a possible decision after Tuesday, Dean told the Milwaukee station, "Whether we win the Wisconsin primary or not."

But asked whether a poor showing would force him out of the race, he said Sunday in a separate interview "We're in no matter what."

Dean, the front-runner in national polls before voting began, has won none of the 16 state primaries or caucuses held so far. Polls in Wisconsin, where 72 delegates are up for grabs, show him trailing -- with Sen. John Kerry, the national front-runner, far ahead.

The senior campaign adviser told CNN that Dean has several options. His campaign is still pulling in contributions, and Dean is aware his hard-core supporters don't want him to give up, the adviser said.

However, Dean and his campaign leaders know that continuing a campaign that has won no states could harm his reputation down the road, the adviser said. Dean said on Fox News Sunday that he has no schedule past Wednesday, saying, "We're going to reassess."

He added, "We're going to keep going, no matter what, because I think there are a lot of people all over this country who want to rebuild the party and rebuild America in a different way."

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