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Dean campaign faces disarray

Candidates stump ahead of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary

Howard Dean has said he plans to continue his campaign regardless of the results of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary.
Howard Dean has said he plans to continue his campaign regardless of the results of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary.

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Stay with CNN-USA during the night for frequent reports and analysis in the run-up to Tuesday's presidential primary in Wisconsin.
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LACROSSE, Wisconsin (CNN) -- The floundering presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean faced new disarray Monday when his campaign chairman departed after saying publicly that he would jump ship if Dean doesn't win Tuesday's Wisconsin primary.

Speaking to reporters after a rally in La Crosse, Dean confirmed that Steve Grossman had left the campaign. He refused to discuss what happened between the two, although he said he doesn't "feel betrayed" by Grossman.

"I consider him to be a friend. I consider him to have worked very, very hard for this campaign, including at times when we were not on the map," Dean said. "It's easy to work for a front-runner. Steve was there before we were anybody."

Grossman told The New York Times on Sunday that if Dean lost the Wisconsin primary, "I will reach out to John Kerry unless he reaches out to me first." Polls show the four-term senator from Massachusetts far ahead in Wisconsin.

Grossman was co-chairman of Kerry's 1996 Senate re-election effort and has known him 34 years.

"I will make it clear that I will do anything and everything I can to help him become the next president, and I will do anything and everything I can to build bridges with the Dean organization," Grossman told the Times in a story published Monday.

Grossman's departure followed last month's departure of campaign manager Joe Trippi. It came as campaigning revved up again for Tuesday's primary, following a Sunday night debate in Wisconsin at which the five Democratic candidates presented a unified front against President Bush. (Full story)

Grossman's comments fueled speculation that Dean, who was the front-runner in the race before stumbling in Iowa and New Hampshire, would drop out of he failed to win Wisconsin, and that he may be about to lose some of his staff.

But asked about possible staff departures, Dean said, "Nobody's told me that." And he also continued to express optimism about his chances in the Badger State.

"I plan to win Wisconsin, one way or the other ... We're just going to have to see how we do. I'll have plenty to say after Wisconsin, whether we win or lose," Dean said.

Kerry headed into the Wisconsin primary with a lead in the polls and 14 victories in 16 state nominating contests. His two latest wins came Saturday in caucuses in Nevada and Washington, D.C. (Full story)

Sen. John Edwards, however, picked up the endorsement of Wisconsin's largest newspaper Monday.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Edwards, a onetime trial lawyer and first-term senator from North Carolina, "seems to believe that the power of persuasion doesn't have to include excoriation and the politics of personal destruction."

At stake in Wisconsin are 72 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July. (Delegate scorecard)

Dean told supporters Sunday that he would go on with his campaign beyond Wisconsin. Asked Monday to define what he means by going on, he replied, "We'll talk about that on Wednesday, after I've had time to consult with everybody."

When Dean was asked about comments from some of his supporters that they won't support anyone but him, he used the past tense to refer to his campaign.

"Clearly, this campaign was fueled by an intense desire to change presidents," he said. "That's why we attracted so many people who couldn't stand what this president was doing to the country.

"So there will be time for discussions, if I don't win the nomination, about how to deal with not winning the nomination."

Grossman, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told CNN that if Dean doesn't win Tuesday, "it is time to coalesce around our nominee -- our presumptive nominee -- and I want to do everything I can to build bridges."

He said he had "a long talk" with Dean over the weekend and said Dean was "overwhelmingly committed" to electing a Democratic president.

But he said Dean did not want to "break faith" with supporters who propelled him from an obscure former Vermont governor to the early favorite for the party's presidential nomination.

Grossman said he has not talked with Kerry. But he said his past ties to Kerry put him in a position "to knit these two teams together" should Dean withdraw.

In another development, a young woman who has been the subject of Internet and talk show radio gossip about an alleged affair with Kerry came forward Monday to deny it. Kerry categorically denied rumors of an affair Friday.

In a statement issued to The Associated Press, her former employer, the woman said, "I have never had a relationship with Senator Kerry, and the rumors in the press are completely false. Whoever is spreading these rumors and allegations does not know me, but should know the pain they have caused me and my family. I am in Kenya with my fiance visiting his family, and we ask that the press respect our privacy and leave all of us alone.

She added,"It seems that efforts to peddle these lies continue, so I feel compelled to address them."

The woman's parents also issued a statement, echoing their daughter's comment and added:

"We appreciate the way Senator Kerry has handled the situation, and intend on voting for him for president of the United States."

The next big test after Wisconsin is March 2, "Super Tuesday," when 10 states choose delegates. (Interactive election calendar)

CNN's Sasha Johnson contributed to this report.

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