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Dean plans 'event' Wednesday

Ex-Vermont governor a distant third in Wisconsin

Dean speaks to the crowd at a Madison, Wisconsin, hotel after finishing third in Tuesday's primary.
Dean speaks to the crowd at a Madison, Wisconsin, hotel after finishing third in Tuesday's primary.

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CNN's Candy Crowley on what could be the end of the road for Howard Dean's campaign.
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Dean says he will 'continue to fight for a strong America.'
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Howard Dean
America Votes 2004
Presidential primaries

MADISON, Wisconsin (CNN) -- Howard Dean was trailing a distant third in the Wisconsin presidential primary Tuesday night, but the former Vermont governor vowed to "keep up the fight for a better America."

"We are not done yet," Dean told a crowd of supporters chanting his name.

However, Dean stopped short of saying he would continue his presidential campaign. His comments instead focused on the need for revamping the Democratic Party, and he often spoke of his own presidential campaign in the past tense.

"You have already started to change the Democratic Party and we will not stop," he said. "You have already written the platform of the Democratic Party for this election."

After the speech, Dean headed home to Burlington, Vermont, Tuesday night and he was expected to spend Wednesday assessing his future.

Dean plans to hold an "event" Wednesday at 1 p.m., his aides told CNN.

His comments to supporters Tuesday seemed to be a eulogy of sorts to his own campaign, highlighting the impact it has had this election season.

Dean said other Democrats were taking his lead in challenging Bush on a host of issues, citing Iraq, budget deficits and the president's education bill as examples.

"Finally, we've got a Democratic Party that talks about its roots again, its core issues again. Finally, Democrats in Washington have learned that they can stand up to the most right-wing president that we've had in my lifetime."

Dean -- whose campaign has given mixed signals this week over its plans -- has yet to win a single state nominating contest. He once enjoyed the mantle of front runner, but his campaign quickly lost steam with his losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

More recently, his campaign has shown signs of disarray. Monday his campaign chairman departed after saying he would support rival John Kerry if Dean lost Wisconsin.

The campaign also has been buffeted by rumors of pending staff departures, but Dean has said he knows of no such plans.

Asked if he would remain in the race should he lose Wisconsin, Dean told CNN early Tuesday, "Yep. How about that for clarity?"

"This isn't done yet," he said. "I'm in this to win. We have more delegates to the convention than anybody else except John Kerry, and we think we can overhaul him in the Super Tuesday primaries" on March 2.

Dean has also given hints that his campaign might continue in some other fashion -- if not a quest for his party's presidential nomination.

"If I can't do it by being president, I'll find another way to do it," he said in the CNN interview. And in his subsequent speech to supporters Tuesday night, Dean cast the race in more philosophical terms.

"There are a lot of people in this room that are young," he said. "And when you're young, you never think things go as fast as you'd like them to go. But the truth is, change is tough."

In his speech, Dean seemed unusually upbeat for a candidate who had just suffered another disappointing finish. The candidate smiled often, and even joked about his infamous concession speech after a third-place finish in Iowa.

"You all make me so happy I could just scream," he quipped.

--CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley contributed to this report.

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