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The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Democracy (Dean) for America

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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ON CNN TV
Watch CNN-USA now: Soledad O'Brien, Bill Hemmer and Jack Cafferty look at Howard Dean's new Democracy for America initiative and set the stage for President Bush's planned speech on the anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Watch for live coverage of that at 11 a.m. ET (1600 GMT).
more videoVIDEO
CNN's John King on the impact of Iraq on the 2004 election.

CNN's Bob Franken on John Kerry and Dick Cheney trading fire.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Howard Dean returns to center stage on the Left Coast today. John Kerry goes dark, taking holiday in Idaho.

While his campaign continues, Kerry's weeklong departure should calm the vicious cycle of attack/respond/attack that has dominated the first two weeks of this eight-month presidential death match.

Indeed, today in Seattle, Dean returns to a very different race than the one he quit one short month ago. TV attack ads, financed by two candidates and numerous outside groups, blanket the airwaves, most of them across 18 battleground states. His hands tied for months while would-be Democratic challengers slapped him around, President Bush has come out swinging.

Dean apparently wants his new organization, Democracy for America, to swing back. Presumably fueled with many of the 640,000 loyal donors he attracted to his presidential bid, Dean's group will focus on doing a couple things, but doing them well.

First and foremost, sources say DFA will seek to encourage voters at the grass-roots level to become involved in local politics, organize their communities and become candidates themselves. (If they choose to enter politics, DFA will serve as a clearinghouse and help provide training, support and counseling for first-time candidates.)

The group also will try to recruit about 1,000 candidates at the state and local level this year to embrace progressive politics and stand up for Democratic principles.

Democracy for America also will focus on helping raise money for Dems in key House and Senate races -- something Dean's campaign did just this week for Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and last year for Iowa Rep. Leonard Boswell. As of yesterday, however, no one we could reach at the party's House or Senate campaign committee had spoken with Dean about how his new organization would operate.

And last, but certainly not least, the group will try to "educate" voters about Bush and convince Democrats that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for Bush.

Dean will present the plan for his group during a speech scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET at the Westin Hotel in Seattle. He'll then travel to San Francisco for a second speech at 9 p.m. ET at the Palace Hotel. Tomorrow, he's in New York City for an announcement speech there. The group will be based in Burlington, Vermont.

Today's events on the West Coast are open to the media and the public. A link to the live stream for the Seattle event will be provided on Dean's campaign homepage, www.deanforamerica.com.

On his campaign Web site, Dean wrote last month that his group will change America by working for the following principles:

  • We will promote grassroots democracy and bring new people into politics.
  • We will support candidates and office-holders who tell the truth; stand up for what they believe; and oppose the radical agenda of the far right.
  • We will fight against the special interests.
  • And we will fight for progressive policies like: Health care for all, investment in children, equal rights under the law, fiscal responsibility; and a national security policy that makes America stronger by working with allies and advancing progressive American values.
  • Kerry's vacation

    Moving on to Kerry, who clearly has refused to base his vacation decisions on electoral politics.

    John and Teresa Kerry are staying at their $4.9 million home in Ketchum, a mountain resort town near Sun Valley, about two hours north of Boise. The home is along the Wood River on the northern end of the town. It's a massive seven-bedroom, six-and-a-half bath, luxurious residence. Teresa's name is on the Idaho deed. In fact, of the five homes they have, the senator's name only appears on the public records for their Boston home.

    Not only does Kerry occasionally borrow a line from a former opponent -- the Dean-esque line, "You have the power to change America!" comes to mind -- now, CNN's Mike Roselli reports that Kerry is borrowing a plane. For his flight to Idaho, Kerry used John Edwards' campaign plane -- formerly owned by Paul McCartney.

    What's next? The Joe-mobile?

    Party heads debate

    Also today, party chiefs Ed Gillespie and Terry McAuliffe are scheduled to participate in an hourlong debate at Catholic University. Both are alumni. The debate, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, allows for very little interaction (there's no rebuttal). C-SPAN plans to carry it live.


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