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Inside Politics

Dean: Democratic Party must rebuild

From Nicole Jackson

Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said Wednesday that his party needs to be rebuilt, "not from the consultants down, but from the ground up."

Dean is among the candidates being mentioned to lead the Democratic National Committee, which is slated to meet in February to decide who will replace outgoing chairman Terry McAuliffe.

In a speech on the party's future, Dean told a crowd of cheering students and faculty at George Washington University that party leaders must define themselves to the American public in a way that underscores their differences with the Republicans.

"We cannot win being Republican-lite. We tried it and it does not work," he said, referring to Sen. John Kerry's loss last month to President Bush.

Dean credited Republicans for knowing what they want.

"They want a government so small that, in the words of one prominent Republican, it can be drowned in a bathtub. They want a government that runs big deficits, but is small enough to fit into your bedroom. They want a government that is of, by, and for their special-interest friends. They want a government that preaches compassion but practices division. They want wealth rewarded over work. And they are willing to use any means to get there," he said.

But, in going from record surpluses to record deficits, the GOP "has relinquished the mantle of fiscal responsibility," Dean said.

In cutting health care, education and community policing programs, "they certainly have no desire to even claim the mantle of social responsibility," he said.

Dean, who was strident during the campaign in his criticism of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, added, "In starting an international conflict based on misleading information, I believe they have abdicated America's moral responsibility, as well."

In contrast, he said, the Democratic Party believes that every American should have access to affordable health care and good education for their children.

The physician and former Vermont governor lambasted President Bush's call to change Social Security. "We believe that if you put in a lifetime of work, you have earned a retirement of dignity -- not one that is put at risk by your government or unethical business practices."

Dean also spoke about his Democracy for America committee, which he said has raised more than $5 million for candidates across the nation.

Dean's Internet-fueled campaign for president shot to the top of the polls late last year before crashing in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. His supporters have launched a number of Web and blog sites and are circulating online petitions to lobby DNC members to make him the next party chairman.

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