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Inside Politics

Dean virtually locks up DNC chairmanship

Howard Dean
Democratic Party
Terry McAuliffe
Tim Roemer

(CNN) -- Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean appears to have virtually locked up the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, after his last major challenger dropped out of the race and endorsed him Friday night.

Veteran party activist Donnie Fowler, who had been positioning himself as the alternative candidate to Dean, said it was "clear" Dean had the votes to become the new chairman when DNC members vote next week.

"With Howard Dean as its next chair of the DNC, the party will have someone who not only understands change, but knows how to make it happen," Fowler said in a statement.

With Fowler's departure, the only candidate still in the race against Dean is former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana, also a member of the 9/11 commission. However, Roemer has garnered few endorsements from the Democratic rank and file, and he has drawn fire from abortion rights supporters in the party's base because of his personal opposition to abortion.

Representatives of Roemer's campaign could not immediately be reached Friday night for comment on his future in the race.

Dean's apparent victory in the DNC race marks a resurrection of his political fortunes after his once high-flying presidential campaign crashed last January in the cold of Iowa and New Hampshire. He has said that if elected DNC chair, he would not make another bid for the White House in 2008.

If elected, he will replace outgoing DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who did not seek another term in the party post.

CNN Senior Assignment Editor Steve Brusk contributed to this report.

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