Dean once more
NASHUA, N.H. -- Howard Dean said Wednesday he regretted the pain he caused by saying that the Democratic Party must court Southerners who display the symbol of the Confederacy in their pickup trucks.
"I’m sorry. I’m so sorry it makes my head spin. Mea maxima culpa. Could you ever, ever, EVER forgive me?"
Speaking in New York about campaign finance, the former Vermont governor sought to quell the dispute that erupted over his recent comment and his unwillingness to apologize for it during Tuesday night’s debate.

"I regret the pain that I have caused, but I will tell you there is no easy way to do this and there will be pain as we discuss it and we must face this together hand in hand as Dr. (Martin Luther) King and Abraham Lincoln asked us to do," Dean said.

Rival John Edwards, who had complained on Tuesday about Northerners telling Southerners what to do, said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire that he accepted Dean’s apology.

"It sounds like he’s done the right thing. It would have been better if he’d done it last night," the North Carolina senator said, adding that it remains to be seen how the American voters view his statements.

Dean came under fire from his foes Tuesday night in a Democratic presidential debate that veered from hip to heated. The candidate refused to recant his recent statement that the party must court Southerners who display the symbol of the Confederacy in their pickup trucks.

"It’s a racist symbol but I also think the Democratic Party has to be a big tent," Dean said Tuesday night. "Poor white people need to vote their economic interest."

Earlier Wednesday, one of Dean’s rivals sought to undercut his front-running status, criticizing the former Vermont governor’s comments and his refusal to apologize.

"Howard Dean offended both blacks and whites in the South by using the Confederate flag as a political symbol and should admit he was wrong," Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, adding, "a leader has to be strong enough to admit a mistake."

Edwards and Al Sharpton sharply challenged Dean on the debate stage, and even one prominent Democratic officeholder who has yet to endorse any of the contenders questioned Dean’s strategy.

"Governor Dean was trying to reach out to disenfranchised voters in the South, but he needs to be more careful," said Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico. "I don’t think this is serious, but it has put a little bit of a dent in his front-runner status."

Dean’s rivals can only hope so, with the kickoff Iowa caucus and New Hampshire presidential primary contests less than three months away and the former Vermont governor continuing to run strongly in polls in both states.

And even as the debate was unfolding, there was fresh evidence of the difficulties Democrats face in the South as they prepare to challenge President Bush next year.

In off-year balloting hundreds of miles from the debate site, Republicans elected a governor in Kentucky for the first time in 32 years and ousted the incumbent Democratic governor in Mississippi.
Posted by: Atrus 2003-11-05