When Howard Dean announced his decision to drop out of the Democratic primary last week, senior Ari Mittleman described the mood of the former Vermont governor’s on-campus supporters as “bitter.”
For Mittleman and the approximately 300 members of GW’s Generation Dean group, it was a quick fall from grace for a fiery politician who only six weeks ago was predicted to ride a wave of anti-Bush sentiment to victory in the primaries.
But after losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Dean’s campaign took a nosedive, with voters overwhelmingly supporting Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as the most likely candidate to unseat President Bush in the November election.
Dean’s departure from the race, however, does not mean his GW supporters, who solicited voters at primaries around the country, will disappear into the obscurity of an unsuccessful campaign.
Mittleman, a coordinator for Generation Dean, the youth arm of Dean’s campaign, in Delaware, said the group will continue to stay active even though Dean is not vying for the Democratic nomination.
“We’re playing it by ear,” said Mittleman, who said the group plans to keep helping the Democratic Party with the “nuts and bolts” of the campaign by continuing to register voters and getting people to the polls.
Mittleman said he and other Dean supporters remain encouraged because they are looking forward to a high voter turnout, political involvement by youth voters and a Democratic victory in the general election.
“The only way to beat Bush is to get young students out,” Mittleman said. “Next fall, I think that the College Democrats on campus are going to become more active. Our Dean volunteers are going to start taking leadership roles.”
On Saturday, a contingent of die-hard Dean supporters gathered for a picture on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The group included 10 GW students, who were joined by about 15 others from the District, Maryland and Virginia.
They were photographed with a “We Love Dean” banner and said they planned to send the picture to Dean Headquarters in Burlington, Vt., as a show of gratitude.
“I’m happy that (Dean’s) gotten so many new people involved and registered,” freshman Max Kanin said.
“People have come together,” freshman Max Fine said. “He’s been getting people together from different backgrounds, age groups and ethnicities.”
Although Dean did not have a strong showing in the primaries, his anti-Bush rhetoric resonated with other candidates and the electorate, political analysts said.
“The Dean campaign was very successful in building a community among those people,” said Chris Arterton, dean of GW’s Graduate School of Political Management. “Campaigns tend to be a top-down operation, but the Dean campaign had more sprit to it.”
While Kerry or Edwards may be able to win, “Dean was less electable” than either of the other two men, Arterton said.
In addition to staying involved in the election, GW’s Dean supporters plan to participate in campus politics, encouraging student to vote in this week’s Student Association elections.
In the fall, campus Dean supporters hope to bring “a brand-new face for the College Democrats” and bring the organization more publicity by bringing more speakers to campus, Mittleman said.
-Christopher Kline contributed to this report.