WASHINGTON -- Activist Simon Rosenberg abandoned his bid for Democratic National Committee chairman yesterday and backed front-runner Howard Dean, moving the former presidential candidate closer to capturing the party title.
Rosenberg's departure from the race leaves a field of three -- Dean; Democratic activist Donnie Fowler, who ran the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Michigan; and former Indiana respresentative Tim Roemer.
About 430 voting members of the party's national committee will choose a successor to outgoing DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe on Feb. 12.
Dean surged into the lead with 250 endorsements from DNC members, but some Democrats are worried about Dean's sometimes fiery comments and style. Rosenberg stressed Dean's success in rallying Democratic support and his ability to unify the party.
"What's going on with Democrats right now is we're coming to understand and accept we're not a majority party," Rosenberg said in a telephone interview with reporters. "We're fighting in ways we didn't use to have to fight."
"All of this is a sign of tremendous progress for us as a party," he added. "Democrats recognize we have to fight harder for our beliefs."
Rosenberg said in a statement that Dean will help "revitalize our party and help us win again in the 21st century."
Dean, the former Vermont governor, enjoyed a meteoric rise in the Democratic presidential race but crashed in the Iowa caucuses last January when he finished third behind eventual nominee John F. Kerry.
Dean's candidacy sparked plenty of interest among young voters and attracted millions of dollars, largely through the Internet. But he failed to translate the buzz into votes when the primaries got underway, falling short in Iowa and New Hampshire and eventually abandoning the race.
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico said yesterday that he is supporting Dean for the chairmanship. "The race is essentially over," said Richardson, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. "He's won fair and square."
Rosenberg, 41, president of the New Democrat Network, said he will continue to focus on strengthening the party by helping it craft a better agenda.