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In Reid, Dean sees vestiges of himself

Page 2 of 2 -- But in the last few weeks, Dean has worked to repair relations on Capitol Hill, meeting privately with the two chamber leaders in Pelosi's office, addressing the Democratic caucuses of each, and speaking to Reid frequently, according to aides. The rapprochement is not entirely surprising, since Dean's success rebuilding the party will be helped by a united front.

''He knows [Reid and Pelosi] are his two most important individual clients," said Jim Jordan, an adviser to Dean. ''He wants very badly to construct a [Democratic National Committee] that serves their purposes."

While Dean's relationship to Pelosi is described as cordial, aides say the Vermonter's shoot-from-the-hip style, which became a media focus in his high-flying but failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, meshes neatly with that of Reid, whose formative career years included receiving death threats while chairing the Nevada Gaming Commission.

The Reid-Dean friendship brings together men of vastly different backgrounds. Reid, 65, is an antiabortion-rights Mormon who voted in favor of the 2003 authorization to invade Iraq. His youth in a desert shack built out of railroad ties was spent with an alcoholic gold-miner father and a mother who washed clothes for local prostitutes.

Dean, 56, is a Congregationalist and an abortion-rights proponent, who built a presidential race around opposition to the war in Iraq. He grew up in a Park Avenue apartment, spent weekends in East Hampton, and bypassed his wealthy family's preferred Yale-to-Wall-Street path in favor of medical school.

But the pair share traits. Neither was a high-profile figure on the national political scene as recently as three years ago. Republican foes have branded both as liberal ideologues.

Since his victory as committee chair on Feb. 12, Dean, who has vowed not to run for president in 2008, has actively tried to avoid the national spotlight, declining interview requests and media appearances, and preferring instead to work behind the scences.

His newfound reticence does not mean Dean has lost his knack for attack. At a rally in Lawrence, Kan., in late February, Dean told supporters, ''This is a struggle of good and evil, and we're the good."

And last month, two prominent black Republicans demanded an apology after Dean joked to black DNC members about the Republican Party's standing in minority communities.

''You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room?" Dean asked, according to published accounts. ''Only if they had the hotel staff in here." 

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