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Howard Dean's Call to Action

LAS VEGAS -- Howard Dean came home today.

The Democratic National Committee chairman delivered a call to action this morning at the Yearly Kos convention, urging attendees to avoid slipping into partisan attacks and rather to focus on broadening their own circles of influence.

"What Americans want is to not just beat up on the right wing," Dean said. "People want a unified country again."

Dean was greeted as a conquering hero to a packed ballroom at the Riviera hotel -- despite the early hour (8 a.m. PDT) of his speech. He received several standing ovations, and one woman who rose to ask a question admitted to being "so nervous."

For many of the people gathered here this weekend, Dean's 2004 presidential campaign was the official birth of the online progressive movement. When he initially entered the contest, Dean was the longest of long shots - a little known former governor of Vermont. But Dean built a nationwide online community of donors an activists, raising more than $50 million and ascending to the top of the Democratic field by the end of 2003. His campaign crashed spectacularly in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond, a collapse that left many within the party and the media wondering whether Dean signaled a fundamental change in politics or an easily ignored anomaly.

Dean today cast the '04 campaign as a phase in a larger movement, not an end in itself. "I knew at that time that this was not dead," said Dean. "The campaign wasn't dead because it wasn't a campaign, it was a movement to take back America."

As he has since becoming DNC Chairman last year, Dean insisted that Democrats are the party of "real American values," values that include the belief that "it is immoral to send troops to a foreign country without telling them why they are going" -- a line that was followed by an extended standing ovation.

For the most part, however, Dean avoided the fiery formulations that defined his presidential campaign in favor of empowering rhetoric aimed at the participants. "You are the vanguard of real change in America," he said. "You are the way we talk to ordinary people and make them feel valued again."

He urged members of the progressive "netroots" to move beyond simply blogging and grassroots organizing to entering the political arena themselves; "Ultimately, if a generation wants to make its mark on politics, you have to participate in politics," Dean said. "Voting is the bare minimum."

Dean's speech kicked off a busy day at the Kos convention. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner will deliver a noontime speech, the only potential presidential 2008 White House candidate to make such an address. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) will headline tonight's schedule.

Check The Fix later today for updates.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 10, 2006; 3:31 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic PACs , Democratic Party , Fix Notes  
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Next: Mark Warner's First Date (with the Netroots)

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