WASHINGTON – Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean plans to step down from his post when his term expires in January, wrapping up a tenure in which the party heavily invested in all 50 states for a payoff that helped elect Barack Obama president.
Dean, who was briefly his party's presidential front-runner in 2004, was elected DNC chairman in 2005 and has long vowed to serve only one, four-year term. At a postelection news conference in Washington last week, Dean indicated again that he didn't plan to stay on, aides said on Monday.
President-elect Obama, a Democrat, was expected to choose Dean's successor. Traditionally, the president selects the national chairman of his own party.
Dean was the architect of a "50-State Strategy," investing money and staff in every state — including those where Democrats had long fared poorly — to build party infrastructure and lay the groundwork for electoral gains. The Obama campaign, working with DNC organizers in all 50 states, won several states that had not elected a Democratic president in decades, including Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana.
State party chairs were generally thrilled with Dean's approach, while some Democratic leaders in Washington complained early on that the party's money would be better spent helping candidates who had a real chance of winning.
The disagreement broke into open warfare in 2006, when Dean clashed over money and strategy with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who ran the party's successful effort to win back control of Congress. Last week, Emanuel accepted the job of White House chief of staff in an Obama administration.
Some of Dean's most vocal detractors were former advisers to President Clinton. They include strategist James Carville, who once called Dean's leadership at the DNC "almost Rumsfeldian in its incompetence."
During Dean's tenure, Democrats regained control of Congress in 2006, and captured the presidency in 2008 while increasing their numbers in the House and Senate.
Dean proved tough in enforcing party rules when he punished Florida and Michigan earlier this year, stripping them of their delegates for holding primaries ahead of schedule. The issue was eventually resolved at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August, with all the delegates restored.
Dean is a physician and former Vermont governor.