Former Vice President Al Gore has endorsed former Vermont Governor Howard Dean to be the Democratic party's 2004 presidential nominee. Addressing supporters in New York's Harlem community, Al Gore said Howard Dean is the Democratic party's best chance for defeating George Bush in next year's presidential election.
"Howard Dean really is the only candidate who has been able to inspire at the grass-roots level all over this country the kind of passion and enthusiasm for democracy and change and transformation of America that we need in this country," he said.
In backing Howard Dean, Mr. Gore, who lost to President Bush in the 2000 race for the White House, passed over his own running mate from three years ago, Joe Lieberman, who is also running for president, but trails Mr. Dean and several other candidates in the polls.
Opinion polls show Mr. Dean as the Democratic front-runner, having energized many of the Democratic party's core constituencies by his relentless criticism of the war in Iraq. Al Gore praised Mr. Dean's stance on the war, saying the decision to invade Iraq was "a catastrophic mistake."
For his part, Howard Dean pledged continued loyalty to his party's base. "I think it is important in this campaign that we recognize those people who are with us all the time," he said. "And so we made a conscious decision to start with women, to start with the African-American community, to start with the Latino community, to start with the trade union movement. This campaign is not about Howard Dean going to the White House. This campaign is us going to the White House - all of us."
From New York, Al Gore and Howard Dean headed to campaign events in Iowa, five weeks ahead of the state's presidential nominating caucuses, the first major test for the Democratic candidates.