Kerry wins endorsement from Howard Dean

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The Independent US

John Kerry returned to the campaign trail last night with an endorsement from his former rival Howard Dean, an unprecedented turnout of past and present Democratic stars, and the biggest presidential election fund-raiser in the party's history.

John Kerry returned to the campaign trail last night with an endorsement from his former rival Howard Dean, an unprecedented turnout of past and present Democratic stars, and the biggest presidential election fund-raiser in the party's history.

The dinner event, held at a Washington museum, was predicted to raise $11m, (£6.07m) eclipsing the previous one-night record of $4.3m set by Al Gore, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate four years ago.

It will help narrow the financial gap between the Massachusetts Senator and George Bush, who has raised $170m and still has most of that to spend before the Republican nominating convention in New York at the end of August.

No less notable, however, was last night's scheduled roll-call of dignitaries. Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, two former presidents who did not always see eye to eye, were there. So, too, were Al Gore, Mr Clinton's former vice-president, Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, two former Democratic White House candidates, and most of Mr Kerry's defeated rivals.

General Wesley Clark, Senator John Edwards, Richard Gephardt, the former House Democratic leader, and Mr Dean, the former Vermont governor, were expected to attend, demonstrating how the party has put aside its differences for the greater purpose of defeating Mr Bush. Earlier, at a boisterous rally at George Washington University, just a few blocks from the White House, Mr Dean endorsed Mr Kerry, whom he had sometimes criticised on the campaign trail.

Mr Kerry arrived back in Washington on Wednesday after a skiing holiday in Idaho, pronouncing himself "fully recharged". Previously, he had suffered the worst week of his resurgent campaign, battered by Republican television adverts which branded him a big-spending liberal flip-flopper.

The damage is not irreparable. The latest polls still show the Senator in a statistical dead heat with Mr Bush in a two-man race for the White House. If Ralph Nader, the veteran consumer rights campaigner is included, Mr Bush takes a small lead. But it is not clear that Mr Nader, who is running as an independent, will even make it on to the ballot in many states.

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