Former Vermont governor Howard Dean officially announced Wednesday that he would no longer actively campaign for president. The announcement capped one of the largest political turnarounds in memory. Just a month ago going into the Iowa caucus he was the Democratic frontrunner sitting on a record sized campaign chest and top-name endorsements. But if 2003 was the year of Dean, the early months of 2004 have been all Kerry. Speaking in Burlington, Dean announced he would turn his campaign organization into a grass-roots network to "transform the Democratic Party and change our country." He didn’t mention either John Kerry or John Edwards by name but he vowed to support the party’s nominee. He also urged supporters to continue to vote for him in upcoming races. While he won’t actively campaign, Dean didn’t officially drop out so his name will remain on the ballots in upcoming primaries.
A new USA Today/CNN poll has found that both John Kerry and John Edwards would beat Bush by at least 10 percentage points if the presidential election were held today. Just 42 percent of the country now feels the president has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems.
And The AFL-CIO is planning to announce today its support for Senator Kerry. The union represents more than 13 million U.S. workers.
In Iraq news, The Washington Post is reporting that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan plans to endorse Washington’s position that direct elections cannot be held in Iraq before the United States hands over political power on June 30. Annan is expected to make the announcement next week which could turn out to be a major boost for the Bush administration. But it still remains unclear how an interim Iraqi government will be choosen. A national conference of tribal, political and religious leaders could be held to choose a provisional government. Another proposal would see the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council be expanded in size and given power to rule until elections are held.
In Iraq two more U.S. soldiers died today in a roadside bombing west of Baghdad. The deaths brought to 545 the number of American service members who have died since the U.S. invaded Iraq.
Wired is reporting that the Pentagon’s research wing DARPA is seeking scientists to develop ways for soldiers to fight up to five days without having to eat a single meal. A consultant with DARPA told Wired, "The question is: 'Are there temporary biochemical approaches we can use to squeeze the last ounce of performance out of soldiers when they're already worked to exhaustion?’" In addition DARPA is developing ways to lower the body temperature of soldiers in order to prevent them from overheating.
President Bush is now backing off a forecast made by his own economic advisers that the economy will add 2.6 million jobs this year. Asked Wednesday about the estimate, Bush distanced himself from the figure. Bush told reporters: "I think the economy is growing, and I think it’s going to get stronger." Since Bush has taken office, 2.3 million jobs have been eliminated. Meanwhile the Treasury Department announced Wednesday that the national debt had topped $7 trillion for the first time ever.
President Bush yesterday condemned San Francisco’s decision to marry thousands of same sex couples over the past week. Bush said, "I strongly believe that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman. I am troubled by activist judges who are defining marriage." Meanwhile First Lady Laura Bush added that same-sex marriage is "a very, very shocking issue" for some people.
In Texas, a federal grand jury Wednesday indicted Jeffrey Skilling the former CEO of Enron. Skilling becomes the highest-ranking Enron executive to be indicted. He is expected to surrender today.
A top physicist from California is warning that the nation’s nuclear waste dump proposed for Nevada is poorly designed and could leak highly radioactive waste. The scientist, Paul Criag, was serving up until last month on a federal panel of scientists studying Yucca Mountain. Davis said he quit the panel so he could speak more freely about the dangers of the government’s plan.