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Dean cuts costs, swaps out staff

Democrat Howard Dean shook up his faltering bid for the White House on Wednesday, replacing his campaign manager with a former Washington lobbyist tied to Al Gore.

In a further sign of distress, the one-time front-runner implemented cost-cutting measures as he looked ahead to a series of costly primaries and caucuses, asking staff to defer their paychecks for two weeks.

"I think you are going to see a leaner, meaner organization," Dean told reporters Wednesday night. "We had geared up for what we thought would be a front-runner's campaign. It's not going to be a front-runner's campaign. It's going to be a long, long war of attrition."

Dean said he wanted Roy Neel to take over office operations under the title of chief executive officer. He said he asked campaign manager Joe Trippi to stay on as a campaign strategist focused on media and Internet operations, but Trippi quit instead of accepting the demotion.

Other officials said Dean asked Trippi to remain as campaign manager, but Trippi believed he couldn't function effectively while reporting to Neel. Dean would not discuss what he offered Trippi, other than that Trippi made the decision to go after he tried to talk him into staying.

Trippi's departure sent shock waves through the campaign, where he is a popular boss and something of an icon to the thousands of Internet-savvy supporters across the country. Trippi, who helped fashion Dean's antiestablishment message, was replaced by the ultimate Washington insider just as the candidate sought to reaffirm his outsider's mantle.

Even aides who supported Neel's accession said they feared Trippi's departure would be a blow to staff morale and jeopardize Dean's Internet-driven fundraising successes.

Dean publicly and privately expressed his determination to remain in the race. At the same time, in a conference call with members of Congress who have endorsed him, he was told bluntly that finishing second wasn't good enough _ that he had to show he could win a primary.

Dean's campaign chairman Steve Grossman also said Wednesday that the candidate must win a presidential primary in the next two weeks to keep even his most loyal donor base _ those giving modest amounts over the Web _ contributing enough to make him financially competitive.

The tumultuous events capped a swift slide for Dean, who was the campaign front-runner at the dawn of the election year, the man with money, momentum and a lead in the polls nationally and in most states.

Democrats outside the campaign were surprised that Dean would make such a dramatic move in the middle of the primary race.

"It's the campaign's acknowledgment that things have gotten drastically off course," said Anita Dunn, who helped run Bill Bradley's failed 2000 campaign. "Often, when that happens you make a managerial change, no matter how well the manager was doing."

Dean campaign officials said the move is a sign of former Vice President Gore's growing influence in the campaign. Several of the officials said the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee had recommended that Neel play a larger role, but Dean denied Gore made the suggestion.

Neel worked on Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.