MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The yell from Howard Dean was loud and guttural, seeming to come from somewhere deep within as he reacted to his third-place finish in Iowa. Yesterday, Dean found himself struggling to explain the reaction, casting it as a show of passion, while critics said it confirmed the angry streak they hear in his speeches and campaign rhetoric.
On morning news shows and later at a press conference here, Dean faced a barrage of questions about the visceral response he offered before supporters in West Des Moines Monday night where he stripped off his suitcoat, rolled up his shirt sleeves, and frenetically called out a list of states where he said he would compete for the Democratic Party nomination.
"Last night there were 3,500 people there who had worked for weeks in Iowa, and I thought I owed them the reason that they came to this campaign, which was passion," the former Vermont governor told reporters yesterday after a speech in Manchester, where his tone was markedly modulated and his demeanor subdued.
Top aides could only shake their heads when asked about Dean's performance following the Iowa caucuses results, while critics pounced on it as evidence of a man they said was out of control. Former Senator Alan K. Simpson, a Republican from Wyoming, said of Dean, "He looked like a prairie dog on speed."
Even the usual fount of his most stalwart support -- Blogforamerica, the Web-based dialogue box operated by his campaign -- was a flurry of comment, much of it critical.
"Tonight, after the caucus results, Dean gave his speech to the troops. Yes, he was over the top, but he wasn't speaking to America, he was speaking to us, the Deaniacs," one writer penned. "Having said that, I feel I must say this. . . . He should never broadcast a speech like that again. Never. Ever. Again."
For some Dean supporters in New Hampshire, his reaction was enough to spark questions about their man, with some paying a visit to Manchester's Holiday Inn Center to hear him deliver his first post-Iowa speech.
Judith Pence, a former school principal and now education consultant from Manchester, said she has been a Dean supporter since Labor Day. But after watching Dean react to the Iowa results, Pence said she was left unsettled.
"A simple congratulations to the winners and now on to New Hampshire would have been better," said Pence, who added that listening to Dean yesterday in Manchester reassured her.
Others were less easily assuaged. "It was sort of immature, something I would have done if I wasn't thinking," said Joe Imhof, 37, a business owner from Nashua, who said he favors Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.
Dean has struggled from early in his campaign to erase a sense among some voters that he is motivated by anger. That perception is most often linked to his fiery rhetoric, which he himself has described as "red meat." Dean has lobbed his sharpest criticisms at President Bush.
A Boston Globe/WBZ-TV poll last week showed that 27 percent of likely voters in New Hampshire said Dean struck them as too negative or angry.
Dean has sought to soften his image by layering speeches with references to community. Yesterday, he described his campaign as one of "hope" and himself as a "neighbor." But he has erupted at times on the campaign trail -- he recently berated an insistent Iowa voter for interrupting him.
Monday night, Dean stood before supporters following Iowa caucus results. "We're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico," he shouted, his voice at once raspy and shrill. "We're going to California and Texas and New York, and we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House."
Then he let out a yell that appeared part growl, part yodel -- which television networks and talk radio played over and over yesterday. Critics said the moment would be fodder for rivals' commercials for weeks. Some went further, calling it a potentially defining moment of the campaign.
"He didn't do himself any favors," said Dante Scala, a professor at St. Anselm College in Manchester and author of "Stormy Weather," a book about the New Hampshire primary. "That moment crystallizes a lot about what's been said about him, that he's the angry man."
But some supporters here said Dean behaved as they expected.
"He was showing his passion -- the passion that led him here," said Robert Spiegelman, 52, a businessman from Londonderry.
Bob Scipione, 66, a retired biochemist of Bedford and a committed Dean supporter, offered this explanation: "The man has to be out of control to beat Bush."