CNN American Morning

Milwaukee, WI, Tuesday, February 17, 2004

BYLINE: Bill Hemmer

Dean talks about his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. He discusses why his campaign manager resigned, says he's still in the race to win and if he doesn't win the nomination, he will support whoever the nominee is.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Howard Dean has spent a lot of time stumping for votes in Wisconsin. Now, the all important primary gets under way today and it appears his campaign is in the balance with it. Will he stay in the race or will he go?

Howard Dean is our guest this morning, live from Milwaukee.

Good to see you again, Governor.

Good morning to you there.


Thanks very much.

HEMMER: Let's start with the news from your campaign manager, Steve Grossman.

Why did he bail the day before Wisconsin?

DEAN: I think you'd have to ask Steve that. I mean we're just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. This country wants jobs. This country wants health care. And I'm pretty good at doing both, having been a doctor and a governor.

HEMMER: You said yesterday you did not feel betrayed by his move.

How do you feel?

DEAN: I don't feel betrayed by his move. He's a good guy. He came on with us early on. We wouldn't be where we are without him. And I think people have a right to make their own decisions about when they want to sign on with the front runner. Lots of people signed on with me when I was the front runner.

But we're in this to change the Democratic Party and change this country, and we're going to do that one way or the other. And as long as I can do that by running for president and winning, I will. If I don't think I can, we'll do something else.

We've already substantially changed the message of the folks running for president. I think that's a good thing. Now we've got to make sure that when we get to Washington or when somebody else gets to Washington, we're going to have things like health insurance for every single American, which we have not had for 56 years in this country. That is appalling, so far behind all the other industrialized countries in the world. We don't have to do-put up with that in this country and the Democrats ought to be doing something about it.

HEMMER: You have said John Kerry, the front runner, is not a real Democrat, to borrow some of your words from the past. You know the label he puts on his campaign, the real deal, so he says about his campaign. You also say John Edwards would make a better candidate when facing off head to head with President Bush.

How do you think John Kerry would fare as a candidate leading your party if, indeed, the nomination goes his way?

DEAN: Look, I'm going to do everything I can to win this nomination. And this isn't done yet and I think I certainly respect your opinions and the pollsters' opinions. But last I looked, voters actually get to choose the Democratic nominee. So I'm in this to win. We have more electoral votes-I mean, excuse me, more delegates to the convention than anybody else except John Kerry and we think we can overhaul him, particularly in the next Super Tuesday primaries.

If not, I'm going to support whoever the Democratic nominee is. We need to beat George Bush. He is the most irresponsible president in my lifetime, a half a trillion dollar deficit every single year. We cannot go on with this borrow and spend credit card president.

HEMMER: Have you had conversations with John Kerry this week?

DEAN: I would never disclose who I did and did not have conversations with.

HEMMER: Has his campaign...

DEAN: But I will tell you this.

HEMMER: Go ahead.

DEAN: I will tell you this, we are interested in winning and if I don't win, we are interested in having a Democratic president in the White House. And that is what I intend to do.

HEMMER: Has he or members of his campaign contacted you about drafting your support for him in the nomination process?

DEAN: Well, as I said, I wouldn't-I appreciate the inquiry, but I'm not about to disclose what our conversations were. I will say that throughout this campaign we have talked with all the campaigns frequently. I think it's important to have a back channel. Our unified goal in this party is to beat George Bush, the first president since Herbert Hoover who has a net loss of jobs on his record. We're going to do that and we're going to do that any way we can.

HEMMER: Yes, on a personal note, it has been an amazing two months for you. A healthy bank account at one point and a strong front runner status for you for some time.

Can you relate to our viewers what this experience has been like for you as you crisscross the country?

DEAN: It's been a great experience. I think the American people are incredibly terrific. They're not cynical. They're work-they work hard. They're struggling and I think what we need, as Jimmy Carter used to say, is a leader in Washington who is as good as the American people.

HEMMER: Just to be clear, if you don't win today in Wisconsin, are you still in it?

DEAN: Yes.

HEMMER: Not getting out?

DEAN: How about that for clarity?

HEMMER: That's clarity. That's one of the shortest and briefest answers we've gotten throughout this entire campaign.

So we'll watch that today.

Howard Dean, thank you for your time.

DEAN: Thanks very much.

HEMMER: We'll be watching throughout later today.

DEAN: Thanks for having us.

Content and programming Copyright 2004 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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