National Public Radio -- All Things Considered

Thursday, February 5, 2004

HEADLINE: Howard Dean discusses his continuing campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

Lost in the hoopla of Tuesday's primaries and caucuses as John Kerry, John Edwards and Wesley Clark scored victories were the fortunes of the one-time Democratic front-runner. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean did not fare well on Tuesday. He finished no higher than third in any of the seven states that held contests. And now he's posted an alert on his Web site calling on supporters to donate $700,000 to his campaign by this Sunday to pay for ads in Wisconsin, which votes on February 17th. The message signed by Governor Dean says this: 'The entire race has come down to this. We must win Wisconsin. Anything less will put us out of the race.' We asked Governor Dean if that means he'd drop out of the race if he doesn't win in Wisconsin.

Former Governor HOWARD DEAN (Democratic Presidential Candidate): We don't really think it's a commitment to drop out 'cause we plan to win in Wisconsin.

BLOCK: And if you don't, though, I mean, you must have a condition...

Dr. DEAN: Well, we're really not addressing the possibility of if we don't. We're going to win this race. We have to do it and we have to win in Wisconsin.

BLOCK: I'm curious about more language in that letter which does bear your signature. I don't know if you wrote it, but you told your supporters all that you have worked for these past months is on the line on a single day, in a single state. What does that mean?

Dr. DEAN: That means that everybody's worked very hard to make a real change in America. We didn't come this far to pass the torch from one Washington insider to another Washington insider. We want real change in this country. That's what our supporters want. And that's what we're going to try to accomplish in Wisconsin.

BLOCK: I wonder if we could look back at the results of the primaries and caucuses so far. You've spent at this point something like $30 million. You're fourth in pledged delegates, just ahead of Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich.

Dr. DEAN: I think we're second, actually, if you include superdelegates.

BLOCK: Well, but superdelegates aren't committed.

Dr. DEAN: Right.

BLOCK: So among the pledged delegates, you're fourth, just ahead of Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich. Came in third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire. In the seven states that voted on Tuesday, you weren't in the top two. How do you interpret the results of those nine races?

Dr. DEAN: Well, we haven't had any money to spend for the last seven primaries. We have a really hard-core group of dedicated supporters, most of whom have never been involved in politics before or haven't been so for a long, long time. This is the first candidacy in a long time that has given these people hope. And hope is what they deserve and hope is what they'll get. I want real change, and we're going to continue to fight for it as long as we have to.

BLOCK: You mentioned your supporters and especially your young supporters there. I know you've said you'll vote for the eventual nominee, even if it's not yourself. But I'm wondering, assuming that you do not win--I know you don't want to assume that, but assuming you do not win the Democratic nomination, would you actively campaign or endorse or energize your large voter base of people who are passionate about what you stand for to vote for the nominee?

Dr. DEAN: I've repeatedly said I will support the Democratic nominee, whoever that may be. Of course, we intend it to be us.

BLOCK: And in terms of your followers, though, how broad would that support be?

Dr. DEAN: Well, you'd have to ask my followers that, you know. But I'm going to support the Democratic nominee even if it's not us.

BLOCK: You have said to reporters, 'It was me that started the backbone transplant for the Democratic Party in this race.' And I wonder if that's in any way a satisfying result for you?

Dr. DEAN: Well, you know, the problem with that is that, you know, people are saying the right things now. And reporters have said, 'Well, they stole your platform.' I don't mind that at all. I think that's good. The things that bothered me, though, is that they fly the flag of convenience too often. Nobody was willing to stand up when it was important to stand up. And the problem with that is you elect somebody like that and you never know if they're going to stand up for you or not. So we need to win this race. We need to win the nomination and we need to win the race. And we will.

BLOCK: I wonder how you account for the collapse of support we've seen in these early races so far in states where you were far ahead in the polls and ended up back in the pack. Is the fault with media coverage, do you think? Is it with this front-loaded primary scene?

Dr. DEAN: I think the media coverage was very hard-nosed, and so were the attacks from all six primaries. I mean, when Al Gore endorsed me and the AFSCME and the FCIU, I think that was a real signal to the insiders in Washington, including the media, that I really might win. And I think that panicked them and they really hammered me. You know, I think that's part of running for president. If you're not willing to take that kind of a hammering, then you shouldn't run for president.

BLOCK: And are you planning anything different strategically as you look at these races to come?

Dr. DEAN: Well, if I did, with all due respect, I wouldn't share it with NPR. But we are certainly going to work as hard as we can and we do have a few changes that we're going to be implementing as well.

BLOCK: You have decided to stop campaigning in Michigan. You had some events there that you've canceled. You're moving on to Wisconsin. Why is that?

Dr. DEAN: Well, I've probably spent more time in Michigan than any other candidate. So I hope to do reasonably well in Michigan and get some delegates.

BLOCK: And why are you canceling the events tonight and tomorrow in Ann Arbor?

Dr. DEAN: Because we think that we ought to go to Wisconsin. We've made it clear this is our stand, this is where we intend to fight, and this is where we intend to win.

BLOCK: You call it your stand. Is it Governor Dean's last stand?

Dr. DEAN: Hopefully not last stand.

BLOCK: Governor Dean, thanks very much.

Dr. DEAN: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean.

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