The Situation Room

February 5, 2008

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Despite all the delegates up for grabs today on this Super Tuesday, it's quite possible that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton will grab enough to win the nomination. The Democratic race is close and it could stay that way for quite a while.

Joining us now is the chairman of the National Committee, the former governor, Howard Dean.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: How worried are you that there could be a prolonged battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at a time when the Republicans might get their nominee in place and they can start looking ahead?

DEAN: I'm not worried yet. You know, we have two great candidates left in this race. And I daresay this is not going to be over, certainly, tonight, and maybe not until -- for a month from now. But, you know, I think we need to let the voters choose before there's any machinations about deal making or any of that stuff.

This is a greater -- a great time in politics right now. This is out of the hands of the pundits and out of the hands of the pollsters and ordinary Americans get to vote on who their next president will be. I think it's wonderful and I'm enjoying watching it. We -- you know, we're pretty unified. Our dilemma is we've got people who like both candidates a lot and they can't make up their minds. And that's a good dilemma to have.

BLITZER: Would it be a problem, though -- when you say not yet -- would it be a problem, let's say, if the Democrats are still fighting amongst themselves up until the convention in Denver, at the end of the summer...

DEAN: Yes, that would be...

BLITZER: ...while the Republicans have their nominee in place?

DEAN: That would be a problem for either party. And it's possible all...

BLITZER: Explain what the problem would be.

Why would that be a problem, let's say, for the Democrats?

DEAN: The conventions are very late. We did that on purpose for a lot of arcane reasons having to do with the federal matching funds. But you don't want to have a divided convention. There have been two divided -- three divided conventions in my political lifetime -- in '68, '72 and '80. And they resulted in losses each time. So you don't a bitterly divided convention and a lot of contentiousness.

But now is not the time to have to -- you know, obviously, you think about that. But, you know, the first crack is the voters get to choose the nominee. And I think the voters will choose a nominee. I don't have any idea who it's going to be. And then we'll resolve some of these other difficulties and so forth and so on.

But I -- you know, people always talk about a brokered convention, particularly when you've got two really strong candidates at the end here. But we haven't had one since 1952. And I think it's -- the odds are not that we're going to -- are that we won't have one this time, either.

BLITZER: Explain how it's possible, governor, that American citizens in American Samoa will have a say in selecting the Democratic presidential nominee, but millions of Democrats -- people who showed up to vote in Michigan and Florida -- will have zero say in making that selection.

DEAN: Well, that's two completely different issues. People in America Samoa are American citizens and...

BLITZER: No, I'm not questioning their citizenship. I'm saying that they will select delegates, but Florida Democrats and Michigan Democrats won't.

DEAN: There's a timetable that everybody agreed on. And America Samoa kept the timetable...

BLITZER: And you're saying...

DEAN: did 48 other states.

BLITZER: And the Democrats in Michigan and in Florida, they decided to move up their contests, their primaries. As a result, they're being completely punished.

How worried are you that this disenfranchisement of these Democrats will hurt the party in these two critically important states, Michigan and Florida, going toward to the general election in November?

DEAN: Look, at the end of the day, we want to unify the party, including Michigan and Florida. And that's -- that will be my job. But right now, that's not on my horizon. Right now, we've got to get through the next couple of months of this continuing contest.

And, the end of the day, you know, the Credentials Committee will take another look at this. And -- because they'll be asked to by Michigan and Florida. And that's a huge committee of 180 people that will be elected at large from the whole country.

BLITZER: So what I hear you saying -- and correct me if I'm wrong, governor -- is that when the dust settles, if it's a really close contest, it is still possible that Democrats in Florida and Michigan will be able to play a role in selecting the party's nominee.

DEAN: Well, I say -- that's exactly what I didn't say, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, well, go ahead and...

DEAN: But I notice you have a propensity for...

BLITZER: ...well clarify what you said.

DEAN: I'll say what I said again. I'll say it's -- in my understanding, a unified party, including Michigan and Florida -- and I daresay Michigan and Florida will ask for reinstatement. And the Credentials Committee, which will not be under my control, will make that decision at the time, later on down the road.

BLITZER: So it will be up to the Credentials Committee?

DEAN: It will be up to the -- and the convention as a whole.

BLITZER: Because, you know, the Republicans, they punished their states that moved up early by stripping them of half of their delegates to the convention.

DEAN: Right.

BLITZER: The Democratic Party stripped them of all of their delegates.

DEAN: Well...

BLITZER: With hindsight, governor, should you have gone...

DEAN: There was a...

BLITZER: ...the route of the Republicans?

DEAN: The reason that we chose to do it our way -- first of all, the Republicans' rules are set every convention, so they had no flexibility.

The reason we chose to do it our way is we had actually expected our candidates to campaign in those states and the rules say that if you campaign in a state, you can't get any delegates out of it and your delegates go to somebody else.

So we actually thought that we were doing a favor by stripping all the delegates, because if you had campaigned in a state where there were delegates at stake, then you couldn't have gotten any.

So it's an arcane rule and I think what everybody has learned is the next time we have a timetable, people will keep the timetable. But I also think that, you know, you want everybody on board, including Florida and Michigan, at the end of the day.

So, you know, we'll -- this will be revisited by the Credentials Committee, which I won't control, way down the line.

But right now, you know, this is not the time to revisit it. Right now, we're focusing on all these states that are voting today. And then next week we'll be having Nebraska and Democrat -- and D.C. -- the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland. The week after that it will be Wisconsin and Washington State and so forth.

So there's a lot of states that have to have their say. They haven't all had their say.

But I think you've got to be careful about making fun of American Samoa. You know, those folks, they're American citizens. They serve in our armed forces. They die for America. And I think every American ought to be represented at the convention (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: I totally agree. And we have a lot of viewers in America Samoa watching us right now.

DEAN: Right.

BLITZER: They are American citizens just like you and me, governor.

Thanks very much for coming in.

He's got a tough job, the chairman of the Democratic Party. Not easy at all.

Thanks for coming in.

DEAN: Thanks, Wolf.

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Transcript originally posted on CNN Transcripts.



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