Interview on "The Situation Room"

November 7, 2006

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: ...How things have changed from the 2000 election, no?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. Let's hope they have, in fact, changed.

And we want to turn now to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean at Democratic headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Good to see you.

How do you feel at this early point in this, what appears to be the onset of a long election night?

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, one of the things that we think is terrific is, there's a huge turnout.

There have been some election-year election funny business, you know, in Maryland particularly, which I know has gotten in the papers, about some dirty tricks.

But seeing all those people come out to vote is a really good thing for the country, and makes us optimistic, because people -- we know people want change, and it looks like they're acting on it tonight.

DOBBS: Acting on it -- and the turnout, as you suggest, pretty high across every state that we have been able to judge at this point.

We are also seeing from these exit polls a striking statement that Iraq is important, as we knew, but so is the economy, and so is corruption, putting, if you will, at least a pause, if -- if not the lie to the idea that this would be dominated by one issue, and that is Iraq.

DEAN: I think that's true.

I think the issue of corruption is an issue that the Democrats have pushed very, very hard on. We -- we simply have too much corruption in our government, too much corruption in Washington.

One of the things that Nancy Pelosi has said, should she become speaker, is that she will, within the first 100 hours, have a real ethics legislation that will -- will put a stop to some of these Republican scandals. I think that's going to be a very big help. And I think that motivated people.

You know, nobody likes dishonesty and corruption, not Republicans, not Democrats, not conservatives, not liberals. So, it's not surprising to me that corruption is one of the top issues. We have seen that in our polling for about a year now.

DOBBS: And I know that you're hesitant to make forecasts, but give us at least a sense of where you think the direction is headed. Is it headed in your way, or is it headed in the Republicans'? Is it in that -- in that direction for both the House and the Senate, or -- or what?

DEAN: Well, I just got off the phone with Rahm Emanuel, and he and I agree that you do not make forecasts and predictions until all the votes are in.

So, you know, I think there's a lot of great work been done. The DSCC, the DCCC has done terrific -- done -- done really good work, all the state parties, the coordinating campaign.

We have tried as hard as we can. We think we have reached the American voters. But now they get to say. Certainly, the early indications look good, but I think we're all prepared to stay up all night and watch to make sure.

DOBBS: And -- and it looks like, in a number of -- number of states, that we're going to be doing exactly that, staying up all night.

There's one other aspect in these exit polls. To the degree that you can ever trust these exit polls -- and -- and you can certainly overanalyze and over-conjecture -- but the idea that, on the issue of the economy, that we are -- those polls suggesting that just about evenly split amongst voters who say the economy is worse for them and those who say it is better, but just about double that amount, the great center saying it is about the same as it was two years ago...

DEAN: Mmm-hmm.

DOBBS: ... any surprise for Democrats on that?

DEAN: Yes.

I -- I think that most Americans, we have been saying, have not felt the impact of the Dow Jones industrial average going up on corporate earnings, because the president has skewed our policy towards helping the folks at the top, who really, frankly, don't need all that much help.

And I think one thing you are going to see, should -- should we become successful tonight in taking back the House and the Senate, I think you will see a reorientation of government policy to help middle-class people, middle-class people's kids to go to college, working-class people to get ahead.

I think we have lost that in the last six years, and we want that back again.

You know, America is a great country, but it only works when everybody benefits from -- from a good economy, not just -- not just the folks that are giving to the Republicans.

DOBBS: My colleague John King has a question for you as well -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Governor Dean, good to see you.


DEAN: Thanks, John.

KING: Just the fact you're talking to Rahm Emanuel, I think, is progress in the discourse of the country tonight.


KING: But I want to...


DEAN: Well, those guys have done a good job. You have got to take your hat off to them.

KING: I want to move to the question of Iraq.

If the Democrats take control of one or both chambers of Congress, they will be in responsibility. They can't just say: The president has the wrong plan. We need a new plan.

Should the Democrats try to cut off funding for the mission in Iraq? Should they try to set specific timetables?

DEAN: I think it's far too early to even think about that.

I mean, we -- we don't even have a majority yet. I think we're -- you know, we're not even going to have any discussions like that. And there -- there will be discussions about what to do about Iraq, because, clearly, the American public is voting not to stay the course. They're not -- don't agree with the president.

But it's a long way, and we got a long way to go here. And I think it would be a little premature to start talking about public policy before -- we don't even have a majority yet.

KING: But do you worry you will disappoint the voters, if they turn out for Democrats, thinking they're going to get a change? The president's still the commander in chief. There's not much you can do, even if you have both chambers of Congress.

DEAN: That's -- that's true to a certain extent. There's not a lot we can do to -- actually to force the president to leave Iraq.

But, ultimately, we can have some influence, and I think you will see, certainly, an attempt by Democrats to change the direction.

Look, despite the Republican propaganda, none of us believe -- or very few of us believe -- we need to leave Iraq tomorrow. We do believe we shouldn't be in Iraq. We think it was a mistake to go there, but we don't believe that we ought to cut and run, as the president was so fond of saying. We believe that we need to stabilize the situation, and -- and leave in a thoughtful, gradual way.

So, I think you will see the Democrats moving to do that, but there will have to be some -- some disagreement and some strong impetus toward some kind of compromise with the president, because the president seems determined to do what he wants, whether -- no matter what the voters say. And we clearly think that's a bad idea.

DOBBS: If I may, Governor, I want to bring it back to this evening, and that is, what are you -- if you won't make a forecast, tell us what you are looking for as the best bellwether for the -- the Democrats' chances in this election tonight.

DEAN: Well, there are two very, very important states that we have to win in order to get the majority. One is Virginia, and the other is Missouri. And they're both very close.

In the House, it's a little more complicated, because there are so many races in such flux. My own personal belief is, if we were to take three in Indiana, we would certainly win, I think, the whole thing. If we were to take two out of three, then, we would have to wait for a while, but that would be a good indication.

But, again, you have got to look at the collar counties around Philadelphia.

DOBBS: Right.

DEAN: And, then, you have got to go out West. There's -- there's two or three seats in Arizona. In New Mexico, we believe that Patricia Madrid is going to win that seat, even though it's going to be very, very close. So, again, all over the country, there's -- there -- these races are close. Nobody should be making any predictions right now. But we're hopeful.

DOBBS: OK, Howard Dean, thank you very much, and living up to your own advice, not making any kind of prediction.


DOBBS: Thank you very much.

DEAN: Thank you.

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Original transcript from CNN Transcripts.



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