NBC Today

Milwaukee, WI, February 17, 2004


MATT LAUER, co-host:

On CLOSE UP this morning, the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean is in Milwaukee this morning.

Hi, Governor. Good to see you.

Former Governor HOWARD DEAN (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Good morning.

LAUER: Let's talk about today. We'll talk about something that actually happened the day before this Wisconsin primary. Steve Grossman, your national campaign chairman made a comment that if you lost in Wisconsin, he would reach out to the Kerry campaign if they didn't reach out to him first. He's no longer with your campaign. Did he quit or did you fire him?

Gov. DEAN: You know, I-Steve is a good friend. And I'm not going to get into who did what with who. But we have a strong message that other people don't have. I have executive experience. I've balanced budgets, created jobs. And I've got health insurance for everybody under 18, and a third of our seniors have prescription benefits. Those are the kinds of things I want to do in this country...

LAUER: But clear...

Gov. DEAN: ...and that's what the campaign is about.

LAUER: But clearly, though, there is some turmoil in your campaign right now if your-if your national chairman has departed for one reason or another. He clearly thinks it's make or break today. If you don't win Wisconsin, he's going over to the Kerry side. How can you continue with that atmosphere?

Gov. DEAN: I think-well, first of all, our campaign is not in turmoil at all, and we are moving forward. And we are going to go to Super Tuesday and on beyond that. We have very strong field organizations. When I was the front-runner we used a lot of the money that we had raised not just for early contests but for anticipation of late contests. I think there needs to be a continued debate in the party about what we are doing. We need health insurance for all Americans. Nobody is willing-has been willing to really push hard for that since Bill Clinton's plan fell apart in the '90s. We need jobs back in this country, and we're not going to have them without changing are trade agreements. Those are the kind of things that we need to be talking about, and those are the things we are going to talk about.

LAUER: Governor, I admire your optimism. Let me-let me reel off a list of things that I think are facts, and you correct me if I am wrong. Basically, you haven't-obviously, you have not won a primary yet. From what I understand you've got dwindling financial resources. You have no scheduled appearances planned after tomorrow. No planes chartered. You're not polling anymore. And you've got some key staffers who are planning on leaving probably by the end of this week. Is that fair?

Gov. DEAN: Well, how about letting me reel off a set of statistics?

LAUER: Go ahead.

Gov. DEAN: We have more delegates than anybody else in this race except for John Kerry. We have a-have had and continue to have campaigned harder in Wisconsin than anybody else. And I'm going to be in the Super Tuesday states because we have a better infrastructure than anybody else, probably including the front-runner.

LAUER: Can you go to Super Tuesday without going into debt?

Gov. DEAN: Oh, yeah. We've raised more money in the las-I think we may have raised more money than John Kerry in the last few weeks since Iowa. We've certainly raised more money than anybody else. Look, you don't understand. We have an enormous base of grass root support who want to fundamentally change America. We've struggled with fundamentally changing the Democratic Party. Many of the folks now running, including Senator Kerry, have adopted our positions on many issues. And I think that's terrific.

LAUER: And...

Gov. DEAN: But we intend to have real change in Washington, and that's what this campaign is about and you can't get there by quitting.

LAUER: Your support-your supporters are going to say that your loyalty is-is something to be admired, that you are sticking with the people who have stood by you from the early stage of the campaign. Your critics are going to say your continuing this race is about ego. Which one is it?

Gov. DEAN: Well, I think continuing this race is about whether you want real change in America. You know, this is not about Howard Dean going to the presidency, and it wasn't about Howard Dean going to the presidency when I was the front-runner. What this is about is the kind of change we really need. Both parties are so beholden to special interest money in Washington that we are not getting the major reforms other countries have had. Fifty-six years after Harry Truman proposed it, we don't have health insurance for every single American. Every other industrial country has that. Those are the things we really need to see changed in real ways. And inside the beltway politicians do not change. They tinker around the margins. We have gotten ourselves in a real problem here. We've lost jobs. We're running half a trillion dollar deficits every year. Our balance sheet is starting to look like Argentina. This cannot go on...

LAUER: Some people...

Gov. DEAN: ...and it will not go on one way or another.

LAUER: Some people think that in the next few days the best course of action for you would be to kind of take your campaign, scale it back into more of a political action group, and have a voice in this campaign from then on out. Is-is that a viable option for you?

Gov. DEAN: We are getting-we are getting a lot of advice from a lot of well-meaning people. We have 700,000 people on our Internet network. We're going to talk to them first. They supported us through all of this. They have a lot at stake here. And we're going to find a way to change the country. If I can't do it by being president, we'll find a different way to do it.

LAUER: And real quickly...

Gov. DEAN: But I think this rush to judgment about who's-who's the presidential nominee is going to be-is not a good thing for the party and it's not a good thing for the country.

LAUER: Well, not to rush to judgment, but do you see a time in the very near future, Governor, where you could stand alongside John Kerry and support him and urge your supporters to do the same?

Gov. DEAN: I've always said that I would support the Democratic nominee. We cannot afford four more years of George Bush, half trillion dollar year deficits and no jobs. First time since Herbert Hoover we have had a net loss of jobs in any presidency. No one can afford that. The Democrats are going to stick together no matter what.

LAUER: Good luck in Wisconsin, Governor. Thanks for your time.

Gov. DEAN: Thanks very much.

LAUER: Twelve after the hour. Here's Katie.

KATIE COURIC, co-host:

Matt, thank you.

Copyright 2004 National Broadcasting Co. Inc.


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