Campaign staff give inside look at election night

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(Host) Tuesday night was a roller coaster ride for many members of Howard Dean’s campaign staff in New Hampshire. VPR’s Bob Kinzel takes a behind-the- scenes look at how the evening transpired for several key campaign members.

(Kinzel) It’s 6:30 in the evening and the polls will close in most parts of New Hampshire in 30 minutes. Dorie Clark, Dean’s communications director in New Hampshire, is making last minute arrangements at the Field House at Southern New Hampshire University – the location for Dean’s election night event.

The room is filling up with media crews but members of the public won’t arrive for another 90 minutes. Clark says the campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort is still underway in some parts of the state:

(Clark) “Our Manchester field director wouldn’t give out any tickets for the primary night party until after the polls close so that she could insure her volunteers wouldn’t cut out early and go the party.”

(Kinzel) Howard Dean’s younger brother Jim drops by at the auditorium to check out the location for the evening. Jim Dean says it’s still a thrill to see his older brother on the campaign trail.

(Dean) “I suppose it’s not totally out of control because he was governor. I’ve seen him do inaugural addresses and go through some of those ceremonial positions that you do when you’re a governor or an executive of some kind. But when I go outside and see 50 satellite trucks there, I’m like, wow. I still haven’t quite gotten used to that yet!”

(Kinzel) About an hour later the Dean campaign has gotten some internal polling results that indicate this could be a very close race. Dorie Clark tells a group of reporters that there’s a possibility that Dean might win this election:

(Clark) “What we have been working on since last summer with our campaign is our get-out-the-vote operation, our field operation. The standard wisdom is that field can make a difference of between 2 and 4 points in a tight race, and that’s enough to tip you over. So I think there’s a good chance. We’re not counting on anything at this point, but I think that we certainly have a chance of wining tonight.”

(Kinzel) As Clark heads back to the media room, a group of TV reporters wants to know if Dean’s now famous speech to supporters in Iowa is still distracting the campaign. Clark says no and says the incident has brought out an important side of Howard Dean:

(Clark) “What America wanted to know was, ‘Can Howard Dean laugh at himself?’ And he went on Letterman, he went on Comedy Central. He said, ‘Yeah, it was over the top.’ He poked a little fun at himself.”

(Kinzel) As the evening progresses, Senator John Kerry maintains a 12 to 14 point lead over Dean. Clark frames the evening as a night of recovery for Dean after his disappointing third place showing in Iowa last week:

(Clark) “We’re definitely moving in the right direction and we have both the money and the staff on the ground to be able to compete strongly in the February third states. We are not conceding an inch. We are moving forward.”

(Kinzel) As the evening ends, Clark prepares to learn where the campaign will send her next. The Dean campaign plans to actively contest many of the seven primaries that will be held next Tuesday. Clark says she’s happy to go wherever she can help out the most.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Manchester, New Hampshire.

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