DC primary may boost Dean’s appeal to minority voters

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(Host) Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean plans to wage an active campaign to win a primary in the District of Columbia. The D.C. primary is being held six days before the Iowa caucuses and the Dean campaign is hoping that a win will show that Dean’s message is being strongly supported by African-American voters.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Although the Democratic National Committee is downplaying the importance of the primary, a number of presidential candidates are eyeing the contest as a way to gain momentum before the Iowa caucuses. Because it wants to maintain the importance of those caucuses, the DNC has refused to sanction the D.C. primary and will only allow it to proceed as a beauty contest where no delegates will be awarded.

Democrats in the District are using their primary as a way to highlight attention on their effort to win congressional representation for the nation’s capital.

Dean’s campaign manager Joe Trippi says the success of his campaign’s third quarter fundraising will now allow Dean to wage an active effort in the District:

(Trippi) “Right now, I’d say we’re going to, because again we have the resources to compete there. Where maybe an earlier decision not to focus so much there had more to do with – not that we didn’t want to – it had to do with, did we really have the resources to do that to compete there? So that’s changed obviously.”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says a good showing by Dean in the District primary could be very important to his campaign in some later contests:

(Davis) “The Democratic electorate in the District of Columbia is overwhelmingly African-American. About 80% of the voters in D.C. are African Americans. So the results in the D.C. primary will be looked at very closely to see how the various candidates will do with African American voters, who will be very important in some of the important southern primaries – especially South Carolina on February 3.”

(Kinzel) Even though the winner of the D.C. primary will receive no delegates, Davis says there’s a lot at stake in this contest.

(Davis) “The media interpretations of the results will be very important in terms of the symbolism of them for candidate’s strategy.”

(Kinzel) Dean’s campaign is showing strength in the District. At this time, nine of the 11 Democratic members of the D.C. Council have endorsed his candidacy.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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