(Host) The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean is taking an unusual approach to its media strategy in Wisconsin. Dean’s Internet supporters are being asked to watch three spots online and then vote for the one they feel is the most effective.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) In an email letter to his Internet supporters late last week, Dean identified Wisconsin’s February 17th primary as a must win election for his campaign. Dean says he’ll now take his campaign on to the first week in March when a dozen states will hold primaries including New York and California.
In the last few days, Dean has raised almost a million and a half dollars on the Internet to fund a TV campaign in Wisconsin’s largest cities. One of the ads will be a spot developed by a group of Dean supporters. Campaign Media advisor Steve McMahon has posted three TV spots at Dean’s Internet website and visitors to the site are being asked to vote for the ad that they feel will help Dean the most.
The first spot features a young worker, wearing a Boston Red Sox hat, who has just lost his job:
(McMahon) “Most of the country thinks that it’s all the same thing, Howard Dean is not all the same thing. My name is Steve, I just got laid off two weeks ago. I’m taking my country back!”
(Kinsel) In the second spot, an African American woman named Max, talks about why she supports Dean:
(Max) “When all the other Democrats were laying around like, oh I’m so afraid of Bush I can’t do anything at all, Howard Dean came out and said he was against going to war with Iraq. I like this guy. I may never be famous and that’s fine but people are going to know I stood up for something.”
(Kinsel) In the final ad, a man named Michael identifies himself as Republican stockbroker who is seeking an alternative to President Bush:
(Michael) “Dean is all for building alliances with Europe and Asia. I like his position on gun control. He was against the war. He’s the guy who can beat Bush. How long a list to you want ?!”
(Kinsel) The Dean campaign acknowledges that it faces an uphill battle in Wisconsin. Campaign manager Roy Neel is hoping that a win in Wisconsin will firmly establish Dean as the alternative to Massachusetts senator John Kerry. Neel says Dean’s message in the next week will be his record as governor in the areas of balanced budgets, health care and education:
(Neel) “We have made it clear that we have placed a stake in the ground in Wisconsin and we’re making the fight there. Now that these early primaries are over, the dust is starting to settle a little bit, that’s the message. All we can do is get that out there and I think Democratic voters are going to be hearing that. And I think the press is starting to understand that it’s too early to have a coronation of one candidate.”
(Kinsel) Despite Dean’s decision to fight beyond Wisconsin, Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says the results next will be pivotal to Dean’s candidacy:
(Davis) “He can read election returns. He’s going to obviously give his all for Wisconsin on February 17th but if John Kerry ends up winning in Wisconsin that day, I would expect the governor really realizes that he has no realistic alternative but to withdraw from the race after failing to win in Wisconsin.”
(Kinsel) Davis says Dean needs to make a dramatic impact on the voters in Wisconsin because the latest polls in that state show him trailing Kerry by roughly 20 points.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier