Dean campaign faces critical fundraising deadline

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(Host) The presidential campaign of Howard Dean is actively fundraising to show that Dean can be a credible candidate in the Democratic race. Dean has also become the first candidate in the race to qualify for public financing.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) In the past few months, Dean has generated a lot of publicity by emerging as the leading antiwar candidate in the Democratic field. This situation has bolstered Dean’s name recognition among Democratic activists and a recent poll in New Hampshire put Dean in a virtual tie for first place with Massachusetts senator John Kerry; Kerry had 23% of the vote, Dean had 22%.

Using these latest poll results, the Dean for America campaign has sent out e-mails to supporters all across the country urging them to make a contribution this week. The timing is critical because the next important filing deadline for contributions is the beginning of next week and Dean wants to show that he has some significant financial backing:

(Dean) “This is going to be looked at by everybody. John Kerry is going to raise an enormous amount of money and everybody else is going to be lagging behind. And we need to be in the pack.”

(Kinzel) Dean has become the first Democratic candidate to qualify for public financing. He accomplished this by raising at least $5,000 in small contributions in 20 different states. Some of the other candidates in the race, like Senator Kerry, have an enormous amount of personal money available for their campaigns. Dean says he believes that all the Democratic candidates should take public funds – a step that will limit their personal spending:

(Dean) “John Kerry represents politics as usual. This is going to be a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party. And we’re going to be the message candidate, and he’s going to be the money candidate.”

(Kinzel) In the past few weeks, Dean has clashed with Kerry over the president’s decision to go to war in Iraq. Dean thinks the recent poll results in New Hampshire showing the race to be a virtual dead heat has surprised some political observers:

(Dean) “That poll will change 50 times between now and then. Whether we’re really tied for the lead or not, I don’t know. But that poll said we did and of course that’s of big concern. These guys all thought we were going nowhere when we got into the campaign, and evidently that’s not going to be the case.”

(Kinzel) Dean says he plans to tone down his opposition to the president’s decision to use military action against Iraq until the war is over. He plans to emphasize domestic issues such as health care, education and balancing the budget during this time period.

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

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