Dean discusses presidential campaign strategy

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(Host) Over the last several weeks, Governor Howard Dean has been riding a wave of publicity for his long-shot presidential campaign. The publicity is part of Dean’s strategy that has moved him into the top tier of Democratic candidates.

In the second story of a two-part report,VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports on Dean’s campaign strategy for 2004 presidential campaign.

(Kinzel) While the road to the White House for Governor Howard Dean is a long, long journey, the road map that Dean hopes to follow is clear. Dean says the model for his campaign is based on three previous presidential efforts: Jimmy Carter in 1976, Gary Hart in 1984 and John McCain in 2000.

Carter showed that a governor from a small state could win the nomination and Dean says his first experience in politics was working on the Carter campaign. As Dean faces other candidates in this race who have been able to raise much more money that the governor has, Dean looks to the campaign of Gary Hart:

(Dean) “The notion that you can get on and that ideas trump money. What Gary Hart did, which was so extraordinary, was that he had a different set of ideas, a different approach and a huge appeal to independents. I’ve already discovered that I have a big appeal to the Bradley and the McCain people. In fact we’ve got Bradley and McCain people working for us.”

(Kinzel) Dean plans to spend a lot of time meeting voters in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire because he believes these states will help him build a solid foundation for his campaign:

(Dean) “These states understand what their role is and their role is to look at people like me and see if I can make the grade as president. So it’s true that fundraising and credibility go hand in hand. And a lot of the insiders in Washington will be poo-pooing at me if I don’t raise a gazillion dollars. But the people who I meet and look in the eye are going to make their judgments about me as a human being and they’re going to have the same opportunity to do that with everybody else in the race. So it’s still possible for me to do well in the early states. And if I do do well in the early states, that will give me the credibility that I need to proceed – whether I have a lot of money or not.”

(Kinzel) Dean has also met with former President Bill Clinton to discuss the governor’s strategy for this race. Dean says Clinton was very helpful in helping him frame some key economic issues:

(Dean) “One of the, things that I asked President Clinton was, how do you talk about the problem we have with corporations and business ethics without seeming like a populist person who’s just anti business? Which I’m obviously not. And he just gave me some terrific advice about how to do that and I’ve tried to use that in some of my speeches.”

(Kinzel) Dean hopes to distinguish his candidacy from his opponents in several ways. First, the governor views the other prominent candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination as Washington insiders and Dean wants to position himself as the candidate from “outside of the Beltway”:

(Dean) “Being from a rural state really helps a lot and you can say, ‘Well some of the other candidates are from rural states.’ But once you go to Washington, for the most part you’re not from a rural state anymore. You’re from Washington.”

(Kinzel) Second, Dean is the only governor in the race at this time and he’ll tout his experience as a chief executive. And as health care emerges as a top issue for many voters, Dean is finding that being a physician is major asset:

(Dean) “It gives me much more credibility on a major issue. Being a doctor differentiates me. First of all, I don’t think there’s ever been a doctor that’s run for president, let alone gotten elected. And secondly, I understand the issue which is very difficult to understand and secondly it does give me credibility. And people like doctors – it’s still one of the professions that people still think pretty highly of and that definitely helps a lot.”

(Kinzel) When Dean first announced an interest in running for president he made it clear that he would abandon his campaign if he felt it was having a negative effect on his family. Over the past six months, Dean has spent roughly half of his time out of state. Dean says his family still supports his campaign but he acknowledges that being away from home this much has been difficult:

(Dean) “I don’t like it very much. I don’t enjoy being away from Vermont a lot. I love being on the road and meeting people, staying in their houses which is really fun. Staying up to 12 o’clock at night learning about people and that part I really like. But you know, I am a home-oriented person, so that’s a hard part for me.”

(Kinzel) Dean will be spending even more time out of state in the coming weeks. He’s scheduled to be in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, California and parts of the Midwest between now and Labor Day.

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

Related link: Dean’s presidential campaign gets publicity

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