Dean expands presidential campaign operations

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(Host) Governor Howard Dean’s presidential campaign enters a new stage this week. Dean is opening an office in Burlington, hiring several staff people, and launching a national web site for his campaign.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) There’s no doubt that in the past few months Dean’s “unofficial campaign” for president has achieved several critical goals.

Dean has been profiled by most major news organizations and he’s now included in the first tier of potential candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

According to a study released by USA Today earlier this week, Dean has visited the early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina more times than any other candidate. Dean has been to Iowa seven times since January 1, and he’s back for his eighth trip this week.

Dean believes that his campaign has gotten off to a strong start because he’s got a message that is different from the other would be candidates:

(Dean) “I think people are really hungry for somebody who’s going to tell it like it is and has a policy position that they can understand. So many people from Washington go around kind of shading their position or saying things that they think people want to hear but being careful to leave themselves an out. I don’t do that.”

(Kinzel) Many of Dean’s potential opponents are members of Congress and the governor thinks they’re unduly influenced by what Dean calls “right wing interest groups”:

(Dean) “And I don’t buy that we have to tip toe around the right wing stuff, that these right wingers scream and yell and carry on about because I don’t think most Americans support that. Well I don’t mind offending the right wing, they’re unamerican and I think that most people in America are sick of their extremism and I am perfectly happy to say so.”

(Kinzel) Now that the national press is aware of his campaign, Dean says the next step is raising enough money to take his message around the country. Dean thinks he’ll need at least $10 million to wage an effective campaign:

(Dean) “This is going to come down to money. It’s going to be coming down to how much money I can raise. I do not have to out-raise anybody, I can still be last in fundraising. But I have to have enough to be credible and if I can do that I can win.”

(Kinzel) Dean says he plans to aggressively fundraise once a federal matching program begins on January 1.

After serving as governor for the past 11 years, Dean says he feels very comfortable discussing most domestic issues but he’s had to do a lot of homework on defense issues. Dean is getting briefed by a number of experts including some members of the Bush administration:

(Dean) “It’s very arcane and defense policy is a little like a chess match. It’s not so much knowing all the weapons systems, which I don’t expect a president has to know every weapons system anyway because that’s really the job of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense. But I have to have an acquaintance with the notion of national missile defense and what are the parts of a national missile defense that make sense and what doesn’t make sense. I have to have some familiarity with the Pentagon budget. Those are the issues that I’m spending some time getting briefed on.”

(Kinzel) For the rest of the year, Dean plans additional trips to the early primary states hoping to establish contacts that be used to help set up a campaign organization in each state.

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

Review VPR’s continuing coverage of Dean’s presidential campaign.

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