Dean keeps basic strategy in last days of Iowa campaign

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(Host) Governor Howard Dean says he’s sticking to his basic game plan in Iowa. With the caucuses only a few days away, the polls are tightening and the campaign has become a four-way race.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports from Newton, Iowa:

(Kinzel) Dean spent Friday criss-crossing the state on a bus tour dubbed “The People Powered Road Trip.” In Newton, a community of 15,000 people located about 40 miles east of Des Moines, Dean spoke to roughly 200 people at a local teen center.

Dean delivered what has become his standard stump speech – he cites his opposition to the war in Iraq, the president’s tax cuts and Bush’s education policies. Dean told the crowd that he would be the strongest candidate to run against Bush in November because his campaign has been able to bring a lot of new people into the political process:

(Dean) “We can do this, but the way to do it is to reach out to the 50 percent of Americans who quit voting because they can’t tell the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans any more and give them a reason to vote.” (Audience applause.)

(Kinzel) Following the speech, in an exclusive interview with Vermont Public Radio, Dean readily acknowledged that the race has become very close. But he said this development won’t affect the basic strategy of his campaign:

(Dean) “No just work, work, work and then work some more. We’re just going to get people out to vote, that’s what you have to do. That’s what the caucus system is about – getting your people to go the caucus and spend those two hours.”

(Kinzel) Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is running TV ads in Iowa that criticize Dean over the issue of the president’s tax cuts. Dean has called for rescinding all of these cuts – a move that Kerry says will increase taxes for many middle class families:

(Dean) “Most people never got a tax cut. They got $304 off for 60 percent of us, and then their college tuition went through the roof, property taxes went through the roof and health care went through the roof because the president cut Pell grants, kids off health care and cut services to property tax payers. I don’t consider that to be a tax cut but that’s the problem. The Democrats in some ways are standing up for the president’s tax cuts or parts of it and I think that’s a mistake.”

(Kinzel) Iowa senator Tom Harkin is traveling with Dean on the bus tour. Harkin told VPR that he’s confident that Dean will emerge as the winner of Monday night’s caucuses:

(Harkin) “There are basically three things that you need to win and do well in the Iowa caucuses. You need organization. You need motivation – if you have an organization without motivation they don’t go out, if you have motivation without organization they feel good but nothing happens. So you have to motivation and organization, plus you have to have a broad base. You have to be broadly based around the state and Howard Dean has the best organization I’ve ever seen in the state of Iowa.”

(Kinzel) This weekend over 200,000 volunteers will set out across the state to canvass for the Dean campaign as part of a final get out the vote effort.

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

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