Dean Measures His Standing for Presidential Race

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(Host) Governor Howard Dean has the “help wanted” sign out for his fledgling presidential campaign. The Democrat says he’s just about made up his mind to run. He plans to hire staff, including a professional fundraiser, as he gears up for the race.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) Governor Dean just returned from a visit to Iowa, the state where early caucuses kick off the campaign season.

Dean hasn’t raised much money. He’s got a tiny staff working on this uphill presidential quest. But he says he’s just about certain that he’ll enter the race. Dean says he’s found lots of encouragement as he tests the political waters:

(Dean) “Now I’ll grant you, most of the people I talk to are Democrats because the Democratic primaries are the first item on the agenda. To say there is a groundswell out there would be a gross exaggeration. But to say that the contacts I’m making and the number of people who are signing up is very encouraging, is true.”

(Dillon) Dean says one county chairman in Iowa has committed to his campaign. He says it’s unusual for party officials to commit so early. The governor also will add to his campaign staff. He’s hiring two campaign workers and a fundraiser.

Dean says that being a relative unknown may be an advantage at this point. As he puts it, “low expectations are a great thing.” According to the governor, his direct, sometimes blunt, style appeals to traditional Democrats as well to voters who supported Republican John McCain.

(Dean) “I don’t worry about Gore, Gephardt or any of those people. I truly believe my directness and my unwillingness to bend for the most part for political reasons is going to be a quality I’m going to have the corner on in the market out there.”

(Dillon) Dean criticizes President Bush on a wide range of domestic policies. But the president enjoys tremendous popularity for his leadership in the war on terrorism. Dean says he won’t fault Bush for missing the warning signs of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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