Dean relies on organizers to pull ahead in Iowa

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(Host) New polls indicate that the Democratic presidential race in Iowa has now become a four-person race with just four days to go before Monday night’s caucuses.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel examines how the campaign of Howard Dean hopes to organize its volunteers for a victory on Monday night.

(Kinzel) According to many political observers in Iowa, there has never been a presidential race like the one this year. According to new polls, just a few percentage points now separate the four leading candidates; Howard Dean, John Kerry, Richard Gephardt and John Edwards are all bunched together with roughly 20 % of the vote.

The closeness of the race places a lot of responsibility on the organizations of the candidates. The headquarters for the Dean campaign is an old building in downtown Des Moines that once housed a car dealership. In three large rooms with high ceilings, campaign volunteers stuff envelopes, work the telephones to help identify likely voters and prepare brochures for a weekend canvassing effort.

Tim Connelly is the field director for the Dean campaign. Connelly is in charge of the canvassing effort and he’s preparing other volunteers to be precinct captains for the nearly 2,000 caucus sites across the state:

(Connelly) “And generally it’s a leadership position, it’s a knowledge base for first time attenders to turn to if they have any apprehensions or any kind of unease about attending the caucus. Or while they’re at the caucus the precinct captain provides that vital information they need.”

(Kinzel) Connelly says the Dean campaign has also identified hundreds of volunteers to specifically encourage their friends and neighbors to support Dean at their local caucus on Monday night:

(Connelly) “The most effective way to get folks involved on that and get them to come to caucus is to reach out on a personal, one-on-one basis, which is why we have our Dean team leaders who are Iowans that come into our office. And they agree to be a team leader and they bring their social network. It can be the holiday card list or their rolodex of personal contacts or business contacts, and they call through them encouraging people to get involved with the governor, to caucus for him.”

(Kinzel) In a large building just across the street from the campaign headquarters, Christy Setzer helps organize thousands of volunteers who have come to Iowa to work for Howard Dean:

(Setzer) “It is a gargantuan logistical task to bring in. At this point we’re expecting 4,000 people from out of state, coming from every state in the nation. People coming from Japan and Canada and other countries as well just to help with the Iowa caucuses. yeah the logistical effort are huge.”

(Kinzel) With the polls tightening in Iowa, Dean officials say the campaign that can best organize for the caucuses and deliver their supporters at 6:30 on Monday night, may well be the campaign that emerges as the winner.

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

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