Dean revisits campaign issues in Washington speech

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(Host) Howard Dean says the national Democratic Party must reform itself if the Party wants to be competitive in future state and national elections. Dean outlined his basic strategies in a speech in Washington on Wednesday.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In many ways, Dean’s speech highlighted most of the key issues that he raised during his presidential campaign. Dean called on the Democratic Party to embrace the policies of fiscal conservatism while addressing the critical social, economic and moral issues facing the country. Dean lashed out at efforts by the Bush administration to privatize any part of the Social Security program. And he said it would be a mistake for Democrats to move to the right in an effort to attract voters.

Dean’s speech was available through a Web cast to his supporters:

(Dean) “The pundits have said this election was decided on the issue of moral values. I don’t believe that. It is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. Honesty is a moral value.” (Sound of applause.) “If this election had been decided on moral values the Democrats would have won!” (More applause.)

(Kinzel) Dean says it’s also critical for the Democrats to be active in all 50 states in local, county and state elections:

(Dean) “I believe that over the next two and four and 10 years – how ever long it takes, election by election, state by state, precinct by precinct, door by door, vote by vote we will lift this party up and take America back to the people who built it. Thanks very much.” (Sound of applause.)

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says Dean’s speech was aimed at two very different audiences:

(Davis) “First, the governor is trying to maintain his national visibility in this post-election period, to be seen as a national spokesperson for the Democratic Party. And the second thing is, this is part of his continuing sort of trial balloon campaign for chair of the Democratic National Committee. The selection of the next DNC chair won’t happen until early February and Dean is definitely testing the waters to see how much support there might be among DNC members for him for that job.”

(Kinzel) If Dean does decide to run for DNC chair, Davis expects that he’ll face strong opposition from a group of Democrats who believe that Dean is not the right person to head the party in the future:

(Davis) “Many Democrats believe that what the party needs is somebody who can go up against President Bush on some of the national security issues. In other words, who’s seen as credible on those issues. And then can begin to rebuild Democratic support in the states that they lost this year, rather than so much concentrating on mobilizing the base, which would certainly be Dean’s focus.”

(Kinzel) Dean is expected to make a final decision about running for the DNC post in several weeks.

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

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