Dean undaunted by widening field of candidates

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(Host) The field of possible Democratic presidential candidates is expanding. Last week, North Carolina Senator John Edwards and former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt announced their intentions to run. And in the next few weeks, several more candidates are expected to join the race.

Governor Howard Dean, who will formally announce his candidacy later this month, thinks his chances get better as the field grows larger.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) On Thursday afternoon, Governor Howard Dean will enter the Statehouse as the governor of the state of Vermont, and an hour later he’ll leave the building as a private citizen for the first time in more than 11 years.

Dean won’t spend much time reflecting on his terms in office because he’s actively seeking the Democratic nomination for president. Dean has already visited Iowa 16 times and he’s become a familiar face in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Four candidates are definitely in the race: Dean, who will formally announce in a few weeks, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. And by the end of the month it’s likely that several more candidates will jump into the contest, including Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, and Florida Senator Bob Graham.

Dean says he has no problems dealing with a large field of candidates because virtually all of them currently serve in Congress. As the only governor in the field at this time, Dean thinks his candidacy will offer voters some unique positions:

(Dean) “The difference between me and everybody else is, they’re going to talk about health insurance. We have health insurance for everybody under 18. They’re going to talk about issues like investing in small children and their families. I’ve done it. I’m the only person running for the presidency that’s ever balanced a budget. These are the issues that are going to come out. Being a governor and a physician gives me a unique set of attributes. Where we may share common values and visions, but what I can offer is experience and actually getting results. And I think that’s going to be the debate in the primaries to come.”

(Kinzel) Dean is now launching a major fundraising effort for his campaign because federal matching funds became available at the beginning of the year. Dean says he needs to raise $10 million in the next twelve months to be a competitive candidate in the primaries and that’s a goal he believes he can meet.

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

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