(Host) Howard Dean will debate independent party presidential candidate Ralph Nader next week. Some political observers see the debate as a preview of the role Dean will play in the Democrat’s national convention and beyond.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) In his roller-coaster presidential campaign, Howard Dean appealed to independent voters who are now considering throwing their support to Ralph Nader. Dean argues that this is the most important election in his lifetime. And he says a vote for Nader could help President Bush in November.
The former governor will make that case in a debate with Nader nest week. UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson says the Democrats will use Dean to make sure his followers stay in the Democratic fold.
(Nelson) “This is an important debate because many of them are clearly not happy with John Kerry. He’s not their candidate and it’s basically, it’s whether or not they feel Kerry can win. If they feel Kerry can win, they’ll vote for Kerry – really at the urging of Governor Dean, who is their favorite candidate. If they don’t feel Kerry can win, they’ll lodge a protest vote by voting for Ralph Nader.”
(Dillon) Dean’s spokesman says the former governor will do whatever the Kerry campaign wants, including speaking at the national convention later this month. Dean doesn’t yet have an assigned speaking spot. But Nelson believes that convention organizers will use Dean’s expertise in health care on the platform committee. And he expects that Dean will get a prime time role.
He says that Dean has mended fences with Kerry, unlike former California Governor Jerry Brown who continued to campaign against Bill Clinton in 1992.
(Nelson) “We don’t have the genuine anger at Dean that existed with the Clintons toward Jerry Brown, who was denied a prime time speaking slot. But Governor Dean should get one, not a long one, but he should get one on Tuesday night, which is sort of the off-night.”
(Dillon) Although he was the frontrunner for much of last year, Dean lost the Iowa caucuses and only won Vermont in the primary campaign.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.