Douglas aid in Bush’s reelection campaign

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he expects to play a leadership role in President Bush’s reelection campaign in Vermont. But Douglas says it’s unlikely that he’ll actively campaign against former Governor Howard Dean, if Dean wins the Democratic presidential nomination.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Douglas, who co-chaired Bush’s campaign in Vermont in 2000, believes that the president will ask him to take on a similar role for this year’s campaign. This sets up the possibility the state’s current governor could be working to defeat a former governor in the race for president.

Douglas says he’ll be actively working to help Bush, no matter who the Democratic nominee is:

(Douglas) “I don’t see any role that would be different if my predecessor is the nominee. I’m already getting a lot of inquiries from the national media about what kind of governor he was. They ask, Was he angry? Was he liberal? What was he like? And I try to focus as much as I can on my own responsibilities here in Vermont and of course I’ll be in a campaign myself next year, along with the president, and expect to be focusing on my re-election and not campaigning around the country.”

(Kinzel) Douglas doesn’t see his role as leading a “Republican truth squad” if Dean is the nominee. But the governor isn’t ruling out some out-of-state campaigning for Bush:

(Douglas) “I know in 2000 sitting Republican governors went on a brief tour of a few other states on a regional basis. So I wouldn’t suggest that I wouldn’t make any appearances, but I don’t expect it to be substantial.”

(Kinzel) Some potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Vermont are hoping to link Douglas with the policies of President Bush that they feel have been harmful to Vermonters. Douglas doesn’t think this approach is going to be very effective:

(Douglas) “Jim Jeffords ran on the same ticket as George Bush in 2000 – both were elected. Vermonters are notorious ticket splitters and jump all over the ballot to make their choices. I think Vermonters will evaluate my performance based on what I’ve been able to accomplish here and how they perceive my ability to continue to lead the state, and will make their own decision on the presidential race on the basis of the candidates there.”

(Kinzel) Douglas expects that his role with the president’s re-election campaign will be formalized this winter.

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

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