Jeffords says don’t count Dean out of the race

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(Host) Senator James Jeffords says he still believes that Howard Dean can win the Democratic presidential nomination. Jeffords says Dean’s new strategy of concentrating on primaries in Michigan and Washington makes a lot of sense.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Jeffords, who campaigned for Dean in New Hampshire, doesn’t think that Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has a lock on the Democratic presidential nomination. Jeffords believes there are too many other good candidates left in the race to allow Kerry to wrap things up in the near future:

(Jeffords) “This is just the start. It’s not going to be easy, once you get away from areas that you’re more familiar with. So you’re going to have a scrambled mess of where the electoral votes are going when you get down to it because there are so many people running.”

(Kinzel) After a disappointing third place finish in Iowa, Dean returned to a stump speech that emphasized his record as governor in the areas of health care, fiscal discipline, the environment and education. Jeffords is urging Dean to continue with this approach:

(Jeffords) “Just recognize that he’s still in the run and he has lots of states to go. And he should get back on message and not worry about the past.”

(Kinzel) Dean has decided not to wage strong media campaigns in the seven states that will hold primaries next Tuesday. Instead, he’s targeting his limited resources for primaries in Michigan and Washington on Saturday, February 7.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who as a member of Congress is a super delegate to the Democratic national convention, thinks Dean’s new strategy makes sense:

(Leahy) “I think everybody – no matter whether they support him or somebody else – has to acknowledge the fact there are a whole lot of people that are now interested in who the Democratic nominee is going to be who were not interested before. Howard Dean – and I know Howard’s determination – he’ll keep on going as long as there is any chance.”

(Kinzel) In order to finance a major media schedule in both Michigan and Washington, the Dean campaign is actively soliciting funds over the next week. Although Dean has raised the most money of any Democratic candidate, his decision to set up campaign offices in virtually every state has been an expensive operation. As a result, Dean doesn’t have a lot of money on hand for the key primaries on February 7.

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

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