CNN's 'American Morning'
January 12, 2005
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: ...Howard Dean? For some, a Democratic lightning rod. Now looking to put a charge into the party's leadership. We'll talk to him about that this morning.
...If you can't beat them, lead them.
Howard Dean's presidential campaign just about a year ago collapsed in Iowa right around this time. Now, Governor Dean is running for Democratic National Committee chairman.
Howard Dean is my guest down in D.C.
Governor, welcome back.
Good morning to you.
HOWARD DEAN, CANDIDATE FOR DNC CHAIRMAN: Thanks for having me on, Bill.
HEMMER: Why do you want this job?
DEAN: I think the party needs to reach out into the grassroots. You know, we've done a good job getting ourselves financially solvent, but we're about 20 years behind the Republicans in terms of organization and in terms of message. And that's what we need to catch up on.
HEMMER: How many years did you say there?
DEAN: About 20. They have a deep infrastructure into the grassroots of all the states. They get involved in lower ballot races, secretary of states races, things like that. Those matter because unfortunately the Republicans believe that it's more important to make sure the Republicans are in power than it is to let democracy flourish. And they're, even their election officials now are, as we saw in Ohio, beginning to suppress votes and things like that.
We need to get into these lower ballot races in order to win. And that's one of the things I want to do as chairman.
HEMMER: Is that what Democrats can learn from this past election? Or is there more to it that Democrats can learn from Republicans?
DEAN: Oh, I think there's a lot, no, no, there's a lot we can, there's a lot we can learn. Messaging is very, very important. We did have a good organization. We did do the fundraising very, very well. But the Republicans outgunned us, particularly in the messaging area and in the get out the vote area. And we need that -- those are some areas that we need, I think, to improve on.
HEMMER: You might be familiar with Stu Rothenberg who writes for "Roll Call" down there in D.C. He said this about you and about this whole topic about the next head of the DNC. He says: "Critics of the Vermont doctor both inside and outside his own party portray him as a poor messenger for the Democrats. They argue that he is too liberal and would give the Republicans an easy target during the next two years."
Are you an easy target?
DEAN: Well, I'm not too worried about inside the beltway stuff. I think that's one of the problems that we have is that we pay too much attention to what goes on inside Washington. The truth is that most of America is very different than what goes on inside Washington. Most of America wants to hear clear messages. They want a clear direction.
You know, Newt Gingrich was the successful architect of getting rid of Democratic dominance after 40 years. He did it by differentiating his message, not by having the same message as we did. We need to take a little page -- I don't admire anything that Newt Gingrich believes in, but I do admire his discipline and his strategic ability. And we need to have a little strategic ability on our side.
HEMMER: Keep it focused on the Democrats for a second here.
By my count, what, six other candidates trying for this job. Is that number right?
DEAN: I think that's right.
HEMMER: OK. If that's the case, toot your own horn.
DEAN: Toot my--
HEMMER: --Why should you get this job?
DEAN: Well, I have the ability to organize. I have a lot of support in the grassroots, which is where the real hard work gets done. And I understand that victories are won in the states and on the ground, not in Washington.
HEMMER: We'll follow it.
Howard Dean, thanks for your time this morning.
Looking to head up the DNC down there in Washington.
Nice to see you again.
Thanks for your time.
DEAN: Thanks, Bill.