NPR's Morning Edition
August 19, 2004
Ina Jaffe: Howard Dean has gone from campaigning for President, to campaigning for the state legislature. Actually, lots of state legislatures. He's also supporting candidates for county commissioner, sheriff, school board, and even soil and water conservation district supervisor.
[sound of a busy room in the background gradually increases:]
Recently, Dean attended a fundraising luncheon in sweltering Palm Springs on behalf of Mary Ann Andreas, Democratic candidate for California's 80th Assembly district.
Mary Ann Andreas: OK, Paul, thank you for coming out in the heat. I understand it's a hundred and eight outside.
Jaffe: Andreas seemed determined to hug, shake the hand, or pat the shoulder of every one of the 600 people who paid $32 to eat lunch with her and with Howard Dean. There was a real buzz in the room.
Man: High levels of excitement by everybody.
Man: It's wonderful.
Andreas: We're hearing-- our phones have been ringin' off the hook.
Man: How exciting. I was so glad to be here.
Andreas: Thank you.
Jaffe: The buzz turned into an explosion when Howard Dean entered.
[sound of applause and whoops]
Jaffe: He got a standing ovation. And all he'd done at this point was, take a seat at a table and ignore his lunch. When it came time for speeches, Dean explained why Democracy For America was supporting Andreas, a woman whose previous political office was chairwoman of the tribal council of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, a woman who is running against well-funded Republican incumbent Bonnie Garcia. Andreas is a woman, in other words, who is no sure thing to win in this competitive district.
Gov. Howard Dean (Democracy for America): You know, one of the things about our organization is we don't just back candidates we think we can win, we back good candidates everywhere. We have got—if we think we want to be a strong party in this country, we've gotta stop concentrating on the states we think we can win. We gotta send people to Utah and Nevada and Mississippi and Alabama, places we think are Republican places. Because if we never put out our message, nobody hears our message and there's never a debate. But you've got to stand up, say who you are and show that we have a better alternative everywhere in America and soon America will be democratic again.
Jaffe: At the end of the speech, Dean handed Mary Ann Andreas a check for 3200 dollars, the maximum contribution allowed by California law.
[Sound of riding in a vehicle]
Jaffe: A short time later, he was in the back seat of an SUV on his way to the airport and more campaign appearances. With the air conditioner blasting, he explained that his new organization was an obvious outgrowth of his Presidential campaign.
Gov. Dean: We built up a huge organization around the country of progressive people who really wanted a change, and there was no way I was gonna let that go.
Jaffe: Between April and the end of June, Democracy for America raised nearly $1.3 million, about half of it online. So far, nearly $300,000 of it has gone to the Dean Dozens candidates, all 72 of them. Dean likes to say he represents the democratic wing of the Democratic Party. But the inspiration for his new organization, he says, came from conservatives.
Gov. Dean: The reason they've taken over the country, even though they don't represent what most Americans believe, is because they're incredibly well-organized and they figured out about 20 years ago that the way to infiltrate American politics was to run somebody for every office, no matter how small. And we want to develop a farm team, but you've gotta have a platform that helps ordinary Americans and you've gotta actually encourage them to be the officeholders and that's exactly what we're doing.
Jaffe: Conservative success in the past couple of decades may be Dean's model, but Barber(ph) O'Connor, professor of media at California State University at Sacramento says the internet-based structure of his organization is something new.
Professor O'Connor: ...And his rock-star status gives transference to the local candidates and issues that he's working with. So it adds credibility at a local level and I think it's very effective.
Jaffe: And while Dean is helping local candidates, he's helping himself as well, says Republican strategist Arnold Steinberg.
Arnold Steinberg: Howard Dean may have two objectives. One is, if John Kerry falters and loses, Howard Dean would have the basis for an embryonic organization that he could use the next time round running for President against Hillary Clinton or somebody else. If, on the other hand, John Kerry is victorious and wins, Howard Dean could have an organization that could keep Kerry honest in a Howard Dean sense of keeping him more liberal. And so, the fact of the matter is, that Howard Dean, by electing these people, is getting chits and IOUs that he can call back later on.
Jaffe: And those IOUs will be strewn all across the country. Before the end of this month, Howard Dean will be campaigning in Ohio, and Washington D.C... [raises voice a tad, with a touch of irony] and Texas, and Florida, and Oregon, [end raised voice] just as he promised during the primaries.
Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Los Angeles.