Democratic Nat'l Cmte. Chair Howard Dean Post-Election Briefing
on CSPAN, November 8, 2006
[My comments are interspersed in this font- Crocuta]
Michael Doyle, Moderator: Well, good morning. I'm Michael Doyle, a reporter with McClatchey (ph) Newspapers, and I'm co-chairman of the National Press Club Newsmakers Committee... Governor Dean?
Governor Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee: Thank you very much. It is kinda early in the morning. I [chuckles] sense a certain sluggishness among myself and perhaps you as well.
We had, obviously, a huge night last night. And really, the American people had a huge night last night. This is not about a victory for the Democratic Party, it's about a victory for America. A sense of a new direction. And it was an extraordinary night, and we wanna thank the American voters, and thank you for standing up for your country, and thank you for standing up for what you believe.
I do think it's important, now that it looks like we're gonna control not just the House, but probably the Senate as well, I do think it's important to underline that we intend, not only to have a specific agenda, as I think Speaker-elect Pelosi has outlined, but we intend to reach across the aisle.
I think for too many years, since 1994, this country has been divided in a very bitter partisan way. And, while we will still have significant policy differences, and while we were elected to set a different direction for the country, we do not, and we hope very much that the other side will not, want to engage in the kind of bitter partisan personal rhetoric that we heard in both the election in some of the robo-calls and some of the ads, and that has been prevalent here [Washington]. We do not believe that dividing the country is a good idear in terms of long-term election successes. We think that, we believe that, while it may be an effective election tool, as the Rove folks have thought for many years, it's not good for the country, and in the end, it harms the country greatly.
So we look forward to working with the President. We look forward to having an agenda that talks about middle-class people, working-class people, all the folks who've been left behind, which is about half the country, with this economy. We look forward to a new discussion about the right way to exit from Iraq. We hope we won't hear any more talk about 'staying the course' in terms of the failed strategy. We'd be happy to work with the President to come up with a different strategy so that we can accomplish our goals and bring our troops home.
There were some exciting things that were done last night that I'm particularly proud of. I'm particularly proud of some of the states, of course, but we did some interesting things. One of the things we did, which I think -- it turns out to have had -- we just got the exit poll data from AP just on the way over here... is we did significant rural radio and Christian broadcast radio. We reached out to evangelicals.
I believe that the Democratic Party, if we're gonna be a national party, has to reach out to every American. I understand that we're not gonna get every American's votes. And I understand there are certain groups of people who are probably not gonna vote for us based on their majority-- we're not gonna get a majority of their votes, but I think... when I was Governor of Vermont, I always used to say that everybody was my boss, not just the people who voted for me, but everybody. The people who participated in the hiring process, i.e. anybody who voted, and anybody who paid taxes, some small percentage of which went to my salary. And I think you'll see the Democrats reaching out to everybody. We're gonna continue-- we got 1/3 of the evangelical vote last night. That's extraordinary. And I think part of it is because we reached out to them and we were everywhere.
So, this is the beginning, not the end. We have a lot of work to do, but it was a truly terrific night.
I wanna thank Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, I wanna thank Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and the membership of the House and Senate, who really worked very, very hard. There were an awful lot of people who had an awful lot to do with this, and worked very, very hard. Particularly-- there are many, many people I could thank, and I don't wanna name too many of them, but in addition to Rahm and Nancy and Chuck and Harry, I would be remiss if I didn't thank Bill Clinton.
Bill Clinton was everywhere for us. Places we thought we might have some trouble, we could call him up and he would try to change his schedule and go to that area, and he did that repeatedly, and he was just extraordinary, and I wanna give special thanks to President Clinton, as well as all the other officeholders who worked so hard for us.
Just very briefly, I thought I would go through some of the areas that I was particularly pleased about. This was an important election for two reasons. Not-- the first and most obvious is that we took back the House and it appears that we're gonna take back the Senate. We believe we'll certainly win in Virginia; we think we're probably gonna win in Montana. That's a very close race, now, it's down to 500 votes the last time I saw, but I do believe in the end that we will prevail. I think the 8,000-vote win in Virginia, we're certainly gonna win that one.
So, taking back the House and the Senate is a huge achievement, huge achievement. In some ways-- as you know, I'm in this for the long term, this is not just about 2006, it's about 2008, and 2010, and 2012 and beyond. Some of the things that happened last night were incredibly important. We won 3 seats in Indiana. That's extraordinary. Shortly after I took over this job, we invested in a press secretary and two on-the-ground organizers in the state of Indiana, who began to lay the groundwork for this. In Nebraska we didn't win any seats, but we had 3 competitive Congressional seats-- every single district in Nebraska was competitive. Nancy Boyd beat Jim Ryun in Kansas. We didn't win in southern Idaho; we got 45% of the vote-- 20% more than we did in the Presidential election.
The purpose of this is, if we're gonna be a national party, we have to be able to compete everywhere, and last night we did compete everywhere. That's very, very important. Can we do better? Yes. But this is a huge step forward, and frankly, one that I didn't expect. I didn't expect we would be competitive. And yes, of course, we got an assist from anger at the Bush Administration and so forth. But we were on the ground, we were organized in these places, and I think that's gonna stand us in good stead.
There were some other things that happened that haven't been reported on because everybody's always interested in the federal races, especially in Washington. We picked up 6 governor's seats. That's extraordinary. Including one in Arkansas and one in Colorado. That's a very big deal for us, because that does help us prepare the way for 2008 and beyond. We picked up Secretaries of States office -- certainly in Ohio, in Minnesota. We believe we've picked up one in California, although that's still very close. That's very important. We now have a majority of state legislative chambers. I think-- you know, there've been some great races, but I think the prize in terms of states goes to New Hampshire. For the first time since 1856 we have the New Hampshire House. 150 consecutive years of Republican rule in the New Hampshire House. We now have two Congressmen-- both Congressmen-- the House, the Senate, and the Governorship in New Hampshire. That is the most astonishing thing to me.
And some of these folks-- Jerry McNerney in California, Carol Shea[-Porter] in Colo-- excuse me, New Hampshire-- that was all grassroots. The truth is, I would like to say that we did everything and the D-triple-C and everybody did every-- truth is, that was knocking on doors and grassroots. Those were races that even we didn't see. I saw a lot of races coming, because I do keep tabs on the Internet community-- but those were races that even we didn't see. They did it by establishing extraordinary grassroots effort in a conservative area. So I think that we have seen a new day in Democratic politics, not just because we took the House and the Senate back, which is incredibly important, but because we now understand that if you connect with people, and talk to people, and talk to them everywhere, and don't be fearful of asking for any vote, in any state, that we can win and we can prepare the way for winning in the future.
Let me now introduce Cornell Belcher, of "Brilliant Corners". Cornell has been our pollster during my time at the Democratic National Committee. He worked very hard. The reason I hired him is the first poll I ever saw, which he actually did for my predecessor, talked about values, and how to connect with people that we hadn't been connecting with. I thought it was a seminal polling work, at least on the Democratic side, and he's been our pollster ever since. So-- Cornell Belcher.
Going to be quick with some of my remarks, and I apologize cause I'm a little... hung over and drowsy like you guys-- cause I didn't get sleep, not because I've been drinking, 'cause I haven't got any sleep.
A couple things. When you look at the exit polling, and when you look at the polling that we've been tracking in-house of our own national polling, we are well on our way of becoming a national party again. And I think that's awfully important to emphasize that we are well on our way to becoming a national party again. When you look at our ability, this past election, to make inroads with important segments of voters who've been part of the Republican coalition, the Bush coalition basically evaporated. We basically destroyed the Bush coalition. When you look at the voters who broke heavy for Bush last time around, they were put up for grabs this time around, and we were very competitive.
When you look at just evangelicals... Last time around in Ohio, Kerry lost frequent-church-going whites by better than 35 [percentage] points. This time, nationally, we were competitive with white evangelicals. We put forth the effort on Christian radio and rural radio to really make inroads. We basically split white voters this time around. Which may not seem like a big deal, but if you look at the history of-- especially look at our history of Presidential races, only time we've been able to even come close to being successful nationally was when we break 45, 46% of the white votes. We did awfully well with a lot of groups of voters last time around that we had not before. I think there's a couple of things to point out here.
When we go back to 2004, and we look at both exit polling and our internal post-election polling, Republicans basically dominated us in two places. They dominated us around national security; they dominated us around issues of sharing their values. From the exit polling, we lost voters who were saying that terrorism, national security was their most important issue by better than 40 points. We won voters who were saying that values issues were their most important issues voting consideration by better than 30 points.
I'm gonna give some credit to the folks over at the DNC who don't get kudos, because when we looked at that, it was a conscious effort to take them on where they were strongest. We know if-- we were already beating voters, in both in our polling and in exit polling; voters who were voting on issues of education, we were dominating those voters. Voters voting on issues of economy, we were dominating those voters. The only two real places that we were not being even competitive, were around national security and values.
I think the "culture of corruption"-- I mean, it wasn't by accident. It was people's put-together idea, 'we gotta go after them'; the Governor talks about 'we gotta go after them in every state'. We also have to go after them on every issue. On every issue playing field to become a national party. And our ability to go after them around the 'culture of corruption', which went after that evangelical, that frequent church-voting audience, who, you know what, they're not comfortable with the ideals of greed, and rewarding greed and rewarding special interests. When... we started pounding the issues of 'culture of corruption,' what we saw is that our generic horse race began to blossom. We began to see some real distance between us in our generic horse race.
Now I wanna fold in the Foley stuff into corruption, because I think that when you look at the exit polling, a lot of the Foley stuff was also part of the corruption piece, because before the Foley stuff broke, we saw our horse race, the numbers begin to shrink, again, our generic horse-race numbers began to shrink again, and white evangelicals becoming more and more undecided, and beginning to lean back toward the Republicans.
I think our ability to go after them-- and when we asked the question in 2004, coming out of the last Presidential election, open-ended-ly: "why was it that you cast your ballot for George Bush?" Because, 'trust', 'honest', 'strong decisive leadership.' The 'trustworthiness' stuff is a big deal, and in fact, the 'standing up for what you believe', and 'being honest and trustworthy' actually correlated more to 'moral values' than 'gay marriage' and 'abortion' did. When you look at the polling now, Americans no longer trust George Bush, and no longer see him as 'honest' and 'trustworthy'.
Our ability to go after the Republicans on their strength, looking at the data from last time around, looking at where they are right now, I think is an important step for us becoming competitive nationally again, because we did see this shifting 'values' playing field. What was also an important issue, is that issues of gay marriage, which was still on the ballot in a lot of areas, did not have the wedge power and pop that we saw it had in the past. What we saw was, and we talked about this earlier on, is that there was a shifting values [inaudible] between Democrats talking about issues of 'community' and 'coming together', and 'a new direction.'
We also saw the wedge issues-- the far right wedge issues that would pit Americans against each other, also failed in this election. When you look at our internal data, and and you look at the exit polling data, clearly, those divisive wedge issues did not pop with Middle America the way they had in the past.
When you look at both white voters and these evangelical and these 'values first' voters, we made inroads there that probably even surprised the Republicans. And it was about our effort to push for, and take away their advantages around 'values', and take away their advantages around 'national security'.
My last point on national security is, in our data, I thought we would have a really good year, in our data, Republicans' advantage on national security, we had basically evaporated that. The one last issue still hanging out for them, was still the values thing, and I think the Foley stuff brought that home for us. And what we go into an election where they don't really have any key issues, and we see what happens when Republicans don't have key issues advantages around national security and values that we were able to take away from them.
At that point, I'm gonna throw it back to the Governor, who's gonna take questions.
[The moderator reviews the rules for questions, use of the microphone and so forth]
John Ferrell, Denver Post: Governor, you did well on the West last night, but not quite as well as some had hoped. --I'm John Ferrell from the Denver Post. Do you think putting the convention in Denver would give the be what you need to push over the top?
Dean: [chuckles] Well, that's my next big decision. But, you know, we have not-- we're in negotiation with both Denver and New York, and we aren't going to make a decision for a few weeks. So, I'm not gonna getcha there... what?
[Inaudible question by Ferrell]
Dean: Well, yeah, we actually were very happy with the West. And speaking of the West, let me thank two Westerners who I didn't thank before. Bill Richardson, who I'm gonna do an event with at 1:30, with the DGA for his leadership in the Democratic Governors' Association, and Joan Fitzgerald, who is the head of the Senate in Colorado. We had great nights in Colorado. We did not knock off Marilyn Musgrave, but came close. Perlmutter's is a big win, and of course the governor's race is the big enchilada in any state.
So we think we did very well in the West. If Tester's [Montana's Senate seat] lead holds up that's a huge mark for us. Picking up two seats in Arizona is a huge piece for us. We didn't win in Nevada, but we came very close in three races, two of the Congressional races (one of which we won, of course, and which was a Democratic seat to begin with), and the Governor's race. So I'm very pleased with what we did in the West, coming very close in Idaho, both in the Governor's race, and a House seat. I think we can be very, very pleased with what went on in the West.
Reporter #2: I'm gonna ask about Ohio, a state that went for George Bush two years ago. Is there a message here in terms of 2008? Do you see signs here that indicate you can flip that state around the next time, based on what you saw...?
Dean: I believe we can. I also neglected to thank labor. Labor played a big role in these elections. They have a state-of-the-art get-out-the-vote program which I think has improved dramatically and really is, I don't know how it could get any better. They really did everything right this time. And Ohio, of course, is a very important labor state. And so they did a terrific job.
I believe-- I don't know how the auditor's race comes out yet, I haven't heard on that one, that was the only one that was close. It's an important seat for us, because it's a position on the Board of Apportionment. I think that we really have an opportunity in Ohio. We basically have run the table in Ohio. We believe that Ohio will benefit from really good governance. In Ohio, of course, the scandals were probably the biggest issue of all. People just weren't gonna vote Republican this year, based on what the Republicans did in 16 years of their election.
I do think it positions us well into 2008, and I think probably the person who wins Ohio is gonna win the Presidency in 2008. So, the answer to your question is, yeah-- look, all these things have significance in 2008 and beyond. We now have an opportunity to prove that the things the Republicans have been saying about us the last 12 years are just not true. And Ohio's probably Example A for that.
Dean: You wanna say who you are and what paper you're from?
Guha: I'm so sorry, it's Krishna Guha from the Financial Times.
Dean: Mm hm. Ah, that's one of my favorite papers.
Guha: Thank you. Some commentators today are saying, at the end of the day it was basically Iraq. You have a terribly unpopular war, that that's dragged down the President's approval rating, and you were able successfully to capitalize on that, but that single issue effectively brought you the wave that brought these seats. Clearly, you believe there's much more to that, and I wonder if you could speak to that question.
Dean: Sure. And the exit polls show that. The exit polls show, and Cornell should correct me if I'm mistaken, that it was Iraq, the economy, and corruption. And the corruption piece is broad, it's not just the scandals in Congress, it's the sense that the President's not trustworthy and not truthful. When you get into that, you've got a huge problem as a public servant. I was Governor for a long time. When your credibility is gone, then you've got an enormous problem.
So I actually think, of course this is about Iraq, but I actually think this is about more. I had said before the election, and I maintain to this day, that the biggest problem the President had, if you want to point to a specific event, was Hurricane Katrina, because the Administration was unmasked as being incompetent when that happened, when they responded the way they did-- or didn't respond the way they should have. And then I think people's confidence in the Administration was gone. And then, of course, things spiraled out of control in other areas as well.
Cornell, you wanna...?
Belcher: Yeah, 'Iraq, Iraq, Iraq,' absolutely. But if you look at our ability to make inroads with certain segments of voters who have not been breaking our way, the corruption stuff gave us that doorway. You get certain segments of voters who, quite frankly, were not necessarily against the President in Iraq, but the greed stuff gave us an opening to them that Iraq didn't allow. So I think it was a very important part of the puzzle for us, when you see us now in the majority.
Guha: ... from the one-third of the evangelicals. Is this one-third of white evangelicals? Or one-third of all evangelicals, ...?
Dean: The other statistic which we didn't use-- which I didn't mention in my opening, which I thought was an extraordinary statistic, and it shows the damage that the polarization approach that Rove and Bush have taken, is we got 75% of the Hispanic vote. So all the work that the Administration has done over the last however-many years is gone. And that's simply because they chose-- what they were gonna do was make 'immigration' the 'gay marriage' of 2004, by dividing and polarizing and making people angry about an issue that people are really worried about, which is illegal immigration. But they did it in such a way that was so deeply polarizing, that a very important segment of the American electorate decided that their future was not with the Republicans. And that is gonna have a big effect, I think, on future elections as well.
Kirret Roder(ph), ABC News: Hi, Kirret Roder(ph), with ABC News. You actually asked my question, Krishna, but I wanted to ask a followup, another question. What's your thought that your greatest challenge will be going forward?
Dean: Well, we've got a number of challenges. The first is, we now have a majority in the House, and apparently a majority in the Senate. We now have to be a part of the government. We can't simply oppose everything that the President wants to do, we've got to be a part of the government. Part of this depends on the President's willingness to compromise.
You know, I served with President Bush for 6 years, as Governor, when he was Governor of Texas, when he was very different than he has been as President. He was willing to compromise, and he worked with the Democratic majority in the Texas House and the Senate. And then, somebody I didn't know became President, who was moving to the far right, demeaning of people who disagreed with him... And so now, it'll be interesting to see if the President can adjust to the new reality, which is, that if he wants to govern, he's gonna have to work with people who don't share his desire to placate the extreme right in his party. So that's a challenge for the President, it's a challenge for us.
We know what we wanna do. Our agenda is very clear. It's not a huge, broad agenda, we know we can't do everything in two years.
We wanna raise the minimum wage and send a signal to American families that we're with them, and that we understand how hard it is to make a living in an economy which is great for the top 20% and not so great for everybody else.
We want real ethics legislation to end the corruption and the scandals in Washington. We want to deal with the issue of affordable health care and the specifics of that, I think, are gonna be emerging over the next several weeks, as we prepare to take office. And we want to have a serious discussion with the President about Iraq, about how to do things differently there, and how to bring our folks home. We know all that stuff, propaganda that the Republicans were putting out about "cut and run", of course is nonsense. I don't believe anybody in the leadership thinks we're gonna pull our troops out tomorrow. But we do not want a permanent commitment to a failed strategy. Those folks need to come home, and we need to work with the President to get them home.
Sam Husseini, IPA Media: Thank you. Sam Husseini, with IPA Media. Don't you have somewhat of a divided party on the issue of Iraq? Most obviously, between Murtha and Hoyer. And also, you were saying, 'Iraq, Iraq, Iraq,' but if I understand what's gonna happen in the House, Lantos, who is very pro-war, and is quite belligerent in terms of Iran, is gonna be head of international relations in the House. He's gonna be Chair of that. Don't you have a divided party, in part within it, and also between the constituents and who's gonna be in the leadership?
Dean: I actually think that both Nancy and Harry have been extraordinary at unifying the party. Strong, strong minority leaders, both of them. And so, I actually don't think we have a divided party on this subject or any other.
Will there be differences of opinion? Yes. Do I believe that the caucuses in both the House and the Senate will pull together to come to a common position? Absolutely yes.
Look. It is painful being the minority in the House. And there are some folks in the House who remember what it was like to be in the majority, 12 years ago. They do not wanna return to the minority. And I believe you will see a strong degree of unity under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, in both caucuses. Will there be individuals who have press conferences who say 'we should do this and we should do that'? Sure. But I think both these folks are very strong leaders and I think you're gonna see unified positions.
Sam Husseini: [inaudible] ...Murtha and Lantos are gonna or not gon--
Dean: --I'm sure they'll all play roles, and I think they'll all be, in the end, unified.
And the other thing is, and this came up in the election, the President was saying, "oh, the Democrats don't have a plan." In fact, we do, and in fact all the different Democrats who had something to say about Iraq, mostly were surrounding what we would call the Larry Korb plan, or the phased redeployment plan, with some other layers of things. Most people do not believe we can stay in Iraq. I don't know of any Democrats who believe we can stay in Iraq permanently. So there is a, not only I think a confluence of views, and a desire for unity, but there's also the makings of a Democratic plan, which I suspect will be... the first attempt, I suspect (although I don't wanna speak for the leadership, because it's their call) will be to go to the President and say, "what about trying this?" and then see if they can find common ground with the President. Let's not forget, the President still controls foreign policy and military policy.
But I do think you'll see a high degree of unity in both the House caucus and the Senate caucus.
Michael Doyle, McClatchey Newspapers (the moderator): Michael Doyle, of McClatchey Newspapers, and I'd like to ask, Mr. Pombo, the chairman of the House Resources Committee, lost in part because of environmental concerns. Did you see an indication that the environment played a significant factor in other races?
Dean: I don't think we have the data for that. It certainly did in that race, and Jerry McNerney ran on environmental issues, had strong support from the environmental community, won one of the best grassroots races in the entire country. It was all grassroots, and he ran before us, so he's essentially been running for 4 years. He just did a fantastic job.
We don't have any polling data, and I don't know of any exit polling data, so I think rather than speculate, give us a week or so, we may be able to answer that question.
Dean: I don't know that answer either. We raised an enormous amount of money in October, I was shocked at how much money came in, and we won't know.
It's a difficult figure to give you because-- we know what we borrowed, which is public information. We have a credit line I think of 5 million dollars. Our problem is that unlike the other committees, we have an ongoing operation, so the biggest point that our debt will get to is probably at the end of the year. Because we're not going to have that much coming in over the next two months*, but we still have a big operation to run.
Don't forget, all these people that we put on the ground a year and a half ago in all these states? They're staying there. Those people stay on our payroll, they're DNC employees. We're not quitting. This is a long-term cycle. One of the things I said I wanted to do here, is to campaign every day of every 4-year cycle, and that's what we're doing. So the same people that helped these candidates win these races, are gonna stay through the Presidential race. They'll be experienced, they'll have an election under their belt, they'll know what they're doing-- a very tough election, I might add.
But that's expensive for us. That payroll continues, we don't lay a bunch of people off, which the D-trip and the D-S [DCCC and DSCC] can do. We can't do that, we're already geared up now for the Presidential, and we're gonna continue as if today had never happened. We're just gonna keep going straight through.
Reporter #7: ...Mr. Dean, you've been saying over the months that you were going to employ an all-state strategy to win for the Democrats at the midterm. What's your strategy for maintaining a unified Democratic Party across the country, red, blue--
Dean: -- Right.
Reporter #7: -- purple, whatever, now that you've won some.
Dean: Well, a lot of that work is gonna be in the House and the Senate. The message that comes out of the House and the Senate in terms of what they do, is gonna be far more powerful than anything I might say. It's of course what you do that matters. So their message about the minimum wage and health care, ethics legislation, that's very important that we get that passed, as the Speaker-to-be has said, and that it end up on the President's desk for his choice. Because that will define the Democratic Party in ways that I could never, as the chairman of the DNC, define the Democratic Party.
For our part, we will continue to reach out to every voter. We will continue to reach out even to voters that are difficult for us. I think this election showed that you can win evangelical-- white evangelical voters for the Democratic Party, if you speak about your values. I think this election showed that you can win back Hispanic voters that we may have lost earlier, if you speak about both your values and your inclusiveness. I think-- I was very happy with how we did in the African-American community. We worked very hard in the African-American community from the day I got to be Chairman, because we knew that the Republicans were making a significant effort, it was a serious effort...
Although I must say, I think they undermined themselves, both in response to Hurricane Katrina, and in the despicable ads at the end. There was an awful lot of playing the race card at the end. I think the.. you know, Ken Mehlman may have apologized for the "Southern Strategy", but I'm afraid they're still using it, and that was very disappointing.
But we're just gonna keep going, and keep going, and try to appeal to people's better instincts; and there's not a vote in America, in any part of America, that we're afraid to ask for, and we're gonna be asking for every one of those votes.
Heath from Vermont: Hi, I'm Heath from Vermont. What sort of role do you think the liberal blogosphere-- how did they help out with this? Do you think they're feeling vindicated, and what sort of a role did they play, since they've been so supportive of you since the 2004 election...?
Dean: You know, that's a growing influence on politics in general, and of course, it's not "the liberal blogosphere," there's [a] conservative blogosphere out there too. I think the, what they call themselves, the 'netroots community', can be very proud. They're playing an increasingly larger role in politics. They obviously played a big role in my campaign, they're playing an even bigger role now. I'll tell you two very concrete examples.
One is, without the blogs, I don't think Jerry McNerney or Carol Sh-- what's her proper-- Carol Shea is a hyphenated last name. Anybody remem--...? Carol Shea-...? Anybody know what I'm talking about? The First District of New Hampshire? [Carol Shea-Porter] I can't think of that last part of the hyphenated name. But anyway, Carol... I don't think either one of them would have won. That was an entirely grassroots effort, without support from the party-- including us. [points to himself] They did a great job. They did have some support from other groups, but they were-- that was a big deal.
Here's the bigger deal, which is really important to us. As you know, there were a fair amount of shenanigans yesterday, nasty robo-calls attributed to us that weren't made by us, flyers in Maryland that claimed that county executives were supporting the Republicans when in fact they'd endorsed the Democrats. All this kind of sort of lowball, lowlife election techniques.
We knew about those instantly because of the blogs. We had 7500 lawyers around America yesterday, to watch out for dirty tricks at the polls. And we had a discussion this morning about the-- how much that played a role, and the truth is, we're not sure they did it more than they usually do, we just think we knew about it faster because of the blogosphere. I was getting updates about every 10 minutes from people who were wired into folks all over the country, telling us some of the stuff that was going on, some of the irregularities. Now, a fair number of these irregularities were just plain, the machines didn't work properly, and folks weren't trained, and all those kinds of stuff. But some of it was pretty suspicious and we were able to get lawyers to those polling places immediately. We had a toll-free line, 1-888-DEM VOTE, which I think we got several thousand calls on, of people pushing one button, the Democratic button, and the Republican button coming up.
So the instantaneousness of blogs and of people who read the blogs, and people who get that information to us in real time, during Election Day when we can still do something about it, is a huge improvement over what happened in 2000, for example, or even 2004.
Heath from Vermont: [inaudible]... the political discussion?
Dean: I do, absolutely.
Sam Husseini?: A little bit ago, you said that the President, I think I got it right, controls foreign policy. But of course, everybody who got elected is sworn to uphold the Constitution. Congress' sense was to declare war or not declare war. Congress has the power of the purse. Do you wanna reassess that statement? Or do you want to stand by that statement?
Dean: The President has-- traditionally, the President has been in charge of foreign policy, and I don't think anybody would disagree with that.
Dean: I think that was the big divide. People earlier on talked about how important Iraq was. Iraq was important because it became an issue that cut across party lines and ideological lines. There were many conservatives, including enormous numbers of military who opposed the war, who ran and were elected. Veterans in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and so forth, who ran candidates based on the fact that they were veterans. Many of them were veterans of either this war in Iraq or the previous one. It helped us enormously as Democrats to reassert the credibility the Democrats have traditionally had in military matters. Most people agree with us on the war, and most people now see us as the party that's most likely to be able to successfully defend the United States of America. That is a huge breakthrough, and I'm glad you asked the question.
Reporter #9: [inaudible] ...won't be able to do much to stop-- to put the brakes on the White House.
Dean: Well, we may or may not. I'm not gonna speculate on what we might be able to do. As this gentleman pointed out [indicating the reporter in front, who is probably Sam Husseini] there are some things that we have traditionally... we have some powers. The President sets the tone for foreign policy, we don't have to agree with it. And I think you'll probably see that come to the forefront. I'm not gonna prejudge what the congressional leadership is gonna do, but I certainly think that we do have some ability to influence the President's policy in Iraq, and it's very clear to me that the voters want us to influence the President's policy in Iraq, and I said previously that a "stay the course" policy in Iraq is a disaster. We shouldn't've been in there in the first place, and I think you will see very active participation, quite possibly led by people like Jack Murtha, who was in the Marine Corps for 37 years, who certainly knows a good deal about defending America.
Dean: I'm thrilled, not just pleased.
Three seats and that we got the House back, too. It was extraordinary.
Reporter #2: How much credit does the national party deserve for that, and what's in place now that would keep that from flipping back the next time. 'Cause, you know, those three seats, at least two of them, were pretty close. And could go the other--
Dean: Look, I think lots of people deserve credit. It's always-- so I'm not gonna say, what percentage of credit we deserve. I think, certainly, if the D-triple-C hadn't funded those races very generously, they wouldn't've won. Certainly, if we hadn't put people on the ground very early on... You shouldn't take my word for it, you should call the three Congressional folks and the state party chair and ask them what they think of that assessment. I think there's plenty of credit to go around. I don't wanna be part of the Washington game and say, "Oh, this is all our doing and this is all somebody else's doing." In the end, despite all the reporting that went on for five months, we all work together. And it came out great. So I think lots of people deserve credit for the victories in Indiana.
Reporter #2: What's in place there now, that could keep it from flipping back the next--
Dean: Hard work. I've already spoken with both Rahm and Nancy about what's gonna happen, and they have done this before, they have candidate schools. Look, the 2008 election cycle is gonna be won in 2007, not 2008. If you're a member of Congress, you've gotta get out and work like crazy in the next year, especially a freshman member, or even somebody like Baron Hill, who's been there before. You've gotta get out, you've gotta be with your constituents. Bulk mail and franking is not enough. You've gotta be out there, talking to people, letting them see who you are, letting them understand you, and letting them get to know you. That's a very, very powerful tool, and anybody who doesn't do that, and doesn't start tomorrow is making a mistake, 'cause again, the election is won in 2007, not 2008. It's how much work you do in 2007 that wins elections.
Dean: Mm hm.
Krishna Guha: And I wondered whether, with your gains at the state level, governorships, and some of the state houses, whether you will now look to undo some of that redistricting in the future.
Dean: I would hope so. The best of all possible alternatives is to undo the, really, successful gerrymandering the Republicans had, and to make it much fairer. Iowa, for example, has a very reasonable way of districting races, and it's a 50-50 state. You're now gonna have three Iowa Congresspeople of the Democrats, and two Republicans, and that's probably where Iowa is today. And they have a nonpartisan redistricting.
Barring-- nonpartisan-- 'cause I don't wanna do nonpartisan redistricting in the states that the Democrats control and then not do it in the states the Republicans control. What we really should do, which I'm sure would be fraught with court challenges and everything else, is have a national-- I think we need national election reform. The machines don't work, the gerrymandering doesn't help people, it makes uncompetitive races. You know, sitting politicians never like to do that. But the truth is, we need to bring some sense and order, and restore the American people's faith in the voting machines. We can't do that as long as we have these DREs that clearly don't work, and there were screwups all over the place yesterday, in Indiana, in Utah, and Denver, and many other places. Bipartisan-- I mean, this is not just happening in Republican states or Democratic states, it's happening everywhere.
We've gotta restore the faith of the American people in voting, that every vote counts. That's what makes the country great. That win or lose, if you know your vote's been counted, you're satisfied that the country is doing what the majority of the people want it to do.
Krishna Guha: If I may specifically, a bit more on the redistricting. So will you now set out, over the next few years, to try to reverse some of the--?
Dean: Yes. Absolutely. Because some of the districts are ridiculous. Even a conservative court in Texas undid what Tom DeLay did. We need fair districts that work for everybody. Because in the end if you have fair districts that work for everybody, then America benefits.
I think one thing you will not see, and if you do, we'll be out of power in a hurry, is that the biggest mistake the Republicans made, which the American people caught them out on, was putting the interests of their party ahead of the interests of the country. And the Foley scandal had an impact because of that. It wasn't just the morality of it. It was that the reaction of the people at the top, instead of protecting a young man and his family, was to circle the wagons and pretend they knew nothing about it. And I think when people saw that, they realized that what had happened to the leadership was that they were willing to take a political course, when the proper course would have been to look at this as a human tragedy, and one that needed to be fixed. And as soon as you start behaving like that, eventually you're gonna lose, because the public expects more, and the public is gonna get more from us.
Dan Gilgoff, U.S. News: Hey, Dan Gilgoff, with U.S. News. You said the Presidential election of 2008 would be won in 2007, not 2008. As a former Presidential candidate yourself, could you talk a little bit about the lessons that a successful Democratic contender would have to draw from 2006 in order to be successful in '08], and also, were any of those lessons not apparent, say 24 hours ago, before the--
Dean: The biggest one is, don't make a list of states and yell at the end.
The Presidential's a little different, because we don't know who the nominee's gonna be until 2008. But we intend to have on the ground, campaign organizations in some of the states before we even know who the nominee is, so that they won't have to recreate 'em.
You know, traditionally what's happened for many years in the Democratic is, you put your campaign organization and your people in place in July, when you get the nomination. That's crazy. And that's one of the reasons we started with this 50-State Strategy, early on. Look, we didn't know there were gonna be three great candidates in Indiana and there were gonna be great candidates in Kansas and Nebraska and places like that. We didn't know that when we started this out. But what we did, because we believed in being everywhere, is lay the groundwork so that if somebody did come along, they had a support network. And that's what we're gonna do in the Presidential race. We're gonna make sure that whoever the nominee is, has a support network immediately upon being nominated, and in fact, we're gonna build those support networks before they're nominated, and try to get them in place. I can tell you there's some things-- you asked about Ohio [pointing to Reporter #2]-- the Ohio Democratic Party performed incredibly well. And they're gonna be a great network, no matter who the nominee is, for trying to deliver Ohio in the Democratic column in 2008. That's what you have to have.
My favorite saying is George Santayana's "Chance favors the prepared mind." And that means you can't tell what's coming at you, certainly in politics. You have no idear what's gonna happen in politics. There's always huge surprises. But what you can do is prepare yourself well for the eventuality of the surprise. And then be prepared to react to it and take advantage of it. And that's what we haven't done in the past, and that's what we are gonna do from now on.
Dan Gilgoff: A quick followup. Beyond the ground game of the 50-State Strategy, on the part of an actual Presidential candidate, or work. Platform, beyond just ground game and having a ground team in places where you might not expect to do well. Can you speak to that at all?
Dean: I'm not gonna speak to the message. There'll be, who knows, ten or eleven people running for President, that's their business as to how they wanna hone their message, and that's what the voters will choose between when they come to the primary. But it's not up to me to tell the Democratic nominee what their message is gonna be.
Allan Suderman, KTVQ: Hi, Allan Suderman, with KTVQ. I was wondering, if John Tester does win in Montana, will it be because of the efforts of the Democratic Party, or will it be more because of Conrad Burns' gaffes?
Dean: It'll be-- oh, it'll be a little of everything. John Tester's a terrific candidate. The Governor of Montana has been extraordinarily helpful. And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put a ton of money in there, and we put a significant amount of organization in there. I don't think you can single out any one particular thing that was done. In the end, I believe that candidates are the most important thing. Actually, as chairman of the DNC, if somebody asks me whether they should donate to the DNC or a particular candidate they like, I always tell them to give money to the candidate first. Because that's the most important thing.
So, even though we helped, the DSCC helped, the Governor helped, John Tester in the end deserves the credit. It was his you-know-what on the line, and it's awful tough to do this, and if he wins, which we think he will, he was the one that earned it.
Dean: I'm not gonna get into all that stuff. That's lawyer stuff, and I'm not one.
Michael Doyle, Moderator: No more questions?
If not, I'd like to thank you, Governor.
Dean: Great! Thank you very much.