Campaign 2004: Howard Dean
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GWEN IFILL: Hello, Governor Dean. After two years of campaigning here in New Hampshire, you come out number two. Do you feel like something went wrong?
HOWARD DEAN: You know, the interesting part about this is, if you told me a year ago I would be third in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, I would have been delighted. The odd thing was, the media built us up so high over the summer with a cover of Newsweek and Time and U.S. News and all of that stuff without one vote being cast, and I think I never forgot, but I think a lot of people forgot the voters actually decide who the front-runner is.
I think this is fine. We got our ticket out of Iowa. We got our ticket out of New Hampshire. We’re going to the next seven states. We have decent organizations in those states. We have built them all up. I’m looking forward to this. You know the issues, do you really want to change, or to battle between two Washington insiders? And I think the American people ultimately are going to want a real change.
GWEN IFILL: Analyze for me what happened here. You had a double-digit lead only a few weeks ago, and tonight it’s possibly a double-digit loss.
HOWARD DEAN: Iowa happened. You come in third in Iowa and John Kerry comes from nowhere and comes in first, that’s a huge momentum issue. I think the biggest mistake that’s been made by anybody in this campaign was made by Wes Clark and Joe Lieberman, skipping Iowa. You do not skip states if you intend to be president of the United States. You can’t do it.
GWEN IFILL: If you lost in Iowa and that that begets a loss in New Hampshire, why won’t a loss in New Hampshire beget a loss in these next seven states?
HOWARD DEAN: Well, second is better than third. We closed the gap considerably. We have a decent organization in these states. This is a long, long sprint, a long, long sprint to the end. We have a long way to go. We’re in place, well-organized right through Super Tuesday.
And so … and the issue again and again, do you want somebody from inside Washington or somebody from outside Washington? Do you want somebody who’s going to stand up for American working families and be willing to do that? I stood up when nobody else would stand up against the Iraq war. I stood up against No Child Left Behind, which has really hurt a lot of public schools all over the country, when nobody else would.
That’s the kind of person I am. I say what I believe in. I stood up for gay and lesbian Vermonters when I signed the civil unions bill when no other governor would get anywhere as close to anything like that. I believe if you want to move this country forward, you have to take tough stands, and I’m willing to do it. I’ve taken my heat from the media. I’ll willing to do that, too.
GWEN IFILL: You campaigned on your tough stands on telling people what they necessarily didn’t want to hear. Did that work until the end?
HOWARD DEAN: Well, we came from a long way back. Don’t forget last week, there were a lot of people writing off the Dean campaign in its entirety after the Iowa third-place finish, so I kind of feel like we’ve been redeemed tonight, and I’m kind of grateful to the voters of New Hampshire for doing that.
GWEN IFILL: You’ve never run for president before. What did this week or the last two or three weeks teach you about this process?
HOWARD DEAN: It … well, it taught me what I already knew, which is that voters decide who the front-runner is, not pundits and not news people. It really wasn’t as tough a week as I’ve had other weeks. You know, when I was a front-runner for six or eight weeks during the summer, it was brutal. Everybody was pounding us, the media, all of the opponents, so if we defended ourselves, we hurt ourselves.
One of the reasons that Dick Gephardt and I finished third and fourth is because we got in a fight towards the end, and the two senators slid right through. Same reason Jesse Ventura ended up as governor of Minnesota. So I’m just going to stick to my message. A real change in America from outside Washington promises to be kept, as I did in Vermont, balancing budgets and health care and standing up for working families in a way that folks from inside Washington don’t understand.
GWEN IFILL: You know, you mentioned the fight that you and Dick Gephardt got into in Iowa. There was a total absence of that here in New Hampshire, except a little bit of sniping at the end of the campaign.
HOWARD DEAN: Well, there was a lot of stuff going on under the table, unfortunately, which wasn’t helpful, but I don’t think it hurt anybody in the long run.
GWEN IFILL: But did it have some comparative advertising, what people call negative advertising, had hoped to differentiate you more from Senator Kerry?
HOWARD DEAN: No. We tried that one in Washington and we tried that one in Iowa. That was a big mistake. When you use any kind of comparative advertising or negative advertising, you bring yourself down, as well as others … as well as the person you’re targeting, and that’s exactly what happened to Dick Gephardt and I in Iowa. Fortunately, I was able to survive it, but I’m not going to make that mistake again in a multi-candidate race.
GWEN IFILL: I also was struck by how many of the other candidates sounded like you. They would end their speeches by saying, “I … this is about you. This isn’t about me.”
HOWARD DEAN: Right.
GWEN IFILL: Which sounded like the way you were ending your speeches.
HOWARD DEAN: You know, it’s interesting. I had three goals when I started this: The first was to change the Democratic Party; the second was to change the country; and the third was to become president. And we started to change the Democratic Party.
Now, frankly, these folks are great people, but they’re saying this because it tests well in the polls, but eventually they’ll believe it if they keep saying it long enough, and we really will change the Democratic Party. Now we have got to change the country. I’m actually determined to change this country. It is in the same shape it was when Herbert Hoover was president or when William McKinley was president.
In both cases, a guy named Roosevelt came along and pushed back on the enormous corporate power so that ordinary middle class people could make money and small businesses again and could live their lives and send their kids to college. That’s exactly where we are now historically; we are we need somebody to come along and stand up to the corporate abuses and to the special interests in Washington, and neither party is doing that.
GWEN IFILL: So that message still works as far as you’re concerned?
HOWARD DEAN: I think it is my message, that’s why I’m in this race.
GWEN IFILL: Seven states in seven days. How do you begin to tackle that?
HOWARD DEAN: It’s really ten states in ten days. You have to include Michigan, Washington and Maine. Right. It’s tough. It’s, you know, a lot of plane traveling and a lot of hard work, but we have got great organizations in all of these states. We even … actually, to be honest with you, if you really think about it, it’s 13 states, if you include the District of Columbia, in about 13 days, because they’re on the 10th of February. So it’s really very rapid fire. It’s a small version of Super Tuesday.
GWEN IFILL: Can you afford it?
HOWARD DEAN: Yeah, I can. We raised more money than anybody else in the last week.
GWEN IFILL: You spent a lot more, too.
HOWARD DEAN: Yeah, we did, but we still have some.
GWEN IFILL: You still have enough?
HOWARD DEAN: Right.
GWEN IFILL: To compete in all states?
HOWARD DEAN: Yeah, we will compete in every state.
GWEN IFILL: Now, you’re spending the next 48 hours, or 24 hours, at home in Burlington. Are you reevaluating? Are you thinking about what you have to do next?
HOWARD DEAN: I’ve been doing a little reevaluating, but mostly we’re doing a lot of media travel. We discovered if you satellite into other states that works very well. It’s not, of course, as good as being there, but it’s very hard to be in 13 states in 12 days.
GWEN IFILL: Is this a two-man race now for you?
HOWARD DEAN: I don’t know. You know, when I was the front-runner, everybody was dying to call it a two-man race, Dean and whoever it was. I’m not going to fall into that trap. You all can talk about that, and voters will decide how many people are in the race.
GWEN IFILL: Well, if one and two tonight are you and Senator Kerry, how do two New Englanders take whatever the message is the Democrats need to take to the rest of the country?
HOWARD DEAN: Well, in all due respect, I think John Kerry … John Kerry has finished first twice. He must be doing something right. But our messages are very different. I mean, he spent 19 years in Washington. I spent my time as governor delivering health care and balancing budgets. We have a very different approach to life.
GWEN IFILL: So you think that people are going to be able to distinguish that? Here in New Hampshire people kept saying, “I just want somebody to beat Bush.” Most people said Senator Kerry would be the person.
HOWARD DEAN: Right. And I disagree, because I don’t think we can beat George Bush without bringing a lot of new people into this party, which is what we have been able to do and nobody else has.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you, governor.
HOWARD DEAN: Thanks, Gwen.