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Democratic Party’s ‘Unity’ Remains Intact

August 25, 2008 at 6:40 PM EDT
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Despite fractions between Democrats who support Sens. Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama, Gov. Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic National Committee, asserts that party members have set aside their differences and are united behind a common interest to win the 2008 election.

Now, to the man in charge of the convention, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont. Judy Woodruff is with him now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim, I am with Gov. Dean, standing here on the podium of this convention.

Governor, it’s an hour-and-a-half old, this convention. How’s it going so far?

HOWARD DEAN, Chairman, Democratic National Committee: Pretty exciting. I think it’s great. I feel very optimistic. I think the selection of Joe Biden was a homerun, certainly in this hall, and I think it will be in the country as a whole, and I’m pretty optimistic.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You’ve been working on this convention for almost four years. How much do you have riding on this as the chairman of the party?

HOWARD DEAN: Well, it’s not so much what I have riding. This is a great opportunity to present ourselves to the West.

The road to the White House leads through the West. You know, Westerners are pretty libertarian, whether they’re Democratic or Republican. They don’t like big government, and they don’t like big spenders, and the Republicans have become both big government and big spenders.

We really have an opportunity here, and that’s why we’re working so hard out here.

The delegates' representativeness

JUDY WOODRUFF: We've just been having a discussion on the NewsHour about the ideological stripe of these delegates, the description being that they're more liberal even than typical Democrats. How representative are these delegates, of Democrats across the country, and of voters across the country?

HOWARD DEAN: I think they're very representative. You should have been at the interfaith service we had yesterday, which was the first official opening of the Democratic National Convention.

There were people -- pro-life Democrats proclaiming why they were pro-life and why they were Democrats. There were people on the other side calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

Look, this party is a big, broad coalition of people. And the common ground that we have is we really want change in America, and we want economic fairness for ordinary people. And we think that George Bush and John McCain are fundamentally unfair to ordinary Americans.

Appealing to all delegates

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does the Democratic Party have a unity problem right now...

HOWARD DEAN: Absolutely not.

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... with these lingering feelings towards Sen. Clinton?

HOWARD DEAN: No, they don't. I know the press finds it necessary to write about that, but it's not true. There is no one more than Hillary Clinton who's tried her best to bring this party together.

If you want to see a great document, look at the platform. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama worked together on that. It was approved unanimously.

It has a whole lot of stuff about women's rights in there and a whole lot of stuff about fighting sexism. And it's got the imprint of both candidates firmly on it. Both candidates have just been terrific.

I don't think we have a unity problem at all. I think there's a few people who can't be satisfied, but we've got some very happy delegates with our ticket.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think Sen. Obama needs to do to appeal to those Democratic voters who are telling pollsters they are still reluctant to vote for him...

HOWARD DEAN: The same thing...

JUDY WOODRUFF: ... they're just not sure who he is?

HOWARD DEAN: Look, Sen. Obama is going -- we're going to reach out and appeal, Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden, and the Democratic Party, are going to appeal to independents, Republicans and Democrats.

This is a broad party. We're getting right now a huge amount of support from Republicans who believe that you've got to have fiscal support when you're governing the country.

We're getting a huge amount of support from independents who love the fact that Barack doesn't take special-interest money, and then he sees John McCain's campaign being run by special interests and lobbyists.

So there will be plenty of -- lots of different kinds of people voting for different tickets here, but I believe, at the end of the day, Americans want a change. And Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden represent change.

A unified, national party

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Governor, we know there are lobbyists involved with the Democratic Party, as well. There are lobbyists here in Denver on the floor, having parties for these delegates. Isn't that a reality in both...

HOWARD DEAN: The fundamental difference is that we -- this campaign doesn't take money from special interests. And the McCain campaign not only is bought and paid for by special interests; it's run by special interests.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Governor, one of the your -- I guess the themes of your leadership of the party has been a so-called 50-state strategy...


JUDY WOODRUFF: ... where you've tried to spread the Democratic message and the Democratic infrastructure into all 50 states. How does that connect with what Barack Obama's going to need to do?

HOWARD DEAN: Well, we're now campaigning seriously in Alaska, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and, of course, the West -- Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, and even Arizona we have a shot.

So, you know, we're working hard in states that we have never worked in before, not for 30 years. I think that really represents change in the Democratic Party.

If the Democratic Party wants to be a national party, we've got to ask everybody for their vote, including people in really conservative states, and we've got to ask conservatives for their votes.

One of the biggest mistakes that George Bush made as president was to decide to be the president of only half the people. And Barack is going to be the president of all the people, even those who disagree with him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The chairman of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean. Governor, thank you very much for talking with us.

HOWARD DEAN: Thanks for having me on, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim, back to you.