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National Party Heads Debate Issues in Midterm Elections

With the hotly contested midterm election in less than a week, Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, discuss the challenges that lay ahead for their respective parties.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    First, we're joined by former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

    Governor Dean, welcome. Let's start with predictions. Are you going to take the House? And if so, by how much?

  • HOWARD DEAN, Chairman, Democratic National Committee:

    Well, Margaret, I don't make predictions. If the election were held today, we would take not just the House, we would also take the Senate. But we've got four more days of very intense campaigning.

    We know the Republicans will be making all kinds of calls, making all kinds of assertions in the middle of the night about candidates. And we've just got to put together our get-out-the-vote effort and make sure it's maximized by Monday — Tuesday.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Let me ask you about a couple of events of this past week. First of all, John Kerry's remarks about the troops, his subsequent apology. Did that damage the Democrats?

  • HOWARD DEAN:

    John Kerry is not on the ballot. He apologized. I think that's the end of that.

    What's on the ballot is the president of the United States' behavior and the Republicans' behavior over the last five or six years: Iraq; the economy, which has been great for the president's contributors, but not so great for ordinary Americans; the health care system; the culture of corruption the Republicans have brought to the Capitol. Those are the things that people are going to be voting on.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So are you saying that, even though the president weighed in, the vice president, the White House press secretary, you think the Kerry matter is irrelevant to this election?

  • HOWARD DEAN:

    I do. In the long run, I think people — you know, the Republicans always try to push attention elsewhere because their record is so dreadful. But look at — their record in Iraq, which is really going to hurt them, is one of complete and utter failure, to listen to their own military advisors, to support our troops adequately with adequate equipment, and to have a plan.

    Colin Powell wrote in his book that you want to use maximum force going in, you have to understand what you're getting into, and you have to have a plan to leave. They didn't do any of those things. This is a gross failure.

    The economy, great for the top 20 percent. Out here in Toledo, Ohio, not so good for an awful lot of people here who have seen their jobs move to China. So we can do better than this. The American people know we can do better that than this. And that's why I think we're going to win.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Now, another event of this past week — in fact, just yesterday — is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals resigning amid allegations or at least accusations that he had paid for gay sex. Do you think that's going to have real election repercussions?

  • HOWARD DEAN:

    You know, it may. But again, we're going to focus on what we ought to be doing differently in this country. We want to raise the minimum wage. We want a real ethics legislation to clean up the corruption in Washington. And we want a health care plan that works.

    We think there ought to be a down payment where we insure at least all kids and all folks under 25. It's not expensive to do. We also believe we ought to balance the budget and have middle-class tax fairness. Those are going to be the things we concentrate on.

    And, you know, this business about the guy getting phone sex or whatever he did, and John Kerry's remarks, that is all extraneous stuff. This election is about Iraq. It's about wanting a new direction for the country. It's about wanting workers to get paid adequately for the jobs they perform. That's what the election is about.