Backers say Dean should seek DNC chair, forego 2008 run

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(Host) A lot of Howard Dean’s supporters are urging him to run for the chairmanship of the National Democratic Party. They’re indicating that they would rather have him lead an effort to reform the party than have him run for president in 2008.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel has the story.

(Kinzel) At the beginning of February, the 400 members of the Democratic National Committee will gather to select a new chair. The election will be a key signal about the future direction of the party. Following the loss of presidential candidate John Kerry, there’s been a spirited debate among Democrats if the party should shift more to the center on many issues or if it should emphasize more traditional Democratic positions.

Dean is exploring a race for DNC chair. He’s calling many members of the committee to gauge support for his candidacy and it’s likely that several other candidates will emerge in this race. If Dean becomes the chairman of the party he will be removing himself as a potential presidential candidate in 2008.

Dean was not available for comment but the spokesperson for his organization, Democracy for America, Laura Gross, says many of DFA’s supporters want Dean to head the party:

(Gross) “A lot of the letters and most of the e-mails we’re getting are saying, ‘The Democratic Party needs help. We need to talk about what needs to happen and we need to rebuild the Democratic Party. Governor Dean you’ve proven that you’ve done that well with Democracy for America, why not do it for the Democratic Party for the DNC?'”

(Kinzel) Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says there are some good reasons why Dean is considering this race:

(Davis) “The DNC chair will be someone who will appear frequently on Sunday morning talk shows, be quoted in the media, sort of representing the Democratic Party. Because with the Republicans controlling the White House and both chambers on Capitol Hill, the Democrats have no one in an institution of power who can really speak for the party.”

(Kinzel) Davis says the election of Dean as DNC chair would definitely set the course for the party for the foreseeable future:

(Davis) “My guess is that what Howard Dean will say is that what the Democrats need to do is work on mobilizing and expanding the base. He will say that running to the middle is not a strategy that’s going to work. Rather, what the Democrats need to do is mobilize voters and get them turned out.”

(Kinzel) Dean is expected to make a decision about whether to run for this office in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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