(Host) The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has decided to throw most of its resources into an effort to win the Wisconsin primary. Campaign Director Roy Neel says Dean must win Wisconsin in order to emerge as a viable alternative to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The phones are still ringing off the hook at the Burlington campaign headquarters of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. Dean’s failure to win any of the first nine primaries doesn’t seem to have dampened the spirit of dozens of workers in the office. In fact, there’s a growing optimism among many workers because recent fundraising efforts have exceeded their initial goals.
(Voice of campaign worker talking about fundraising.)
Since the New Hampshire primary, the Dean campaign has undergone some major changes. There’s a new campaign manager, Roy Neel, a long time aide to former Vice President Al Gore, has replaced Joe Trippi.
The campaign is also running low on money, despite raising more than $40 million in the last year. This fact has forced Neel to trim back the number of staff people around the country. Neel also decided against running any paid media spots in the seven states that held primaries this past Tuesday and the campaign will not advertise in three states holding their primaries this weekend.
The campaign has made a major strategic decision about its future. Neel says it’s going to wage an all out effort to win the Wisconsin primary on February 17, and this means throwing everything it has into this contest to show that Howard Dean can win a primary:
(Neel) “We obviously would have liked to have a big win in Iowa that would have propelled into a big win in New Hampshire, which didn’t happen. So we had to pick our spots and as we looked around the map clearly. Wisconsin seemed to us to be the best place to make our stand. We are convinced that not only do we have a great shot to win Wisconsin, but that turns this campaign on its head.”
(Kinzel) Neel is convinced that the campaign will have the money it needs to wage a strong effort in Wisconsin. Neel is thrilled that a fundraising e-mail letter sent out last night is generating a very strong response:
(Neel) “You can hardly imagine what’s happened to our fundraising overnight. The e-mail letter that you are referring to went out last night, where we reaffirmed our fight. Our stand in Wisconsin has already raised close to $300,000 in half a day, so this is phenomenal. And on that basis alone challenging our incredible base of donors across this country to help us make this fight, make this battle, make this successful in Wisconsin has just done an extraordinary thing. We’re going to have all the money we need to make the fight in Wisconsin.”
(Kinzel) In order to build unity within the Democratic party, a number of national officials are urging Dean to abandon his campaign if he doesn’t win any of this weekend’s primaries in Michigan, Washington and Maine. Neel says Howard Dean is ignoring this advice:
(Neel) “Those folks inside the beltway don’t call this race. It’s all the voters in all these primary states that elect delegates to the convention that elect a nominee, and it is way premature for anybody to be calling for anyone to be getting out of the race. I mean, I wouldn’t suggest that about say Wesley Clark or certainly John Edwards right now, and certainly not Howard Dean. I mean, sure, John Kerry would love to be able to talk his way into a coronation right now but that’s way premature. The country has not yet gotten to know John Kerry.”
(Kinzel) Neel says he’s convinced that Dean can win some of the major primaries on March 2 (so-called “Super Tuesday” when New York, California, and ten other states will be holding their elections) if Dean can emerge as the winner in Wisconsin on February 17.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.