Dean speaks of presidential campaign mistakes

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(Host) Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean says his presidential campaign was hampered by inexperience and key tactical mistakes.

Dean who now heads the Democratic National Committee made his comments during a panel discussion yesterday evening at the University of Vermont.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) Monday’s discussion was entitled “The Media and the Public Trust: the Making and Breaking of Political Heroes.” It provided Dean with an appropriate topic and a friendly audience for his analysis of what went wrong in his presidential campaign. In the past, Dean has been reluctant to dissect his 2004 candidacy.

He says the so-called Iowa scream wasn’t the reason his campaign faltered. Instead, Dean says the biggest problem was lack of experience – his own as a national candidate, and his campaign’s – as he became the Democratic frontrunner.

(Dean) “Had I been much more experienced, I think we would have withstood the barrage. But we simply weren’t prepared. We came up so fast that we weren’t able to make the adjustment.”

(Zind) Dean says he made a key tactical mistake by failing to recognize that he had to make a transition in the voters’ minds from political rebel to presidential material.

(Dean) “In order to get voted for President, people have to see you as President. I never really was able to successfully shift gears from the willingness to challenge the establishment, which got us there in the first place, to a mode where people were able to see me as President of the United States. You have to be able to do that or else people are not going to be President of the United States.”

(Zind) Despite the intense media attention and the bitter partisanship of some political campaigns, Dean refrained from pointing fingers. He said as difficult as it may be for candidates, the process for selecting a president works pretty well.

(Dean) “And the reason it’s not a bad process, as tough as it is, as ugly as it is, if you want to be the head of the free world, then you probably ought to go through a pretty grueling process. As Gary Hart once said to me, no wimps ever get to be President of the United States.”

(Zind) The journalists and political consultants on the panel credited Dean’s campaign for being the first to effective use the Internet to create a nationwide grassroots political campaign. But they pointed out that the Internet also hurt Dean by continuously recycling and magnifying an event like the Iowa scream until even the mainstream press was forced to give it extensive coverage.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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