As Paulie Brading noted Friday, DNC chairman Howard Dean made a swing through Portland last week, rocking the house at Lewis and Clark College, energizing local party chairs, and even spending ten minutes talking to local bloggers. In this case, Kari and me. Ten minutes sounds like a short time until you start doing the math, and then you see that he'd have to bend time to talk to everyone who'd like their own ten minutes. So we tried to keep it pointed and direct, and Dean, the old pro, gave meaty answers. We transcribed his responses, and some excerpts are below.
With the Pew Research findings about how popular universal health care is among the electorate fresh in my mind, I asked Dean why he thought it wasn't playing a bigger role in the general campaign.
"Well, it’s only been a week since the Republican Convention, and all the Republicans want to talk about is lipstick. Barack spent this week talking about education. I think over the next couple weeks you’re going to see a very significant focus on health care and other issues that people care about. Barack is determined to run a campaign about issues that matter, and not to give into the Republicans. The Republicans don’t want to talk about John McCain, because John McCain is basically a guy with 170 lobbyists on staff, and is a guy from the generations past. So they’re going to do everything they can to avoid talking about John McCain. Whether it’s about Palin or lipstick or whatever else. Barack wants to stick to the issues, so health care is definitely going to be a big piece of the campaign. He wants to do education and he spent this week doing that, and in the next couple weeks you’ll see an intense focus on health care."
You heard it here first: health care will be a major issue in the next couple weeks. Dean also added that he's a big fan of Obama's health care plan, and that as chairman, he's been asked to discuss it many times. He also added this final observation, which seems ad-ready: " I do think it’s going to be a big issue, because McCain voted against even children’s health care."
Just after the 2004 election, I was sitting in a pu bwith Kari, and he was musing on how Dems seemed to be missing an opportunity in the west. He looked at how Brian Schweitzer won in Montana by four points even while Kerry lost by 20. (By the end of the month, he'd founded Western Democrat.) Howard Dean, the incoming Chairman, also noticed this and launched his then-controversial fifty-state strategy. So we checked in with Dean on how the Western strategy was going.
"We’re ahead in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado right now. We think the road to the White House leads through the west, and if we win those three states, I think Barack Obama will be the next president. [Even] Montana is in play. We're only down two there."
He went on to point out that the Obama campaign is in tune with the fifty-state strategy.
"What Barack is trying to accomplish is something Bush willfully chose not to do. Barack wants to be president of all America, not just the half that agrees with him. The reason he’s adopted the fifty-state strategy is because he wants to be the president even of people who don’t agree with him so he can reunify the country. That’s what I find so refreshing, a candidate that wants to bring people together instead of what McCain is doing by driving them apart. So being a player in every region of the country matters: North Carolina, Virginia is in play, there’s the western states that we talked about that are in play—and that hasn’t happened for a long, long time. And I think that’s the kind of President Barack Obama will be, someone who cares about all the American people, not just those who agree with him."
I thought it was classy that Dean didn't blow his own horn about the fifty-state strategy, but let me make sure someone does: without that controversial plan, it's unlikely Dems would be in the Senate majority. The strategy is controversial no more and it's nice to see how congruent the party and the nominee are on this whole-nation approach.
Tomorrow I'll post the last part of the interview, where Dean talks about the US Senate race.