An early front-runner in the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, Dean denounced the 2003 invasion of Iraq and called on Democrats to more strongly oppose the Bush Administration. Dean showed strong fundraising ability, and was a pioneer of political fundraising via the internet; however, he eventually lost the nomination to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Dean formed the organization Democracy for America and later was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee in February 2005.
Howard's father worked at Dean Witter; the family was quite wealthy, Republican, and belonged to the exclusive Maidstone Golf Club in East Hampton. As a child he spent much of his time growing up in East Hampton; the family built a house on Hook Pond there in the mid-1950s. There the boys Howard, Charlie, Jim and Bill "rode bikes, played with a model train set, [and] built elaborate underground forts." While in New York, the family had a three-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side part of Park Avenue, where Dean still sometimes stays.
Howard attended the Browning School in Manhattan until he was 13, then went to St. George's School, a preparatory school in Middletown, Rhode Island. In September 1966, he attended Felsted School, UK for one school year after winning an English Speaking Union scholarship.
Political opponents have been reluctant to seize upon Dean's privileged early life. UPI quoted one of Dean's friends in his youth as saying "By Hamptons standards, the Deans were not rich. No safaris in Africa or chalets in Switzerland. Howard's father went to work every day. He didn't own a company, or have a father or grandfather who founded one, as mine did. Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "he doesn't seem like a WASP. I know it's not nice to deal in stereotypes, but there seems very little Thurston Howell, III, or George Bush, the elder, for that matter, in Mr. Dean...He seems unpolished, doesn't hide his aggression, is proudly pugnacious. He doesn't look or act the part of the WASP...It will be harder for Republicans to tag Mr. Dean as Son of the Maidstone Club than it was for Democrats to tag Bush One as Heir to Greenwich Country Day. He just doesn't act the part.
Unless you operated from a stereotypic understanding of the Yale white boy as rich, you wouldn't know that about Howard...When it came to race and I don't know whether this was a function of intent or just came naturally Howard was not patronizing in any way. He was willing to confront in discussion what a lot of white students weren't. He would hold his ground. He would respect that I knew forty-two million times more about being black than he did. But that didn't mean he couldn't hold a view on something relating to civil rights that would be as valid as mine. There were lots of well-meaning people at Yale who wanted you to understand that they understood your plight; you'd get into a conversation and they would yield too soon, so we didn't get the full benefit of the exchange. Howard very much thought he was capable of working an issue through. He was inquisitive. And when he came to a conclusion he would be as strong as anybody else. I don't think he's stubborn. He's a guy who's always been comfortable in his own skin. That's something you still see in him today, and it gets him into some degree of controversy.At Yale, Dean was a member of the Zeta Psi fraternity. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1971.
Though eventually eligible to be drafted into the military, he received a deferment for an unfused vertebra.He spent the next year skiing in Colorado as he explained to Tim Russert on MTP, " I was really in no hurry to join the military" . He briefly tried a career as a stock broker before deciding on a career in medicine, completing pre-medicine classes at Columbia University. In 1974, Dean's younger brother Charlie, who had been traveling through southeast Asia at the time, was captured and killed by Laotian guerrillas, a tragedy widely reported to have an enormous influence in Dean's life; he wore his brother's belt every day of his presidential campaign.
Though he was raised an Episcopalian, Dean joined the United Church of Christ in 1982 after a dispute with the local Episcopal diocese over a bike trail (see below). By his own account, he does not attend church "very often"; at one point, when asked to name his favorite book in the New Testament, he offered the Old Testament Book of Job, then corrected himself an hour later. Dean has stated he is more "spiritual" than religious. He and his wife have raised their two children, Anne and Paul, in Judaism.
A personal finance statement filed for his presidential campaign put the couple's net worth between US$2.2 and $5 million.
On August 14, 1991, Dean was examining a patient when he received word that then-Governor Richard A. Snelling had died of a heart attack while Snelling was cleaning his own swimming pool. Dean assumed the office, which he called the "greatest job in Vermont." He was subsequently elected to five two-year terms in his own right, making him the second longest-serving governor in Vermont's history. From 1994 to 1995, Dean was the chairman of the National Governors Association.
Dean was faced with an economic recession and a $60 million budget deficit. He bucked many in his own party to immediately push for a balanced budget (Vermont is the only state whose constitution does not require one), an act which marked the beginning of a record of fiscal restraint. During his tenure as governor, the state paid off much of its debt, balanced its budget eleven times, raised its bond rating, and lowered income taxes twice.
Dean also focused on health care issues, most notably through the "Dr. Dynasaur" program, which ensures near-universal health coverage for children and pregnant women in the state; the uninsured rate in Vermont dropped from 12.7% to 9.6% under his watch. Child abuse and teen pregnancy rates were cut roughly in half.
By far the most controversial decision of his career, and the first to draw serious national attention came in 2000, when the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state's marriage laws unconstitutionally excluded same-sex couples and ordered that the state legislature either allow gays and lesbians to marry or create a parallel status. Facing calls to amend the state constitution to prohibit either option, Dean chose to support the latter one, and signed the nation's first civil unions legislation into law, spurring a short-lived "Take Back Vermont" movement which helped Republicans gain control of the State House.
Dean would receive some criticism during his 2004 presidential campaign for another decision related to civil unions. Shortly before leaving office, he had some of his Vermont papers sealed for at least the next decade, a timeframe longer than most outgoing governors use. He claimed he was protecting the privacy of many gay supporters who sent him personal letters about the issue. On the campaign trail, he demanded that Vice President Dick Cheney release his energy committee papers. Many people, including then-Democratic Senator and failed 2004 presidential candidate Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who left the party after losing his primary for re-election in 2006, accused Dean of hypocrisy. Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit to force the papers be opened before the seal expired, but lost.
As governor, Dean was endorsed by the National Rifle Association several times, furthering his moderate image; though he is not a member of the NRA.
Dean began his bid for President as a "long shot" candidate. ABC News ranked him eighth out of 12 in a list of potential presidential contenders in May 2002. In March 2003 he gave a Howard Dean's speech of March 15, 2003 strongly critical of the Democratic leadership at the California State Democratic Convention that attracted the attention of grassroots party activists and set the tone and the agenda of his candidacy. It began with the line: "What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq?
That summer, his campaign was featured as the cover article in The New Republic and in the following months he received expanded media attention. His campaign slowly gained steam, and by autumn of 2003, Dean had become the apparent frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, performing strongly in most polls and outpacing his rivals in fundraising. This latter feat was attributed mainly to his innovative embrace of the Internet for campaigning, and the majority of his donations came from individual Dean supporters, who came to be known as Deanites, or, more commonly, Deaniacs. (Critics often labeled them "Deany Boppers", or "Deanie Babies", a reference to his support from young activists.)
During his presidential campaign, conservative critics labeled Dean's political views as those of an extreme liberal. Many left-wing critics who supported fellow Democrat Dennis Kucinich or independent Ralph Nader charged that, at heart, Dean was a "Rockefeller Republican" socially liberal, while fiscally conservative.
Dean's approach organizationally was also novel. His campaign made extensive use of the Internet, pioneering techniques that were subsequently adopted by politicians of all political persuasions. His supporters organized real-world meetings, many of them arranged through Meetup.com, participated in online forums, donated money online, canvassed for advertising ideas, and distributed political talking points. In terms of money, publicity and activism, Dean therefore quickly staked out a leadership position in the field of candidates. In this way, he was able to bypass existing party and activist infrastructure and built his own online network of supporters. In terms of traditional "ground troops", however, Dean remained at a disadvantage. Dean adopted a coffee shop strategy to visit grassroot activists in all 99 Iowa counties, but he lacked the campaign infrastructure to get voters to the polls that his opponents had.
In the "invisible primary" of raising campaign dollars, Howard Dean led the Democratic pack in the early stages of the 2004 campaign. Among the candidates, he ranked first in total raised ($25.4 million as of September 30, 2003) and first in cash-on-hand ($12.4 million). However, even this performance paled next to that of George W. Bush, who by that date had raised $84.6 million for the Republican primary campaign, in which he had no real challenger. Prior to the 2004 primary season, the Democratic record for most money raised in one quarter by a primary candidate was held by Bill Clinton in 1995, raising $10.3 million during a campaign in which he had no primary opponent. In the third quarter of 2003, the Dean campaign raised $14.8 million, shattering Clinton's record. All told, Dean's campaign raised around $50 million.
While presidential campaigns have traditionally obtained finance by tapping wealthy, established political donors, Dean's funds came largely in small donations over the Internet; the average overall donation size was just under $80. This method of fundraising offered several important advantages over traditional fundraising, in addition to the inherent media interest in what was then a novelty. First, raising money on the Internet was relatively inexpensive, compared to conventional methods such as events, telemarketing, and direct mail campaigns. Secondly, as donors on average contributed far less than the legal limit ($2,000 per individual), the campaign could continue to resolicit them throughout the election season.
Dean's director of grassroots fundraising, Larry Biddle, came up with the idea of the popular fundraising "bat", an image of a cartoon baseball player and bat which appeared on the site every time the campaign launched a fundraising challenge. The bat encouraged Web site visitors to contribute money immediately through their credit cards. This would lead to the bat filling up like a thermometer with the red color indicating the total funds. The site often took suggestions from the netroots on their blog. One of these suggestions led to one of the campaigns biggest accomplishments an image of Dean eating a turkey sandwich encouraged supporters to donate $250,000 in three days to match a big-donor dinner by Vice President Dick Cheney. The online contributions from that day matched what Cheney made from his fundraiser.
In November 2003, after a much-publicized online vote among his followers, Dean became the first Democrat to forgo federal matching funds (and the spending limits that go with them) since the system was established in 1974. (John Kerry later followed his lead.) In addition to state-by-state spending limits for the primaries, the system limits a candidate to spending only $44.6 million until the Democratic National Convention in July, which sum would almost certainly run out soon after the early primary season. (George W. Bush declined federal matching funds in 2000 and did so again for the 2004 campaign.)
In a sign that the Dean campaign was starting to think beyond the primaries, they began in late 2003 to speak of a "$100 revolution" in which 2 million Americans would give $100 in order to compete with Bush.
Political commentators have claimed that the fundraising of presidential candidate Barack Obama, with its emphasis on small donors and the internet, has refined and built upon on the model that Dean's campaign pioneered.
Though Dean lagged in early endorsements, he acquired many critical ones as his campaign snowballed. By the time of the Iowa caucuses, he led among commitments from superdelegates elected officials and party officers entitled to convention votes by virtue of their positions. On November 12, 2003, he received the endorsements of the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Dean received the endorsement of former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore, on December 9, 2003. In the following weeks Dean was endorsed by former U.S. senators Bill Bradley and Carol Moseley Braun, unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidates from the 2000 and 2004 primaries, respectively.
Other high-profile endorsers included:
Dean, who had been suffering with a severe bout of the flu for several days, attended a post-caucus rally for his volunteers at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines, Iowa and delivered his concession speech, aimed at cheering up those in attendance. Dean was shouting over the cheers of his enthusiastic audience, but the crowd noise was being filtered out by his unidirectional microphone, leaving only his full-throated exhortations audible to the television viewers. To those at home, he seemed to raise his voice out of sheer emotion. Additionally, Dean began his speech with a flushed-red face, clenching his teeth as he rolled up his sleeves.
According to a Newsday Editorial written by Verne Gay, some members of the television audience criticized the speech as loud, peculiar, and unpresidential. In particular, this quote from the speech was aired repeatedly in the days following the caucus:
Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York ... And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yeah!
Senator Harkin was on stage with Dean, holding his suit jacket. This final "Yeah!", with its unusual tone that Dean later said was due to the cracking of his hoarse voice, has become known in American political jargon as the "Dean Scream".
Dean conceded that the speech did not project the best image, jokingly referring to it as a "crazy, red-faced rant" on the Late Show with David Letterman. In an interview later that week with Diane Sawyer, he said he was "a little sheepish ... but I'm not apologetic". Sawyer and many others in the national broadcast news media later expressed some regret about overplaying the story. In fact, CNN issued a public apology and admitted in a statement that they indeed may have "overplayed" the incident. The incessant replaying of the "Dean Scream" by the press became a debate on the topic of whether Dean was the victim of media bias. The scream scene was shown an estimated 633 times by cable and broadcast news networks in just four days following the incident, a number that does not include talk shows and local news broadcasts. However, those who were in the actual audience that day insist that they were not aware of the infamous "scream" until they returned to their hotel rooms and saw it on TV. Dean said after the general election in 2004 that his microphone only picked up his voice and did not also capture the loud cheering he received from the audience as a result of the speech. On January 27, 2004 Dean again suffered a defeat, finishing second to Kerry in the New Hampshire primary. As late as one week before the first votes were cast in Iowa's caucuses, Dean had enjoyed a 30% lead in New Hampshire opinion polls; accordingly, this loss represented another major setback to his campaign.
Iowa and New Hampshire were only the first in a string of losses for the Dean campaign, culminating in a third place showing in the Wisconsin primary on February 17, 2004. Two days before the Wisconsin primary, campaign advisor Steve Grossman "announced" through an article written by The New York Times Dean campaign correspondent Jodi Wilgoren that he would offer his services to any of the other major candidates "should Dean not win in Wisconsin". This "scoop" further undermined Dean's campaign. Grossman later issued a public apology. The next day, Dean announced that his candidacy had "come to an end", though he continued to urge people to vote for him, so that Dean delegates would be selected for the convention and could influence the party platform. He later won the Vermont primaries on Super Tuesday, March 2, 2004. This latter victory, a surprise even to Dean, was due in part to the lack of a serious anti-Kerry candidate in Vermont (John Edwards had declined to put his name on the state's ballot, expecting Dean to win in a landslide), and in part to a television ad produced, funded, and aired in Vermont by grassroots Dean supporters.
On October 11, 2007 it was reported that Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney were in early talks about making a "political thriller" based on Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, tentatively titled Farragut North. The movie is based on a play of the same name, which is also the name of a Washington Metro station, by former Dean communications director Beau Wilmon. Wilmon went on to work as traveling press secretary for Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential campaign.
On March 18, 2004, Dean founded the group Democracy for America. This group was created to house the large, Internet-based organization Dean created for his presidential campaign. Its goal is to help like-minded candidates get elected to local, state and federal offices. It has endorsed several sets of twelve candidates known as the Dean Dozen. Dean turned over control of the organization to his brother, Jim Dean, when he became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Dean strongly urged his supporters to support Kerry as opposed to Ralph Nader, arguing that a vote for Nader would only help to re-elect President Bush because he believed that most who vote for Nader are likely to have voted for Kerry if Ralph Nader was not running. Dean argued that Nader would be more effective if he lobbied on election law reform issues during his campaign. Dean supported several election law reform issues such as campaign finance reform, and Instant Runoff Voting.
Dean was elected Chairman of the Democratic National Committee on February 12, 2005, after all his opponents dropped out of the race when it became apparent Dean had the votes to become Chair. Those opponents included former Congressman Martin Frost, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former Congressman and 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer, and strategists Donnie Fowler, David Leland, and Simon Rosenberg. Other prominent Democrats considered running but ultimately declined.
Many prominent Democrats opposed Dean's campaign; House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid are rumored to be among them. Dean satisfied his critics by promising to focus on fundraising and campaigning as DNC Chair, and avoid policy statements.
Dean's strategy uses a post-Watergate model taken from the Republicans of the mid-seventies. Working at the local, state and national level, the GOP built the party from the ground up. Dean's plan is to seed the local level with young and committed candidates, building them into state candidates in future races. Dean has traveled extensively throughout the country with the plan, including places like Utah, Mississippi, and Texas, states in which Republicans have dominated the political landscape. Many establishment Democrats were at least initially dubious about the strategy's worth--political consultant and former Bill Clinton advisor Paul Begala suggested that Dean's plan was "just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose.
Further changes have been made in attempting to make the stated platform of the Democratic Party more coherent and compact. Overhauling the website, the official platform of the 2004 campaign, which was largely criticized as avoiding key issues and being the product of party insiders, was replaced with a simplified, though comprehensive categorizing of positions on a wide range of issues. This strategy paid off in a historic victory as the Democrats took over control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the 2006 mid-term elections. While it is likely this is also attributable to the shortcomings of the Republican Party in their dealings with the Iraq War and the scandals that occurred shortly before the election, Dean's emphasis on connecting with socially conservative, economic moderates in previous Republican states appears to have made some impact. Indeed, Democratic candidates won elections in such red states as Kansas, Indiana, and Montana. And while former Clinton strategist James Carville criticized Dean's efforts, saying more seats could have been won with the traditional plan of piling money solely into close races, the results and the strategy were met with tremendous approval by the party's executive committee in its December meeting.
The 50-state strategy relies on the idea that building the Democratic Party is at once an incremental election by election process as well as a long-term vision in party building. Democrats cannot compete in counties in which they do not field candidates. Therefore, candidate recruitment has emerged as a component element of the 50-state strategy.
To build the party, the DNC works in partnership with state Democratic parties in bringing the resources of the DNC to bear in electoral efforts, voter registration, candidate recruitment and other interlocking component elements of party building. Decentralization is also a core component of the party's approach. The idea is that each state party has unique needs, but can improve upon its efforts through the distribution of resources from the national party.
The 50-state strategy has been acknowledged by political commentators as an important factor in allowing Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential contest to compete against John McCain in traditionally red states.
|1982||VT House||Howard Dean||Democratic||596||66.4%||Timothy K. McKenzie||Citizens||300||33.4%|
|1984||VT House||Howard Dean||Democratic||1092||98.9%|
|1986||Lt. Gov.||Susan Auld||Republican||84,413||44.4%||Howard Dean||Democratic||99,929||52.5%|
|1988||Lt. Gov.||Howard Dean||Democratic||154,660||66.5%||Pan B. Zolotas||Republican||69,731||30.0%||Lisa Steckler||Liberty Union||7,952||3.4%|
|1990||Lt. Gov.||Howard Dean||Democratic||120,956||58.1%||Michael Bernhardt||Republican||80,706||38.7%|
|1992||Gov.||Howard Dean||Democratic||213,523||74.73%||John McClaughry||Republican||65,837||23.04%|
|1994||Gov.||Howard Dean||Democratic||145,661||68.6%||David F. Kelley||Republican||40,292||19.0%||Thomas J. Morse||Independent||15,000||7.0%|
|1996||Gov.||Howard Dean||Democratic||179,544||70.5%||John L. Gropper||Republican||57,161||22.4%|
|1998||Gov.||Howard Dean||Democratic||121,425||55.6%||Ruth Dwyer||Republican||89,726||41.1%|
|2000||Gov.||Howard Dean||Democratic||148,059||50.4%||Ruth Dwyer||Republican||111,359||37.9%||Anthony Pollina||Progressive||28,116||9.5%|