Political scientist from Dean’s home state of Vermont can comment

Contact: Sarah Ray
June 20, 2003

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.?Middlebury College Professor of Political Science and Addison County Independent columnist Eric Davis is available to comment on Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont. Dean plans to officially announce his presidential candidacy on Church Street in Burlington on Monday, June 23, at 1 p.m.

Davis can comment on all aspects of Dean’s candidacy, including the campaign staff; Vermont civil unions bill; outlook for the primaries; campaign themes; and issues where Dean’s message has support, such as health care and the economy, or faces challenges, such as foreign policy. Davis has been interviewed about Dean numerous times by the media, including The New York Times, National Public Radio and WCAX-TV, the CBS affiliate in Vermont. An ISDN line is available for radio interviews and tapes of a local television news interview with Davis are available as well.

An expert on United States and Vermont politics, Davis’ areas of research include
congressional and presidential elections. He also writes a weekly column, “Politically Thinking,” for the Addison County Independent, a twice-weekly paper based in Addison County, Vt. He can be reached at ericd@middlebury.edu or 802-443-5871.

Davis points out that Dean is fond of saying, “I’m from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” a line he borrowed from the late Senator Paul Wellstone. In contrast, Davis recalls, “Dean and the word ‘liberal’ were never paired in Vermont. Dean frequently relied on the support of Republicans in the Vermont Statehouse to pass his legislation. For now the national press has labeled Dean liberal, but it may start to point out this discrepancy as the campaign continues.

“Dean is modeling his grassroots campaign on Carter’s 1976 campaign. He has visited Carter, read books about the Carter campaign and talked with Carter campaign operatives,” said Davis.

“Dean has several advantages-he has no job, as do the other candidates, so he’s free to campaign all the time and is practically living in Iowa. With his campaign headquarters in Burlington, Vt., he also positions himself as the outsider since he’s one of only a few Democratic candidates who hasn’t worked in Washington. With the exception of George Bush, Sr., the last three candidates to win the presidency were all former governors, as is Dean,” added Davis.

According to Davis, voters interested in Dean should pay attention to polls taken in the states where he’s been campaigning for primaries. National polls measuring his recognition among voters are not a valid test of his appeal since campaigns outside primary states are not underway.

Noting that a short primary season will demand large sums of money, Davis points out that the next Democratic candidate must raise $200 million by January 1 to be considered a serious contender to Bush, who spent $175 million in the last campaign and is expected to spend $300 million in 2004. Davis notes that Dean’s success in fundraising to date has surprised some, but whether or not he can raise money at this level is a question.

“Another question for Dean is whether or not he can appeal to black Southern voters, a group that the Democratic presidential candidate can’t succeed without, since white Southerners are among the most loyal of Republican voters.”

If Dean succeeds in capturing the Democratic nomination, will he be the next Barry Goldwater or George McGovern? “Karl Rove could paint Dean as an extremist and claim that Dean is not in touch with mainstream America. It could be 1964 or 1972 all over again,” said Davis.

Davis received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brown University, and his doctorate from Stanford University. He joined the Middlebury College faculty in 1980.