DES MOINES, Iowa – Presidential hopeful and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said Tuesday that Democrats have to stick to their ideals and not just offer themselves as a more moderate version of President Bush.
Dean, a doctor-turned-politician, spoke to supporters during a trip to Iowa, where precinct caucuses launch the presidential nominating season.
"Democrats have to stop pretending they're like Republicans if they're going to change things,'' he said. "My problem with the Democratic Party is that folks in the Beltway have concluded that the way to win the presidency is to be 'Bush light.'''
The only announced candidate for the Democratic nomination, Dean said his focus is on social justice, including education and health care reform.
"We have to focus on building the community and stressing the fact that we have a responsibility to each other ... and not focusing on rugged individualism as the president seems to,'' he said.
He has criticized Bush's tax cuts and urged that they be rolled back to help pay for expanded health care.
The governor, who steps down next month after 11 years, said lack of a national fund-raising network and national name recognition are disadvantages. But he said he isn't worried, comparing his campaign to those of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
"I'm about where Bill Clinton was at this time in the '92 election,'' Dean said. "I'm starting to raise some more serious money.''