Terry McAuliffe on Gore's Endorsement of Dean

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Dec. 10, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.


HOWARD DEAN (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you guys are upset about Al Gore's endorsing me. Attack me, don't attack Al Gore. Al Gore (search) worked too hard in 2000 to lose that election when he really didn't lose the election. He got 500,000 votes more than George Bush. And I don't think he deserves to be attacked by anybody up here.


JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, GUEST HOST: Oh, the old wars are being waged again. Al Gore's decision to endorse Howard Dean (search) unleashing a firestorm within the Democratic Party. For one thing, Gore made it crystal clear that he thinks the party needs to head in a new direction. Hmm. Terry McAuliffe (search) is chairman of the Democratic National Committee (search). And that's today's big question, Mr. Chairman. Is Al Gore sending a pointed message to Clinton Democrats and to you?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I don't think Al Gore is sending any other message than that he wants to beat George Bush 2004. I think Al Gore, as much as the rest of us, wants to make sure that a Democrat is in the White House in 2005.

Listen, he said he would endorse a candidate. He said he would probably endorse a candidate in December. He did just that. He and, as you know, Howard Dean agree on the war, on their stance on the war. And he went out and endorsed him. I wouldn't read too much. Every time Gore's name comes up, you don't have to mention Clinton and vice versa. He has nothing to do with it.

NAPOLITANO: I want to mention Clinton, because I want the chairman's views.

MCAULIFFE: Of course, it's FOX.

NAPOLITANO: I want the chairman's views on this, Terry, and you know that.


NAPOLITANO: There is a theory that a lot of people adhere to that if Howard Dean loses in '04, the nomination is up for grabs in '08 and is likely to be Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton versus former Vice President Al Gore. Is he trying to get a leg up on that race, that potential race by supporting Howard Dean today?

MCAULIFFE: Well, first of all, I am going to make this easy for you, Judge. We are going to win in 2004. My job as chairman of the DNC is to win the election in 2004. And I have told Hillary Clinton, and I will tell Vice President Gore and everybody else that if you want to run for president, that's great, but your shot is going to be 2012, because we will be re-electing a president in 2008. You can't read too much into this. And I know this is FOX News and you are selling your Ann Coulter dolls and all that ...

NAPOLITANO: No, no, no, we're not selling Ann Coulter dolls.

MCAULIFFE: Well, I saw the ad. I thought it was spectacular, for 29 bucks I could have a doll of Ann Coulter or Don Rumsfeld.

NAPOLITANO: All right, what is in this for Al Gore? Why did he do this now? Look, you saw the debate last night. Half of it was about the significance of the endorsement. And obviously, it was quite divisive amongst the other eight candidates, each of whom want to be the head of your party come next November.

MCAULIFFE: That's right.

NAPOLITANO: Why did he do it and why did he do it now? What's in it for him?

MCAULIFFE: Well, the only thing I can tell you is he has consistently said for the last year that he would endorse a candidate. He told me and others that he would probably endorse a candidate in December. And I think he looked at the field and I think he has seen what Howard Dean has done on the grassroots activism, saw what he has done on the Internet, and really agreed with him on his stance on the war in Iraq. And, you know what? He wanted to make his decision. He went out and did it.

But, you know, I agree with all the other candidates last night. Let's not read too much into these endorsements. We haven't had one vote yet, the 19th of January will be Iowa, the 27th will be New Hampshire. You know, we still have the primaries and caucuses to go into. It was very significant. Getting Al Gore's endorsement was a big, big deal. Al Gore's background on national security and other issues, I think helped tremendously.

NAPOLITANO: Terry, all of the candidates last night except for Howard Dean tried to pooh-pooh getting the endorsement. They would all kill to get it, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they all loved to have had it?

MCAULIFFE: Everybody would have loved to have the former vice president. Listen, Al Gore, as you know, actually won the last election. He got 500,000 more votes than George Bush.

NAPOLITANO: But he didn't win the election, he won the popular vote. We won't go through that debate again.

MCAULIFFE: Well, if you are going to discount the 125,000 votes in Florida.

NAPOLITANO: OK, is the Democratic Party in a state of disarray because of the angst and frustration caused by this early endorsement by Al Gore?


NAPOLITANO: Listen to Joe Lieberman, he's furious. Listen to John Edwards. He is saying this shouldn't have happened. Listen to Al Sharpton. He is saying this is bossism. What is happening to the Democratic Party because of this endorsement, Mr. Chairman?

MCAULIFFE: Well, some of the candidates were upset because the vice president did say he would like to narrow down the field. I'm a big believer — we have a new calendar this time. We have a calendar that is going to get us an early nominee. Let's let the voters in these states determine who should be in and who should be out. We shouldn't be getting people out of the race until we've had the first contest.

People shouldn't get out just based on polling numbers. I just finished up our sixth presidential debate that we had and everyone was calling me saying, “You've got to limit the field.” Well, you know, if I limited the field six months ago, Howard Dean wouldn't have been in the debate.

NAPOLITANO: Should you limit the field now only to those who are realistic candidates? Should Carol Moseley-Braun, and Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich really be taking time and, as Dick Morris would say, sucking air from the serious candidates that have the financial wherewithal to make it?

MCAULIFFE: We will have Iowa and New Hampshire, and then as you know, we open up our calendar on February 3. We have seven states. So by the morning of February 4, if you haven't won one of the nine contests around the country, at that point, I think you have to seriously look at your candidacy.

NAPOLITANO: Before I let you go, we just have a few seconds. Will you be chairman of the Democratic National Committee after November 2004?

MCAULIFFE: I have no intentions of running for this job again. I have five little children at home. I don't take any pay for this job and I'm gone six days a week. I will serve until the February '05 meeting. I've served my four years. Twenty-five years of service to this party. I've loved it, but it's time for someone else to come in.

NAPOLITANO: OK, Terry McAuliffe, chairman of he Democratic National Committee.

MCAULIFFE: Thank you, Judge. Nice to be with you.

NAPOLITANO: Great to be with you, Terry.

MCAULIFFE: All right, bye.

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