Dean Gives Mixed Signals on VP

Howard Dean (search) offered mixed signals Friday on whether he would consider a vice presidential spot on the 2004 Democratic ticket if his presidential campaign falters.

Asked by a Milwaukee radio station whether he would accept the vice presidential nomination, Dean said he would to the extent it would help beat President Bush. But when asked later if his comments meant he would consider the second spot on the ticket, the former Vermont governor replied, "No, I've got to win first."

Dean campaign spokesman Jay Carson (search) said Dean's remarks should not be interpreted to mean he is considering the vice presidency.

"He's simply saying that he would do whatever is best for the Democratic Party to beat President Bush in 2004," Carson said. "He's always said he'll do whatever it takes to beat President Bush."

His presidential hopes pinned on Wisconsin, Dean continued to court the state's voters Friday, touting his health care plan at a round-table with nursing students and asking voters to consider whether they want to "fundamentally change America." He said Thursday in an e-mail to supporters that Wisconsin is critical and if he loses the state, he will be out of the race.

He also took at veiled swipe at front-runner John Kerry (search) and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search), complaining that politicians in Washington are all talk and no action.

"I'm tired of the Washington talk. I'm here to get things done," he told the audience.

Dean has turned all his attention to Wisconsin ahead of the state's Feb. 17 Democratic presidential primary, saying winning the state is crucial in his effort to catch Kerry.

Dean also spent time with about 20 patrons at an Alterra coffee shop Friday morning.

"He's losing big time, but yeah, I support him," said Juan Carlos Ruiz, of Milwaukee, at the coffee shop. He said Dean can challenge the Democratic Party to carry out its true mission and that Dean "has been good to Latinos."

"I believe he has integrity, vision and leadership quality that America should follow," Ruiz said.

Paul Szeflinski talked with Dean about tax burdens, health insurance issues and global competition he faces as a small business owner in Milwaukee.

"He understands the obstacles we are facing," Szeflinski said after the chat.

But he is undecided if he'll vote for Dean. The Friday's campaign stop was as much for the media — making up about half the people in the coffee shop — as for the voters, he said.

"If they would have turned off the cameras and we would sit down, then we may get a better idea."

Dean said in the e-mail distributed Thursday that Wisconsin was critical as he tries to overcome Kerry in the race for the nomination.

Dean's campaign raised more than $900,000 as of Friday afternoon from the campaign e-mail and plans to start running new ads by Monday, said Mike Spahn, Dean's Wisconsin campaign spokesman.