WASHINGTON – Howard Dean (search) said Tuesday he has the best chance of beating President Bush because he appeals to supporters of former independent candidates John McCain, Ross Perot and Ralph Nader as well as to Democratic Party faithful.
Dean said he believes his candidacy will energize millions of young people and independents who have been turned off by standard electoral politics.
"We've got to bring new people into the electoral process," Dean said in a Tuesday morning television interview. "We're going to say that to the people of Ralph Nader, ... people who voted for John McCain and Ross Perot. ... and that's the beginning of the coalition that I think can change the occupancy of the White House.
Dean was asked about his current high ride in the polls and his high-profile standing in the Democratic contest, evidenced by cover stories in major news magazines.
"All you can do is be who you are and say what you think," Dean replied when asked if he was vulnerable to the plight of the short-term political phenomenom who fails when the party caucuses and primaries arrive. "We have an enormous number of supporters," he said.
Asked about assertions by some of his opponents that his candidacy is doomed to failure, Dean said, "Well, I'm sure those guys wish it were a ticket to nowhere. But we're the only ones who can beat George Bush."
Dean repeated his oft-stated assertion that he, in contrast to such rivals as Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman (search), John Kerry and Bob Graham, offers a clear alternative to Bush.
"We opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning," he said, "so it turns out that the four Washington candidates all supported a war which turns out to be based on things that weren't so." President Bush's misstatement about Iraq seeking uranium (search) from Africa, made in last January's State of the Union address, hurt the administration's credibility, he said.
Dean also took issue with contentions that he represents too liberal a point of view to attract mainstream voters. "If balancing the budget means I'm too liberal, then call me liberal," he said.
He also said he thinks Bush has squandered much of the United States' goodwill around the world and said that needs to be changed.
"I supported the invasion of Afghanistan (search) but I think the president's job of trying to keep peace in both places is pretty dismal," he said. "... We're not going to be able to leave Iraq for many, many years, contrary to what the president has told us."
He charged that the administration's foreign policy has been based in part on "humiliating our friends" and said the country must go back to the "high moral purpose, as we used to have, when every other president except this one was in office."