Howard Dean: Economy to Be a Big Issue

The Iraq war will remain a big issue across the country, but the economy will overtake it over the next few months as the voters' top concern, says Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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The Iraq war will remain a big issue across the country, but the economy will overtake it over the next few months as the voters' top concern, says Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

"The economy is really alarming a lot of Americans," he says, noting that people are afraid of losing their homes and their jobs. In a year-end interview with U.S. News, he added that the party of an incumbent president usually pays a severe price when the economy goes bad—and that's what will happen to the Republicans in next year's election.

Overall, Dean says, "The country wants a new direction and has seen the Republicans are not going to supply it."

He says the DNC will be very aggressive in trying to frame the debate next year and will do all it can to define the GOP presidential nominee—on Democratic terms—through advertising, media interviews, and speeches by prominent Democrats across the country. He pledges a very aggressive campaign to create a "clear bright line," criticizing the GOP candidate and promoting the Democratic nominee.

That's exactly what the Republicans are planning to do, in reverse. So it should be a real donnybrook as soon as both nominees are decided, probably in January or February.

But Dean promises: "We'll define them before they define us." Dean also says that the low approval ratings of the Democratic-controlled Congress don't mean that voters will turn back to the GOP in November 2008. The party chairman says antiwar Democrats are frustrated with Congress because their legislators failed to force Bush to end the Iraq war. But they will never vote for the GOP. Also, he says, many Americans now realize that the Republicans are obstructionists who are toeing the line for their president. In the end, Dean predicts, "People know Bush is the problem" and will elect more Democrats and a Democratic president to get enough support in Congress to end the war and carry out the party's domestic agenda.

--Kenneth T. Walsh