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REPORTER: Olivia Rousset

CROWD: RAP SONG: ‘Denis Kucinich understands what we need to eliminat hate, poverty and greed.


With money in the system that’s already there, America will receive proper health care…

White house! (Crowd shouts) White House!

John… (All shout) Kerry! John… (All shout) Kerry!

Do we have any Deansters here? (All shout) Yeah.

Do we have any steelworkers here? (All shout) Yeah.

I say president, you say Dean. President… (All shout) Dean. President… (All shout) Dean.

I say Governor, your say Dean…

Downtown Des Moines, Iowa. The fight is about to begin to decide which Democrat will stand against George Bush in this year’s presidential election.

CROWD: The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

When the fair people of Iowa go to the polls, they will have nine Democrats to choose from.

CROWD: We want Dean!

While their supporters are outside shouting themselves hoarse, the candidates are slugging it out on a live television debate.

DEBATE: What priority would you give to the space program under your presidency?

MR.KUCINICH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all I’ve been wondering why the President would, while we’re still in Iraq, talk about going to the moon and going to Mars. Maybe he’s looking for the weapons of mass destruction still.

Next door to the debate is the spin room, where hundreds of journalists are waiting to see who is the first to stumble.

HOWARD DEAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We do have African American and Latino workers in the State Government.

MR SHARPTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, no, I said under your – you don’t have a single member of your cabinet who is black or Latino?

HOWARD DEAN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a senior member of our staff…



Of the eight men and one woman standing, the candidate copping the heat is Howard Dean, former governor of the tiny state of Vermont.

TELEVISION COMMERCIAL: He took classes at night to get into medical school, worked in an emergency room in the Bronx and with his wife Judy, Howard Dean became a family doctor hoping to make a difference one life at a time. He became governor under the worst of circumstances and earned a reputation as a maverick and an independent.

Dean seemingly came from nowhere just over a year ago to become the Democrat’s frontrunner. But over the next few weeks his political future is at stake as his popularity takes a roller-coaster ride. I decided to go behind the scenes of this maverick’s unusual campaign.

HOWARD DEAN: I’m Howard Dean and I approved this ad because the truth is the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine.

DEAN SUPPORTER 1: I think he offers a hope…

DEAN SUPPORTER 2: To be here and meet people who are involved in it and everything, it’s just an honour.

It’s supporters like these who catapulted Howard Dean to the leading position in the first place.

STACEY: We’re really excited to let people know what a wonderful candidate Howard Dean is and his vision for America and let them know that there is hope.

Stacey is a student from Seattle, Paul is a bookie from Baltimore, Clyde has come from San Francisco and thanks to Chris, they’re all lost. 2,500 of these so called Deanies have come from all across America to sell their man.

CLYDE: Governor Dean is by far the best candidate…

They’re part of a unique grassroots movement organised over the Internet that’s made them feel directly responsible for Dean’s success.

STACEY: When they said there were people coming from Tokyo I was like that’s it, I can’t – I don’t have any excuses, I’m in Seattle.

PAUL: If someone had said in June, that I would be doing anything like this had any involvement in a presidential campaign, I would have said they were crazy.

Despite their eagerness, this foursome fails to find a single Dean supporter. Perhaps this is an ominous sign that not everyone shares their enthusiasm for Howard Dean. Some of the biggest names in US politics have come here to endorse Dean.

MARTIN SHEEN: I’m so happy to come here in my capacity as the acting president of the United States.

CROWD: We want Dean, we want Dean, we want Dean.

Dean has sewn up a lot of celebrity endorsement, but his greatest test in the coming days and weeks will be whether or not he can win the support of the little people.

HOWARD DEAN: We are going to have some fun in the last five days but the fun has to end in victory. And the victory is not for the Dean campaign, the victory is for us because it is time to take our country back. Back from the special interests. You are going to see some tough campaigning, it is a tight race. You’re going to see people say everything. The folks in Washington have been there for a long, long time and they aren’t going to give up without a fight. But this is about change in America…

This is the heart of Dean’s appeal. His anti-establishment rhetoric pitting himself not only against George Bush, but all those in power.

HOWARD DEAN: We are going to take America back, you’re going to take America back…

Dean is known for saying what he thinks, a trait that has seen the media and his opponents label him as both gaff-prone and angry.

HOWARD DEAN: This is a rough campaign, and you know, people have said that I’m George McGovern and then they said I was Newt Gingrich and then one of them said I was George Bush. One of them today – then they spent the whole campaign telling you I was angry and today one of them said well that anger’s all fake. Truth is, this campaign’s not about anger. It’s about hope.

It’s Howard Dean’s outspokenness that first made him a household name. He was an asterisks in the polls until he made what was assumed to be an unpopular move at the time – he opposed the invasion of Iraq. Within months, Dean had raised more money than any of the other candidates. At the end of the rally I joined the rest of the press pack on the people-powered express – a convoy of three buses that will spend the next five days following Dean’s every move.

REPORTER: So it’s your first time you’ve seen Dean, what did you think?

PHILIP GOUREVITCH, CORRESPONDENT: I think he’s a great showman. And that’s a huge thing.

Philip Gourevitch is an author and correspondent for the ‘New Yorker’ magazine.

REPORTER: He didn’t really seem to say much, he said, you know, he said what did he say? He said he was against special interests, he was against the old school in Washington.

PHILIP GOUREVITCH: Everybody’s against Washington. Everybody’s against special interests.

REPORTER: So is there anything there that surprised you, that felt new, besides his performance?

PHILIP GOUREVITCH: I don’t know. That’s a good question. Um… no.

Iowa and New Hampshire are the only states where candidates can physically reach every single voter. Everywhere is else is too big, it happens too fast and the whole process is filtered through a television camera.

JOE TRIPPI, CAMPAIGN MANAGER: You know, there’s something about somebody, some group of people being able to actually hear what they’re all saying and not with anyone telling them what the think.

Joe Trippi is the wizard behind the Dean campaign, the first campaign manager to harness the power of the Internet. And he loves an underdog.

JOE TRIPPI: There has to be some part of the process where a guy with no money who no-one’s ever heard of still has an opportunity to become president of the United States. And actually, there’s a lot of history that says that’s really what the American people want.

Dean started cooking pancakes for potential voters nearly two years ago.

SISTER 1: He didn’t support the Iraq war, which is very important to me. He connects with regular people…

These sisters travelled from Ohio and California just to see Dean speak.

SISTER 2: This is why I’m fighting so hard. I want a better America for my grandkids.

By the time this is over, I will have been to 13 towns, had countless styrofoam packed meals. And listened to the same speech again and again.

HOWARD DEAN: This is about Washington insiders versus a campaign built on shoe leather, and mouse pads as we call it. This election is about power. The truth is the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine. And that is exactly what we’re gonna do.

Like all the other Democrats who hope to stand against George Bush, Dean has a serious message. The Republican Party now has control of the White House and both houses of Congress. If the Democrats lose this year’s presidential election, it’s likely the Republicans will also gain complete control of the courts.

PHILIP GOUREVITCH: When these guys say there’s something at stake and when you sort of look at this and just think it’s like bizarre theatre, you should remember that like a lot is at stake and a lot is at stake for Americans,a lot is at stake for Democrates, a lot is at stake for Republicans, a lot is at stake for the world as a result and that’s what makes it sort of like kind of fabulous to watch like you know people in funny hats with balloons deciding those things.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Oh Paul, Howard Dean here, how are you? Great look, I’ll great right to the point…

Dean’s tendency to lose his temper when criticised has made him fine fodder for comedy programs like Saturday Night Live.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: Alright, understand. But can I make one request? Since you’re obviously so hot for John Kerry, why don’t you just go (Bleep)

Several national magazines have even questioned Dean’s electability. At this stage, his fieriness and candour could either be his downfall or the key to his success.

JOE TRIPPI: What’s your price? How big a tax cut you want, baby?

As the man running the show, Joe Trippi is prepared to take his chances. He’s a veteran of five presidential campaigns and one of the country’s most experienced political operators.

JOE TRIPPI: We’re going to run the campaign we’re running and we’ve been doing it this way from the beginning. Everybody says well Jesus isn’t that risky? It might be risky. You’re not going to beat George Bush without taking risks and we’ve always run sort of a bold, different, risky campaign. We’re gonna get back to that and do it.

But at the moment, the risks aren’t paying off. The polls show Dean’s ratings are in decline. His team is anxious to prevent him from doing himself any harm, so now there are few opportunities for the press to get close to Howard Dean.

PHILIP GOUREVITCH: We are stopping at Dairy Queen in an unidentified town in the night of Iowa, the where only photographers will be allowed to descend from these highly secured press buses in order to photograph the candidate, governor Howard Dean, procuring ice cream which he will then bring personally on to each bus of disgruntled press and distribute it to us, although on this bus almost everybody seems to be from France so they won’t vote.

REPORTER: Now Philip, why are the press disgruntled?

PHILIP GOUREVITCH: The press are disgruntled because they’ve been driving for 4.5 hours without a glimpse of the man.

REPORTER: So Dean’s not even in there?

MAN: No. There’s people standing behind the counter on the side of the counter, in front of the counter, they’re all just press standing around looking at each other.

JOURNALIST: What’s your favourite kind of ice cream, sir?

HOWARD DEAN: Actually it’s a vanilla soft ice cream cone. You guys just miss add big scoop. Anne Richards just announced her endorsement on Larry King Live. She said if I had the opportunity to vote in any state, and I will vote in Texas, I’ll vote for Howard Dean.

Tomorrow, the polls will put Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts well ahead of Dean.

FOX NEWS REPORT: Dean could be very, very harmed if he doesn’t win. His enthusiasm right now seems to lack the enthusiasm, the kind of size of crowds he used to be getting…

To top it all off, John Kerry’s campaign just staged a media coup. They brought out a man whose life Kerry saved during the Vietnam War.

FOX NEWS REPORT: John Kerry himself reached into the water, pulled Rassman out, rescued him. Rassman came to Iowa today to say that John Kerry saved his life.

Dean knows he’s in trouble. So a day before the caucus he pulls out what he hopes will be his trump card – his reluctant wife.

JUDY DEAN: For those who might be wondering, my name is Judy Dean.

HOWARD DEAN: Let me tell you how we’re going to beat George Bush.

CROWD: With a stick.

On the eve of the caucus, the polls still predict a win by Kerry, with Senator John Edwards from North Carolina in second place. Dean is already being consigned to history.

CROSSFIRE,CNN: This is really one of the most influential campaigns in modern American presidential politics and they deserve credit for that. It is amazing, it will be studied for a long time. The only thing missing was a better candidate.

It’s caucus day, there’s nothing the candidates can do but wait for the citizens of Iowa to make up their minds. Across the state, one of the most remarkable fixtures of American democracy is about to kick off. Here in the small town of Van Meter, a hundred or so Democrats have gathered near a school cafeteria to choose their preferred candidate.

REPORTER: What’s this turnout like?

VOTER: Oh, it’s good. Well it’s great, great, great. This is 10 times more than what the people last time was here. Yeah, really. Because everybody’s mad at Bush, so it’s time for him to go.

Everyone here is against Bush, but not everyone knows which Democrat to vote for. Mary is one of a few in the undecided camp.

MARY: I was for Dean, and then I was for John Kerry, and then I thought oh dear, I kind of like Edwards. And then I’m thinking today I’m back to Dean.

Luckily for Mary the campaigning at a caucus continues until the bitter end. Unlike the primaries, a caucus is a public event, not a secret ballot. Friends and family separate as the supporter of each candidate form groups in different corners of the same room. REPORTER: Is this group viable, do you think? Not yet. Soon. Are you surprised there’s not more for Dean?

JANE: Shocked, shocked. Disappointed. My Dean people must have stayed home. I’m very surprised.

REPORTER: Why’s that?

JANE: Because he’s ran so strong here in Iowa. I’m just surprised. I thought it would be at least neck-to-neck with Edwards, that’s a huge group over there.

The caucus works by a brutal process of elimination. If a candidate attracts less than 15% of the people here, their supporters will be forced to merge with a larger group.

JANE: We need you. Come on. We really need you. We’re not even viable yet.

It appears that Dean’s strong anti-war stand isn’t a vote winner here. He voted for the war.

MAN: Who didn’t at that time after 9/11? I’m not going to hold that against anybody because at the time, passions were high. That I don’t even factor in because everybody was on a defensive mode and yes, we probably should, in retrospect – everybody has hindsight, it’s always 20/20.

Here in Van Meter, Howard Dean and congressman Dick Gephardt are officially out of the race.

PHILIP GOUREVITCH: That’s quite stunning. Two candidates have simply been eliminated in the first round and they are the two candidates who have been on the cover of every magazine and every newspaper in this country for six months as the people who are running for president and the rest are all taking up the caboose.

CROWD: We want Dean! We want Dean! We want Dean!

When the statewide tally is done, John Kerry has won the caucus, followed carefully by John Edwards. Howard Dean has finished a distant third. Not that you’d know from the atmosphere at his after party. With his supporters in a frenzy of anticipation, Dean is in his bus outside warming up. But what he’s about to do will raise fresh doubts about Howard Dean’s electability.

CROWD: Dean! Dean! Dean! Dean!

HOWARD DEAN: You know something, not only are we going to New Hampshire, we’re going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and New Mexico and Michigan. We will not quit now or ever. And to Washington DC to take back the White House.

The media lampooned this pumped-up performance for days afterwards, citing it is another example of supposedly unpresidential behaviour.

HOWARD DEAN: We will not give up with New Hampshire, we will not give up South Carolina, we will not give up Arizona or New Mexico, Oklahoma.

But with his strong showing in New Hampshire, Dean’s optimism might be justified after all. Proving that this one time outsider still has a shot at the White House.

HOWARD DEAN: And Arkansas, and Connecticut, and New York, and Ohio.

CROWD. We believe! We believe! We believe! We believe!

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