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Published: Monday, 2/2/2004

Dean tries to reclaim energy in Michigan

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ROSEVILLE, Mich. - Howard Dean told a roaring crowd yesterday that the key to taking back the White House was partly in the hands of Michigan voters.

Sharing his vision of a country where unemployment is down and the number of those insured is up, the Democratic presidential hopeful spoke to about 700 people in this blue-collar Detroit suburb yesterday, urging them to vote during the state caucuses Saturday.

With hopes of picking up momentum in a campaign that stalled in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Dean appealed to middle-class voters by saying that, under the current president s leadership, Michigan has lost 225,000 jobs and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

He then asked the voters to take a look at his record as governor of Vermont, where the majority of people have access to health care. Mr. Dean, who was the front-runner for months but came in third in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, said he has been willing to stand up for his beliefs, especially his nonsupport of the war in Iraq.

Mr. Dean tried to further distance himself from the other candidates by saying he is a Washington outsider who has not been seduced by special-interest groups.

As many as 50 percent of people don t vote anymore because they can t tell the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, he said. “Give them a reason to vote again. You have the power to take back our country.”

With 128 delegates at stake, Michigan has been Mr. Dean s primary focus after his poor earlier showings. He has visited the state twice within the last week, spending little time in Arizona, South Carolina, Missouri, Delaware, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, which are holding primary elections tomorrow. During his stops, he focused on his call for voters to “stand up for job growth.”

Earlier yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore returned to the state that he won during his failed bid for the presidency four years ago and encouraged voters in several Detroit-area churches to support Mr. Dean. On Saturday, Gov. Jennifer Granholm endorsed Mr. Dean s key opponent, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Ellen Morris, a 48-year-old construction worker who was recently recalled to work, drove nearly two hours from Toledo to hear Mr. Dean speak in Michigan s Macomb County. A longtime Dean supporter, Ms. Morris said she was most encouraged by his plan to get more Americans working.

Mr. Dean told supporters that the key to job creation is balancing the budget and reforms to the country s free-trade agreements.

He said that until other countries doing business with the United States are forced to follow similar environmental and labor laws, big companies will continue to ship jobs to foreign countries with cheaper labor.

“I ve been in his camp quite a few months now, and I wanted to see what he had to say,” said Ms. Morris, wearing an Ohio Dean for America button pinned to her knit cap. “I still back him.”

LuAnne and Tom Kozma drove nearly an hour from neighboring Oakland County with their teenage son and young neighbor to hear Mr. Dean. Mrs. Kozma, an employee of Michigan State University, said she was crowded out of the auditorium Thursday when Mr. Dean came to the school and so arrived in Roseville nearly two hours before he spoke.

She said Mr. Dean s drive toward the White House has not waned despite what she called the media s “overblown” coverage of the former governor s screams to get the Iowa crowds invigorated several weeks ago. Although acknowledging it damaged his campaign, Mrs. Kozma said the race is still wide open.

“I just make it a point to see every candidate that we can. Not everybody has cable [television],” she said. “I ve made up my mind. I think he s got the experience we need.”

Mr. Dean closed his remarks yesterday by appealing to those who remember a better time.

“The biggest loss we ve suffered in this country is not jobs ... and not in our place as a leader in the world ... but the sense of community, the sense that we re all in this together,” he said.



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