Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who came very close to capturing the Democratic nomination in 2004 instead of John Kerry, says he is open to another try in 2016.
Dean, whose underdog presidential campaign officially launched 10 years ago this weekend, said he has “mixed feelings” about running for office again but added he would consider another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination if he doesn’t think the other candidates are adequately addressing progressive issues that are dear to his heart.
“I am not driven by my own ambition,” Dean told CNN in an interview at the Netroots Nation conference, an annual gathering of left-leaning political activists. “What I am driven by is pushing the country in a direction that it desperately needs to be pushed; pushing other politicians who aren’t quite as frank as I am who need to be more candid with the American people about what needs to happen. I am not trying to hedge, it’s a hard job running. It’s really tough. I am doing a lot of things I really enjoy. But you should never say never in this business.”
Dean, the founder of Democracy for America, a progressive organization that lobbies for causes such as same-sex marriage and expanded access to health care, maintained that the prospect is unlikely. He is well liked and respected by liberals – hence his appearance at this week’s conference, but is still viewed with a wary eye by many in the Democratic establishment because of his outspoken nature and frequent refusal to march in lockstep with national party leaders.
“If you had to put a gun to my head and make me decide right now, I wouldn’t,” said Dean, who became chairman of the Democratic National Committee after failing to win his party’s nomination in 2004. “But who knows?”
He made clear, though, that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the undisputed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, will not run unchallenged if she, too, decides to make a second White House run.
“She is not going to have a pass,” Dean said. “There will be other people who will run.”
Dean drew criticism from pro-life advocates during the campaign when it became known that he had done an unrequired stint at a local Planned Parenthood abortion business during medical school.
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Dean claimed he did not perform abortions during the internship.
When asked by People Magazine in January 2004 why he and his wife, Judy, who also worked at Planned Parenthood, didn’t perform abortions, Dean said, “Because we don’t do them. They don’t train residents to do that.”
Asked whether they had a moral objection to performing abortions, Howard Dean deflected the question.
Would the Deans do abortions if they had the training?
“I’ve learned long ago not to answer hypothetical questions like that,” Dean said.
He later served on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of New England for five years prior to becoming governor.