A Franklin Pierce College poll released last week shows former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean tied for the Democratic presidential primary lead in New Hampshire with U.S. Sen. John Kerry. Dean has been outspoken in challenging Democrats to confront President George W. Bush on issues ranging from tax cuts to the war in Iraq. A physician, Dean has also made universal health care one of his top campaign issues. Dean will be speaking at the Indiana Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on Saturday, May 17. He spoke with NUVO last week.

Democrat presidential candidate Howard Dean: "In most political campaigns, candidates don't give people reasons to vote. They try to be as much like their opponent as possible and try to win at the margins. This campaign is not like that."

NUVO: You have said that you want to "restore a sense of community in this country - where it's not enough to worry about whether your own kids have health care, but whether your neighbors' kids have health care." Why do you think we are lacking that sense of community now?

DEAN: Contrary to his promises when he ran for election in 2000, President Bush has divided us in every way possible. He divides us by race by claiming the University of Michigan uses quotas in its school admissions; he divides us by class with his tax cut, which goes to his wealthy campaign donors while the rest of the country can't get affordable health care; he divides us by gender by supporting restrictions on women's reproductive choice. This is the most divisive president since Richard Nixon.

NUVO: You have said that if you put the Democrat agenda next to the Republican agenda, the Democrat agenda wins every time, and you have chastised Democrat office-holders and candidates who try to show how alike they are to a Republican president. What is the true Democrat agenda?

DEAN: No. 1, we should balance the budget. You can't have social justice without a balanced budget, and no Republican president has had a balanced budget in 34 years. We shouldn't have Democrats supporting a $350 billion tax cut.

No. 2, we shouldn't be the only industrialized nation in the world not to have guaranteed health care for all our citizens.

No. 3, we need a foreign policy that rebuilds our relationships with people around the globe instead of the current arrogant approach that is causing fear and distrust. The American people are generous people, they are people who want to work with others to achieve common goals. That spirit is not reflected in the president's interaction with the rest of the world.

No. 4, we need to actively protect our environment by reversing this president's weakening of the Clean Water Act and his refusal to cooperate with other countries on reducing global warming.

NUVO: You want to guarantee universal health care and achieve a balanced budget. How can you accomplish both?

DEAN: I want to repeal most of the first Bush tax cut. If you ask most people if we should repeal the Bush tax cut, they would say no. But if you give people the honest choice of saying we could have the Bush tax cut or a prescription medicine benefit for Medicare, or have the Bush tax cut or full funding of special education, or have the Bush tax cut or have an economy that provides jobs, people are going to choose the jobs, education and health care every single time.

In our state today, we aren't cutting higher education, Medicaid or K-12 education. The reason for that is instead of giving enormous tax cuts in the '90s, we set money aside. That means now we're in the position to weather the current economic storm. That is the exact opposite of the president's current fiscal policy.

As for health care, in Vermont, everybody under 18 has health insurance. We did that by expanding Medicaid. My plan for guaranteeing coverage for all Americans is based on an expansion of Medicaid, Medicare and helping fund the existing employer-based system.

NUVO: You've had some 21,000 people register on the Web for various monthly "Meetups" for Dean supporters in 230 cities across the country. Why do you think so many people are supporting your campaign?

DEAN: In most political campaigns, candidates don't give people reasons to vote. They try to be as much like their opponent as possible and try to win at the margins. This campaign is not like that. This really is a campaign for people who maybe don't vote all that often. But we are trying to give people a real choice here.

NUVO: You are an outspoken socially liberal former governor of a New England state, and your wife is a physician. Do you view The West Wing as a weekly one-hour infomercial for your campaign?

DEAN: Well, Martin Sheen has endorsed us, which I'm delighted by. It is the first presidential endorsement. I don't get to see the show that much, but my wife loves it.

Fran Quigley is a contributing editor to NUVO, where this article originally appeared - ...