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Fargo, North Dakota — Dean was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd that braved sub-zero temperatures to attend the forum. "This is what I call a warm North Dakota welcome," Dean joked.
The former Vermont governor is considered the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. His visit came one day after Dick Gephardt stopped in Fargo. Democrats are giving North Dakota so much attention because it's one of seven states with a February 3 primary or caucus.
Dean criticized President Bush on foreign policy, jobs, health care,education and trade policy. He also criticized his own party for not opposing the president's policies vigrously enough.
"We can't beat George Bush by being 'Bush lite,'" Dean said. "The only way we can beat George Bush is to stand up for what we believe. There is no disgrace in standing up and saying I am proud to be a democrat and it's time that the Democrats took over Washington."
Dean is hoping to win the North Dakota caucuses. The presidential hopeful made comparisons between his home state of Vermont and North Dakota. He told the audience both would benefit from a new energy policy if he is elected.
"North Dakota and Vermont are a lot alike except you have a lot more wind than we do," said Dean. "You can change that into money. The Dutch get 18 percent of all their electricity in their country from wind. The Danes get 20 percent. We get less than half a percent. We ought to be investing in wind and in ethanol and in solar energy. Even solar energy works in places like this."
Dean was at ease with the crowd. He joked and made fun of himself. He spoke for about 40 minutes and then took questions from the audience.
Dean Hulse asked Dean what he would do to protect North Dakota farmers from large corporations. Dean says a change in farm policy is needed.
"Seventy percent of the money in the farm bill goes to big corporate farms instead of family farms," said Dean. "You know why North Dakota is losing population? Because kids can't find jobs. You know why kids can't find jobs? Because the policy of the president of the United States is to help absentee corporations run your farms instead of doing something for mainstreet small businesses."
Dean's message struck a responsive nerve with crowd. He received several standing ovations from the partisan audience. Dean Hulse says he's likes the candidate's message. Hulse is a self described life-long Democrat and party activist. But he remains undecided on who he'll support February 3.
"Ideally, in an ideal world I would probably be for Dennis Kucinich," said Hulse. "But I don't think he's going to win this, so for me it's probably down to Howard Dean."
According to local political analysts, it's likely the top three vote getters in the North Dakota caucuses will be Howard Dean, Gen. Wesley Clark and Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt.