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CNN LIVE SUNDAY

Interview With Michele Mitchell

Aired July 6, 2003 - 16:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN ANCHOR: If you believe the "Washington Post," Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, knows exactly what Democrats could do for Mr. Bush's birthday -- give Howard Dean the Democratic presidential nomination. Dean, the liberal, former governor of Vermont, is now considered a top-tier candidate. According to the "Post," Rove saw some Dean supporters in a parade and said, yes, that's the one we want, come on, everybody, go Howard Dean.
So if Karl Rove is cheering for Howard Dean, should the Democrats choose anyone but? In New York to talk politics is Michele Mitchell. Her latest book, a novel with lots of political intrigue, is "The Latest Bombshell." Very subtle cover there, Michele. Very subtle.

MICHELE MITCHELL, AUTHOR: It's not me, Sean. I get asked all the time, who's on the cover? It's not me.

CALLEBS: Well, thanks very much for joining us today. We appreciate it.

MITCHELL: Well, no problem. Thank you.

CALLEBS: Let's talk a bit about Karl Rove. Do you really believe he wants Howard Dean to be the Democratic presidential candidate, or perhaps is there some psychology going on here?

MITCHELL: Look, Karl Rove is one of the smartest guys in the political consulting business. He brought George W. Bush through the governorship and into the presidential race and helped him win. This is a smart cookie. If Karl Rove said that the sky was blue, I think I'd double-check, actually. Because he is not floating out any feelers out there. If he's saying he wants Howard Dean, then you know what? I'd be double-checking to see, well, why is he saying this? Maybe he really doesn't want Howard Dean. I would really be looking into anything that he happens to say.

CALLEBS: Well, let's talk about the crowded field of Democratic contenders at this point. Dean is trying to separate himself, saying he's the true liberal. He'll stand up and take on George Bush. But some of his Democratic cronies are saying, you know, he's really playing a card that doesn't belong to him at this point.

MITCHELL: Well, it's a weird thing to hear him say, and I think a lot of other people have said that. Howard Dean, who has been the governor of Vermont, he was governor of Vermont for a very long time, he's actually a fiscal conservative to moderate. So this isn't a guy who necessarily says, hey, let's go out and spend lots of money and increase government. That's not his game.

What he has been doing, which is very different from the other Democratic candidates, is he's been -- he was against intervention in Iraq. He had some very interesting reasons. And he was the only guy who was really articulating that. It was a wild card. And you know what, Sean? It's paying off. And sometimes risks in politics can actually work. We haven't seen it in a long time. And that's how he's running.

CALLEBS: You're kind of touchy about the risks-reward type issue at this point, aren't you?

MITCHELL: Well, I think that it's very interesting. In fact, this is one political trend you haven't really, you've seen candidates playing it so safe. It is such a science on how to run a political strategy, how to get your candidate out there, how to get the right votes, how to say the right things. We've heard a lot about packaging.

What we haven't seen are candidates throwing caution to the wind and saying, I'm going to go out, be my own guy, or woman, and see how that goes. And that's what Howard Dean's doing. It really was the only way for him to make headway.

And obviously, when we saw the returns in terms of who's raised the most money so far of the Democratic candidates, here was a big surprise to the folks who did not give Dean a lot of chances.

I want to -- because he did very well. But I want to point out something else. I'm so sorry to interrupt. That a lot of folks in Washington, he was out interviewing people to be on his staff, and so eight months ago people in D.C. were already buzzing, this guy had something.

CALLEBS: Yes, but you talked about the packaging. But still, the word has to come from him. And so far he has not done a great job on a national platform, especially on the talk shows.

MITCHELL: Well, you know what he's doing, though, which he has done very well, he's gone out and he's developed at a grassroots level. And really that's how you do win an election. You don't go out and spend a lot of time on the talk shows. You start organizing in Iowa right now. You organize in New Hampshire. And he's done that extremely well. You get your troops on the ground, because those are the folks who are going to turn out the votes for you on election day.

Now, the mass marketing, that comes later. But the easiest way to get people to vote for you is the oldest way. It's knock on their door, shake their hand, say, hi, I'm running for office, I'd like you to support me. People like that, and it's working for him.

CALLEBS: OK, Michele Mitchell. Many of you of course remember her from her days on "HEADLINE NEWS" talking politics, and a new book out, "The Latest Bombshell." We'd whip up that cover up again -- oh, we are going to do it. We're a PG-rated show now. Michele, thanks a lot for coming in. MITCHELL: You bet.

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