Dr. Howard Dean paid a visit to the Vote Mob headquarters on Wednesday, October 20th, where he spoke and answered questions for almost 200 excited but cramped progressive youth who were packed tightly into a small office space on North High Street.

Dean, after dropping out of the Democratic primary race, is focusing on helping the Democratic Party achieve success in the election. He founded the political action committee Democracy for America, which is part of the recent onslaught of groups that is committed to getting progressive voters to the polls. Vote Mob and its parent organization, 21st century Democrats, are allied with Democracy for America under the umbrella organization America Votes, along with thirty or so other groups such as America Coming Together, the League of Conservation Voters, and MoveOn.

The purpose of Dean's visit was to "take an opportunity to thank the volunteers of his partner organization and to stress the importance of the youth vote," according to Rose Steller, a Vote Mob worker.

Vote Mob is dedicated to mobilizing the bloc of voters between the ages of 18 and 30. It is a 527 organization, which means that they are Partisan, but do not endorse a specific candidate. It does not take long though, to figure out who they support.

"Bush has turned his back on the young people," says Stephen Hightower, "by reducing student loans and by revoking overtime pay that many depend on to make their way through college."

Summer Loehr says that "Among issues such as the cost of college, civil liberties, health care, and environmental protection, the Democratic Party has progressive policies that represent the interests of the youth vote."

She adds that the group tries to ignore the constant chattering about the candidates' personalities. "The issues are what are important. We should be more concerned about what a candidate thinks about health care that what he did 40 years ago."

Vote Mob is unique in that they ask individuals what issues are most important to them personally, and then engage them in dialogue about those specific issues. Rachel Machesky says, "I enjoy getting out and connecting with people directly. They are usually open to hearing what we have to say, except at OSU football games. It will be interesting to see how effective this is in swinging the election."

The group has talked to 40,000 people in Columbus, and 90,000 in Ohio, but its overall impact will not be evident until after the election. "The more people that are involved, the more effective it will be," states Machesky.

Hightower claims that Vote Mob is an important factor because its influence is not evident in national polls. He estimates that it will engender 20,000 new voters, mostly of college age. "We are organizing the passion and the anger of the young people by getting out and talking to them wherever they happen to be. We are bringing our message to them, that your vote is your voice."

21st Century Democrats is also present in the swing states Oregon, Minnesota, and Nevada.

Dean said about the strength of the America Votes organizations, "I have not seen as much energy for change since the Vietnam era, when we got rid of two presidents."

He commended volunteers' efforts in registering a vast number of new democratic voters, but urged all present to keep up their efforts in turning out voters on Election Day because, "you don't get any points if the people you just registered don't get out and vote."

Dean's comments were concise, relevant, and humorous. When asked if he had read John Kerry's book, he replied, "I haven't even had time to read my own book yet," but then assured the crowd that he did it fact write it himself.

When someone on the street created a disturbance by playing a recording of Dean's infamous scream from after the Iowa caucus, he seemed amused, and said, "No one told me Karl Rove was going to be here."

Dean's presence was warm, though he was often critical of President Bush and Republicans in general with a kind of gentle venomousness that seemed highly appropriate and accurate. His barbs went over well with the audience. When asked why he thought Bush was so popular with many people, he replied, "Bush appeals to the macho nature of people who don't think. He also uses fear, but he is a very likeable person. I have talked to him, and he is smooth, quick, facile and genial. He is fun, and is appealing at a gut level, but he just isn't a good president."

He claimed that the Republicans do not support democracy and have no interest in seeing that everyone gets a chance to have their vote counted. "They think that whatever advances their ideology is a good thing."

He acknowledged that there are a lot of problems that are likely to arise on Election Day because of this Republican disregard for democracy. He has no faith in touch screen voting, which has already malfunctioned in several states, including many counties in Florida. Republicans are opposed to having machines issue a paper receipt that would allow verification of electronic vote tallies. He is also concerned about intimidation at polling locations, and recommends that lawyers be present to defend peoples' right to vote. In light of the expected high voter turnout, he is concerned that Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell might try to close the polls at exactly 7:30, disenfranchising the citizens left waiting in line. Considering Blackwell's recent attempts to limit provisional balloting, this seems highly likely. Dean encouraged everyone to vote early in the day in order to leave enough time for any difficulties encountered to be resolved.

He declared his support for runoff voting, claiming it would enable a third party to play a constructive role without hurting either of the other parties. Mentioning an election with 22 candidates in San Francisco, he said, "The general attitude of the election is very positive. People are actually talking about issues. There is no negative campaigning, because no one can afford to tick off another candidate's supporters. This is what runoff voting can do for elections."

He gave some final words of support to the workers and volunteers, telling them to "leave it all on the field," before he left to go to his debate with Bob Dole at the Ohio Union.