Howard Dean Won't Say ‘Bernie Sanders is a Democrat’

By Eric Scheiner | November 9, 2015 | 2:42pm EST

Former Vermont Governor and onetime Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean refused to say that Bernie Sanders is a Democrat on Friday.

“I don’t plan to do that,” Dean said when asked if he would say ‘Bernie Sanders is a Democrat’ by MSNBC host Chris Matthews.

“I think Bernie is doing us a big favor by running as a Democrat and the reason I think he’s doing us a big favor, is if he were to run as an Independent, he would take votes away from our nominee if it’s not him,” Dean added.

“Why do you demur from saying Bernie Sanders is a Democrat?” Matthews asked.

“I don’t demur from saying that but I – I didn’t come on the show to repeat slogans. I mean Bernie Sanders is what he says he is,” Dean replied.

“It’s not a slogan -it's a statement of fact,” Matthews interrupted. “What holds you back, Vermonter, from saying your fellow Vermonter is a fellow Democrat – what’s so hard about that?”

“I know what the system is here. The system is you identify yourself as a Democrat on Primary Day, which is fine with me,” Dean said. “There is no party registration in the state of Vermont.”

“If you want to vote in the Democratic Primary, you simply go in that day and ask for a Democratic ballot and that makes you a Democrat. I think Bernie has probably voted for Democrats in the past – so that makes him a Democrat.”

“This is weird,” Matthews said. “It seems to me there is a problem if you support a guy to be your party nominee – well, you don’t, you support Hillary Clinton – but it does seem to be a problem to say ‘I want to be the Democratic nominee for president’ then you would have to ask yourself –‘But what party?’  ‘Okay I’m part of the party that nominated me.’”

“That seems to be a reasonable request. And you say he can’t do that. He can’t say ‘I am a Democrat.’”

“No, he certainly can say he is a Democrat,” Dean responded.

“You don’t think he is.” Matthews said just before giving up on the line of questioning.

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