SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.
Wednesday, March 3: With John Edwards' withdrawal, Wednesday was the first day of the general election, for all intents and purposes. And while Kerry's public remarks were pretty much a seamless transition from the primaries to the general election - he's been basically campaigning against President Bush for weeks - there were a few sidelights that marked the fact the primaries are effectively in the past.
Running mate talk was rampant throughout the day and, pretty much, the only solid piece of news was that Kerry named someone to head up his veep search. Jim Johnson, a former adviser to Walter Mondale, former Chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae and currently the chairman of Perseus, a financial firm, was named to lead the hunt for a running mate.
As names such as John Edwards and Bob Graham are bandied about, aides promise that any names heard will be just rumor as Johnson will run a leak-free ship. This is mainly because Kerry, who was on Al Gore's short list in 2000, felt burned by the process where names were floated publicly before Gore chose Joe Lieberman. As anyone in politics knows, these promises tend to fall by the wayside. However, if Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, who to date has run an extremely tight ship regarding inside info, has anything to say, the promises may be valid. Stay tuned.
Meantime, Bush-Cheney unveiled three new ads Wednesday, their first of the campaign season - and they clearly lay out the strategy they'll use against Kerry: "Steady leadership in times of change." And in two of the three ads, the Bush-Cheney campaign uses national security as an issue, as Kerry repeatedly says on the stump, by running pictures of the World Trade Center ruins.
With $100 million to spend, Bush is at a significant advantage in the money wars; Kerry, fresh off a primary battle, is down to under $3 million, according to aides. And while they bragged about raising $1.2 million on the Internet since last night, it's going to take a lot more than that to enter any kind of ad war.
In the interim the strategy, according to campaign staffers, is to continue campaigning in the upcoming primary states, even though there are no serious candidates left standing. The hope is to use the free media - newspapers and TV - to continue hammering Bush, especially local TV in each of the upcoming states he'll visit.
On Wednesday, Kerry's day started at Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC, where a strange series of events probably had Kerry and his aides hoping it wasn't an omen.
As the press buses dropped off reporters to get screened by Secret Service, it occurred to staff that they were dropped off somewhere they shouldn't have been. "Apparently we're in the wrong place," a Kerry press staffer said as the buses were driving away. As if campaign confusion on the "first" day of the general election wasn't bad enough, as the buses pulled away, a hearse drove right up into the spot where the buses were. It's a little early to declare the campaign dead but, a hearse? The press couldn't help but crack a few jokes.
It was on to Orlando, where Kerry held a town hall meeting and also received the endorsements of Florida Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson. He continued his criticism on Bush and, at one point, took a bit of criticism from one participant who felt that there were a lot of people who wanted to be involved in the meeting but were turned away because the venue was too small.
"I promise you we'll be back here... and I'll be back here a lot," said Kerry, who apologized that people were left outside. "Florida, obviously, is going to be a critical battleground."
On his way back to the Orlando airport, Kerry's motorcade was accompanied by 32 state police and highway patrol motorcycles, easily the largest group of vehicles to help his Secret Service detail since he started receiving protection two weeks ago. According to the Secret Service, it's up to the local jurisdiction to decide how many vehicles to provide.
Kerry headed to his Boston home to spend Thursday off the trail. Friday, the campaign heads to New Orleans, then to Houston, San Antonio and Jackson, Mississippi on Saturday.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
Tues. March 2: Bittersweet.
Fifty-year-old John Edwards hoped to be the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, but on a day that was supposed to be a Super Tuesday, it turned out to be a super disappointment. Edwards, who was in many ways an unknown to American voters just six months ago, surprisingly emerged as the main rival to front-runner John Kerry. Tonight, he was cut short of his dream of moving from his home in Raleigh, N.C., to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One thing is for sure - this "tar heel" is certainly not an Achilles heel.
"With age comes wisdom" is an old cliché, but it may have a new meaning for Edwards. He hasn't even finished one full term in Congress, and before running for the Senate, he spent 20 years as one of the most successful trial lawyers in North Carolina. While his background casts him as an outsider, especially compared to Kerry who spent decades inside the Beltway, the Democratic voters have spoken. They want to be sure that they can oust George Bush, and in the uncertain world we live in today, it appears that they want someone with more experience than a one-term senator. From coast to coast, the handsome, charismatic guy from the South made a great impression, but he wasn't able to seal the deal. Now the focus is on the tall, lanky New Englander with the same initials as President John F. Kennedy.
Here's how it played out. After his strong and surprising second-place finish in Wisconsin on Feb. 17, Edwards was hoping to take the momentum and carry it to the Super Tuesday states. The campaign had felt that given the two-week period between Wisconsin and March 2, voters would have the chance to sit back and take a close look at both Edwards and Kerry, and they'd like what they saw in Edwards. Unfortunately, they were wrong. With 10 states up for grabs, it became too hard to wage an all-out nationwide campaign in just 14 days. While Edwards focused mainly on five states - Georgia, Ohio, Minnesota, New York and California - it turned out to be a mountain that was impossible to climb.
Despite the odds, Edwards continued the long and arduous trek. He criss-crossed the country, giving speeches, meeting with reporters and attending fundraisers. But at the end of the day, the fire didn't seem to spread. The crowds in the past few days were mediocre at best, and it almost seemed like Edwards lost the fire in his belly. The once animated Edwards acted slightly more subdued in the past few days, and it was apparent that something was awry. The overall tone from both inside the campaign and the press corps was less optimistic (but, of course, not cynical), and while they were trying to lower our expectations, it was clear that this would be the last days of his campaign.
Now that Kerry's on top, the question that is once again looming is whether Edwards wants to be Kerry's veep - AND whether Kerry wants Edwards to be his veep. Although Edwards steadfastedly maintained throughout his campaign that he was "in this to be the nominee," things have obviously changed. Edwards will not be the presidential nominee, and he also will not be a senator from North Carolina. So where does this leave him? One would assume that Edwards wants the number-two spot, but it seems like Edwards likes to be number one.
Perhaps a Kerry/Edwards ticket would be ideal. However, with the unpredictability of this election, it is certainly too soon to know what will happen. We know that Edwards is a great campaigner, and he's done reasonably well at raising money (especially from trial lawyers). But it may turn out to be a numbers game. If Kerry wants to beat Bush, he needs to pick a running mate who can help him win one or some of the key battleground states (like Ohio and Missouri). The man he chooses could be John Edwards, but it could also be someone else. We anticipate that Kerry will pick a veep sooner rather than later, but any guess-timation would do more harm than good. After all, less than eight weeks ago we all thought that Howard Dean was going to be the nominee, and today he seems like a blast from the past.
For the time being, Edwards plans to make an announcement about his campaign at 4 p.m. in his hometown of Raleigh. It will take place at Broughton High School, where his eldest daughter Cate and son Wade (who died in a car accident in 1996) went to school. In addition, the North Carolina Democratic Party sent out an announcement tonight saying that Edwards "will return home to share a special announcement with their family, friends and supporters." Raleigh residents also received recorded calls this evening from campaign chairman Ed Turlington inviting them to Broughton.
Edwards yearns to be in the driver's seat, But no matter which direction you turn, "the little engine that could" traveled a far distance. He didn't quite cross the finish line, but he certainly went the extra mile. So yes, it's a bittersweet day for the campaign, but it's also the starting point for another long distance marathon, only the roadrunners still haven't told us the time or the place.