SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-Conn.
Fri. Jan. 16: It's cold in Berlin. Minus 41 degrees cold, in fact. And while the frigid weather didn't stop Joe Lieberman from trekking north to the White Mountains of New Hampshire earlier this week to seek votes, it did take its toll on voters, staffers and journalists alike. Because at the end of the day we're all human. Literally.
"All exposed flesh will freeze within 15 minutes of exposure," flashed the weather advisory. But you didn't need a news flash to figure that one out. All you had to do was look down at our hands to see the frostbite.
During the day it was sunny in Berlin – deceptively sunny, and not even too windy. But any hands that were exposed – as those operating DV cameras often are - were red, numb and wouldn't bend by the time the shoot was over.
And it wasn't just us. Voter crowds were small up North. Most cars wouldn't start in the morning and some preferred to stay indoors and hibernate.
And it wasn't just the humans. A Diet Coke bottle left in the press van overnight was a frozen piece of brown ice in the morning. The glass windows in the van kept icing up. One reporter used his Miami Herald ID card to scrape away the ice so that he could see the beautiful, sylvan countryside beyond. It was a losing battle, though; just as quickly as he scraped, the ice would resurface.
Ah, the humanity? Ah, the elements.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.
Fri. Jan. 16: It was a whirlwind day for the Kerry campaign Thursday, as the candidate rode high on a new Zogby poll that showed him with a slim lead in Iowa.
Kerry, who for months has dogged stories and comments about losing his frontrunner status and his disorganized campaign, was obviously excited about the turn of events but simultaneously tried to downplay his rise in the polls. He told reporters, "I've always said there are three tickets out of Iowa ... and I want one of them."
He explained that he's feeling "momentum" and "energy" but cautioned he doesn't want to get too excited, pointing out that it ain't over 'til it's over: "I'd rather have it going ... one direction than the other ... but there's still four days left."
At an event in Sioux City, Kerry's excitement turned into a bizarre audience participation moment. "I wanna ask you a question," Kerry said. "Do you like the surge?" The crowd erupted in applause. Kerry continued: "Are you ready to add more surge? (More audience cheers.) "Are you ready to make more surge, more surge? (A confused audience; fewer cheers.) "And are you ready to make more and more surge a surprise on Monday?" (More cheers.)
Kerry started the day flipping pancakes in Davenport, then in a schedule change instituted Wednesday, held two events at out-of-the-way farms, which he flew to via helicopter. "This is the kind of campaigning I like," Kerry told the three members of the press who flew with him on the first leg of the trip. Kerry eventually took the controls during a portion of the first leg, scaring the traveling press when he made a couple of sudden movements.
Kerry's crowds Thursday seemed to be energized by the poll news and at each event (with the exception of the side visits to the farms), at least 100, sometimes as many as 150, people turned out. He was also joined again by Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack.
On the endorsement watch, Kerry picked up the backing of Des Moines African-American activist Ako Abdul-Samad, which Kerry said was a bigger coup than Carol Moseley Braun's endorsement of Howard Dean. "Since he's in the state and Carol is out of (the race), it's much more important."
Not to confuse anybody with the name thing, but former senator and 1992 Democratic presidential candidate Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., campaigned in Council Bluffs for Kerry on Thursday; though Kerrey hasn't endorsed Kerry because of Kerrey's membership on the 9/11 commission.
And just in case you haven't had enough of a screaming, sweaty Ted Kennedy, Kerry's campaign announced he'll be back in the Hawkeye State on Sunday for some last-minute campaigning with the candidate. On Monday, Kennedy's on his own in other parts of Iowa.
Bad Kerry joke of the day in Mason City: "We've got trouble right here in River City. It starts with 'B' and it ends with 'H' and it rhymes with shrub."
REP. DICK GEPHARDT, D-Mo.
Fri. Jan. 16: Dick Gephardt had some company Thursday morning. His son Matt was in Mason City campaigning with him. The young man who inspired his dad's vision on health care was there to shake hands and tell stories about how the entire Gephardt family is spreading out and campaigning all over Iowa.
In Britt, Iowa, Dick Gephardt said he wasn't surprised by the new poll numbers showing it's a real four-candidate horse race. He talked about his new ad that's running in Iowa, which criticizes Dean but is not a true response to a Dean attack ad criticizing Gephardt's stance on the war and the $87 billion. The Gephardt ad criticizes Dean's history of supporting cuts on Medicare and Social Security. Gephardt said of Dean: "He started this and we are going to respond. We are going to highlight our differences."
At a rally in Marshalltown, Teamster's president James P. Hoffa addressed a crowd of 400 rowdy labor members. "He's gonna kick their ass," said Hoffa of Gephardt taking on the Bush administration. It seemed like a new Gephardt who showed up at the rally: impassioned and fired up. He got chocked up in front of the crowd when talking about how his son would have died had he not had health insurance. The labor crowd here looked strong, organized and motivated. Their organizational effort will be key to getting out the vote on Caucus night.
While the polls are showing a competitive four-person race, one reassuring sign for the Gephardt campaign is (according to internal polling and verified through other sources) that Gephardt gets the highest second-choice votes among supporters of Kerry, Kucinich and Edwards. Dean came in fourth when supporters from those campaigns were asked who their second choice would be. This may prove important come Caucus night if some candidates in certain precincts have viability issues.
FORMER VERMONT GOV. HOWARD DEAN
Thurs. Jan. 15: It's Day 2 of the Howard Dean bus tour across Iowa. The day, as is often the case in Iowa, began with Dean flipping pancakes for a couple hundred would-be caucus goers. Then, to spice things up a little, Carol Moseley Braun dropped out of the race and endorsed Dean.
But that's not all of what Dean's press people want you to know.
Sarah Leonard, Dean's Iowa communications director wanted to make sure everyone on the press bus had heard the governor's new line. Yes, thank you - got it. Campaign manager Joe Trippi already made sure we knew.
Because Howard Dean has a new line.
It's clever, at least in the sense that it will get play. First, Dean reminds the audience of Bill Clinton's 1992 classic, "It's the economy stupid." Then, after the wind up, he tells 'em, "This time, it's the people, stupid."
BAM! Howard Dean has a new line. Pass the word, if you could, please.
"We're leading our piece with it," one network producer said. Other producers and print reporters started calling it in to their desks. Trippi went so far as to thank one producer for running it.
Because yes, Howard Dean has a new line. A perfectly crafted, decently delivered, television oriented ... line. Because of the reference to the 1992 reigning sound bite champion, Dean's new line is sure to get some sort of trial run. After all, thanks to the governor's staff, the national press corps now knows all about it - twice. (Just in case any of had missed it during the event).
Yes, the news shows will run it, the newspapers will print it and the cable nets will probably debate it.
Because Howard Dean has a new line. And according to Trippi, Dean came up with the line himself.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. Army (retired)
Thurs. Jan. 15: After listening to Wesley Clark's stump speech several times a day – day after day – I have become immune to the laugh lines. But I'm not expected to laugh; Mrs. Clark, when she's on the road, always laughs at her husband's jokes. And I would imagine she's heard them even more times than me.
Every time Clark delivers a speech, his standard jokes get quite a response. This is, of course, relative. Voters who come to hear a candidate may not exactly have high standards for comedy; they didn't come to a comedy show after all.
Here are Clark's greatest lines, usually delivered in some fashion at least once a day:
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
Tues. Jan. 13: If Sunday's endorsement of Sen. John Edwards by the Des Moines Register wasn't enough good news, Edwards appeared Monday on the FRONT page of The New York Times. This, coupled with the overall increase in attention he's been getting in recent days, is all great news for the North Carolina senator, who is banking on a strong finish in Iowa. While several weeks ago this may have seemed implausible, with just one week to go before the caucuses, it may not be so farfetched. In fact, a poll released by Zogby Monday has Kerry at 16 and Edwards at 12 (note: poll was taken over three days, Fri.-Sun., but Zogby says he wouldn't expect any effect from the DMR endorsement to show until tomorrow). A strong finish in Iowa is important, if not critical, if Edwards is to move forward with his campaign.
After participating in the Brown/Black Forum debate Sunday night, Edwards began his day talking about rural America. He says he will bridge the divide between the small towns and farms of rural American and the group of insiders who get what they want. "Small farmers are the heart and soul of this country," says Edwards. He delivered his message in the form of a speech (versus a more informal type of stump), which is something that he's been getting noticeably better at lately. Usually he takes Q and A after speaking, but at his first event he did not. That's something that bothered one undecided voter. "I am choosing between Edwards and Gephardt, but I'm leaning towards Gephardt because he took Q and A after his speech." It seems that everything counts, and at this point in the game Edwards can't afford to miss a beat.
A message that's becoming part of Edwards' stump is his ability to beat George W. Bush. The Democrats will obviously want to pick a candidate they feel can defeat Bush, and Edwards thinks he can do just that. "You're looking at the candidate that can go head to head with George Bush in the North, the Northwest, and talking like this [he points to his mouth as he refers to his Southern drawl] in the South." He adds, "The South is my backyard, not George Bush's backyard."
The crowds are getting bigger, but it's hard to tell if it's because they're coming to see Edwards, or because the caucuses are just around the corner. Either way, Edwards needs to win over these undecided voters, and so far it seems like he's doing a good job. "I'm leaning towards Edwards," says Sherry Lester of Sioux City. He's easy to understand and I like what he says about helping to keep jobs in this country." As for the DMR endorsement, Lester says she was really pleased about it and was disappointed by some of the other candidate's endorsements – like Harkin and Gore supporting Dean. "He also exudes energy," says Lester of Edwards, "and he reminds me of Kennedy," an opinion voiced several voters.
Edwards will be in Des Moines on Tuesday morning, and then jet off to New Hampshire for two events. After that, it's all Iowa all the time.