GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. Army (retired)
Mon. Jan. 19: When asked about rival Howard Dean's endorsements from Al Gore and Bill Bradley, Wesley Clark has said that elections "are about the people, not the powerful." But in Keene, N.H., Sunday, Clark received his own high-profile endorsement.
Longtime South Dakota senator and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern accompanied Clark to a middle-school cafeteria to flip some pancakes and throw his support behind the former general. "I think it's so important that we get the White House back in Democratic hands, that I want to figure out which one of these nine contenders has the best chance of defeating bush in the fall. This is the one," said McGovern.
McGovern praised Clark's "mind, heart and spirit," and said he decided to support Clark in part because of his military background. "The Republicans for years have said that us Democrats are soft on defense, soft on crime, that we want to put everybody on welfare. You know the line of bologna that's been pounded into the thinking of Americans for so long now. It's going to be awful tough to do that with a four-star general," he said to loud applause.
Most voters in the crowd, and even some of the press (the campaign didn't issue a press release until midway through the event), were unaware the senator was even coming. When the word trickled out, the word "curse" was uttered more than a few times by those in attendance by some who expressed doubts that McGovern, who lost to Richard Nixon in what's commonly referred to as a landslide Republican victory, would have a positive impact on the campaign.
"I hope that that doesn't turn some people off. I don't want to see people liken his chances to those of McGovern's," said voter Rick Robinson, who voted for the former senator in 1972.
"We didn't do so well in the general election," acknowledged McGovern. "I came to conclusion a long time ago after seeing the man who won that landslide victory in '72 thrown out of office a year after the election in disgrace, that there are some things that can happen to you in life that are even worse than losing an election," he finished as the crowd laughed.
The audience burst into applause when McGovern added, "We're not going to lose this time." Clark beamed at the statesman's side.
When Clark took the microphone, he thanked McGovern, praising his accomplishments. "You had the character, you had the values, you saw the issues clearly, and you were a man of tremendous courage. And I think your values and your concerns and your issues have proved right and they are right today," he told the man he did not vote for in the '72 election.
After the pancakes were gone, the questions were answered and the hands were shaken, McGovern joined Clark in a press availability where the former anti-Vietnam candidate spoke out against the current administration's war in Iraq.
"I don't think the U.S. can take another four years of the Bush policies. I fear it will be four years of endless war," said McGovern. He continued Clark "knows enough about war first hand as a combat officer and seriously wounded in war that I don't believe he's going to lightly commit his grandson or my grandsons into another war."
It's uncertain what impact the McGovern endorsement will have on Clark's chances. While some may believe in a McGovern curse, others believe an endorsement from someone known for promoting peace rather than war will help the retired Army general's campaign.
On Fox News Sunday, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said of the Clark endorsement, "He has a background of a warrior, and that was inhibiting him at one point," continuing, "so this should all help him a little."
More important to Clark, the endorsement may have helped him win support in the first primary state. Of McGovern's endorsement, New Hampshire resident Tom Gregory said, "I'm undecided and thinking about Clark, Kerry or Edwards. I respect McGovern, and so if he's supporting Clark, that means a lot."
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
Mon. Jan. 19: After appearing on several of the morning shows, Sen. Edwards began his public events Monday at Top Value Foods, a minority-owned grocery store in Des Moines. Since it is Martin Luther King's birthday, Edwards took this opportunity to talk about himself and his background in the South. Edwards often talks about the impact that segregation had on him as a young boy, and he told the crowd how appropriate it was to have the caucuses on this special day. "People died for the right to vote," he said.
Edwards then made a stop in Cedar Rapids where he talked to voters in a small diner. He's now heading to Davenport before returning to Des Moines around 5 p.m. Edwards will have a little down time until his campaign staff and supporters gather at the Savery Hotel around 8 p.m.
Edwards seemed tired this morning and his voice was a little hoarse. After all, he flew all over Iowa yesterday and when he returned around 11 p.m., he went to his headquarters to thank all of the volunteers and staffers for their hard work. "He came to rally the troops and close the deal," said one aide, adding, "It was really cool of him."
Edwards is using these last remaining hours to get into the three major media markets: Des Moines, Davenport and Cedar Rapids. His speeches have been short and sweet. It's actually the first time since I've been on the trail that we're ahead of schedule.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT, D-Mo.
Mon. Jan. 19: "I believe in Dick Gephardt," said the two-time Grammy winner and hairstyle trendsetter Michael Bolton at an event in Davenport, Iowa.
It's down to crunch time. Seven events on Sunday highlighted Gephardt's final push before caucus night. One event in Clinton was canceled when the weather prevented the Gephardt plane from getting in the air.
The Des Moines Register poll shows John Kerry with an 8-point lead over Gephardt, and John Edwards also ahead of both Gephardt and Dean. Media and the candidates they follow could get whiplash trying to follow the numbers but the question on many people's minds is not so much what the latest poll says but who will actually show up on caucus night? Who will be able to get out the vote? Last night, when speaking to supporters in Waterloo, Iowa (you can smell the irony of someone making their last stand), Gephardt was confident about his ability to have labor get out the vote. He said of the 95,000 union members and retirees who have endorsed him, "If just one-fifth of them come out, putting aside their families, then we win. It's just that simple."
The confidence in labor was echoed by campaign manager Steve Murphy who said they had attained their hard-count goals. Barring some statistical aberration, "We are going to win here," said Murphy, almost nonchalantly.
According to Gephardt spokesman Bill Burton, "The pollsters don't know where our supporters are." He also said that in order to see the bridges of Madison County one would have to go out of his way. In the months of travels with the Gephardt campaign here in Iowa, trips to the small union halls and public libraries from Mason City to Muscatine, I don't think the Gephardt campaign has been anywhere BUT out-of-the-way places; a strategy whose payoff won't be determined until late Monday night.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.
Mon. Jan. 19: All the effort Kerry had made in the past week to protect his voice was in vain as a serious bout of raspiness took hold of his throat. As a precaution, Kerry is not attending his first three events on Monday; he'll rest up for a long caucus night followed by an overnight charter to Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday and a few events in the morning there.
On Sunday, Kerry went to church in Waterloo, attending a two-hour service at the Antioch Baptist Church. Accompanied by his daughters Alex and Vanessa, Kerry spoke once during the "Welcome to visitors" portion of the service. "My name is John Kerry. I'm from Massachusetts. I'm running for president but mostly I'm here to visit and worship with you," he said.
After church, Kerry met up with Sen. Edward Kennedy, who flew out Sunday on behalf of his colleague, for a rally at a Waterloo elementary school. Accompanying the two were Kennedy's wife Vicki, Kerry's daughters and Kerry's newest supporter, Jim Rassmann, the soldier Kerry rescued in Vietnam. Around 800 people turned out to listen to Kerry's abridged 14-minute stump speech. Simultaneously, the New England Patriots had just begun the AFC championship match-up against the Indianapolis Colts and within minutes of the event's end, the two senators found the nearest TV to watch some of the game.
Kerry then hopped on a helicopter to attend a rally in Newton while Kerry and most of the traveling press boarded the campaign bus to Des Moines. Handheld Blackberries and wireless modems kept those interested in the game updated, however both were rendered useless in a cellular dead zone in the middle of Iowa. By some miracle of miracles, Kennedy got a cell connection to his father-in-law and provided play-by-play of the game's final two minutes for the bus.
Meantime, Kerry was in Newton and was getting a little punchy. When asked about John Edwards' experience, Kerry joked, "When I came back from Vietnam in 1969, I don't know if John Edwards was out of diapers then. ... No, I'm sure he was out of diapers by then." Kerry later apologized for the remark.
After the Newton event, Kerry helicoptered to Des Moines and met up with Kennedy and 1,800 of his other supporters. Also in attendance were Kerry's daughters, his wife Teresa, his stepson Chris Heinz, former Sen. Gary Hart, U.S. Reps. Ed Markey and Michael Capuano of Massachusetts, Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack and the veteran Rassmann. This was probably the final straw for Kerry's voice as he easily doubled the length of his Waterloo speech.
As Kerry rests his voice on Monday, his wife, his daughters, Kennedy, Markey, and former Sen. Max Cleland are fanned out all over Iowa campaigning for him.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-Conn.
Mon. Jan. 19: Want some gravy with that?
Attention may be focused on Iowa but Joe Lieberman is hoping to draw some attention in the rural black South.
Lieberman's Rural Ride began Sunday at an 8 a.m. Mass in Columbia, S.C.'s Brookland Baptist Church, 1,000 strong. Lieberman wasn't allowed to speak (no non-pastors at the pulpit, please) but he did sing along at times and was the recipient of much support and blessings after the sermon.
It's a whole other story down South. Lieberman felt more at ease talking about his faith and talked about it more, ending speeches with: "God bless you all." He talked about "paths" and "visions," and even bought airtime on South Carolina's gospel stations to run ads depicting himself as "a man of faith and a rock of integrity." You don't hear much of that in New Hampshire.
You also don't see many peach orchards or cotton fields as you drive through the Granite State. Neither do you see goats and cows in the front yard, nor ramshackle shacks intermixed with brick houses as you bend your way through rural areas like Aiken and Saluda and Greenwood, counties that have never seen a presidential candidate, save a John Edwards sighting or two.
Down South, I learned to preface my questions with "Sir" or "Ma'am," especially when I interrupted diners as they sat down with their families for Sunday dinner.
And in the rural South, church is where you're likely to find people until 2 o'clock on a Sunday.
However, once the people did come out to town hall meetings to greet Lieberman, he heard questions that don't normally get asked in Northeast states, questions about affirmative action, affordable housing and poverty.
Indeed, unlike New Hampshire and Iowa, South Carolina is not 96 percent white, and that changes things. It also makes you wonder why it is precisely those white states that are granted such influence in choosing the future president of the United States.
FORMER VERMONT GOV. HOWARD DEAN
Sun. Jan. 18: After an appearance with former President Jimmy Carter earlier today in Plains, Ga., Howard Dean boarded his plane to head back to Iowa for the final (this time, really final) push to the Iowa caucuses.
On the overflow press plane, word started spreading about a "special guest" appearing at the next two Dean events. Speculation began instantly: Streisand? Gore? Clinton? James Taylor?
Who could it possibly be? Certainly not just another small town doctor from Vermont.
Actually, yes. Dr. Judith Steinberg, Howard Dean's wife.
Dean's wife, not on the campaign trail since the former governor's official announcement for president, is asked about often, but rarely seen or heard from publicly. Today, she flew on a small jet from Burlington, Vt. to Moline, Ill., to meet her husband the day before the Iowa caucuses.
The couple met aboard Dean's Gulf Stream II charter before walking off board together for a much-anticipated photo op. Dr. Dean waved; Dr. Steinberg smiled.
The press – well, some of us anyway – marveled at how the support of a candidate's own wife had somehow become newsworthy. And yet it was.