Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.
Wed. Jan. 28: Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" is the last song one would expect to hear on the campaign trail. But Wednesday morning at Edwards' "Bringing It Home" kickoff event in Orangeburg, S.C., the South Carolina State University band was energizing the crowds with their musical talents. The diverse crowd of blacks and whites was dancing in the aisles and around their chairs. And in light of the fact that the area was just hit with an ice storm and several people were without electricity, it surely seemed like a good way to turn the power back on.
Edwards, a native of South Carolina, arrived in the Palmetto State in the wee hours of the morning, after placing third/fourth in the New Hampshire primary. His campaign is heading to Oklahoma and will end up in Missouri later Wednesday evening. With seven primary states up for grabs on Feb. 3, Edwards will spend the next week jetting between South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Elizabeth Edwards, who regularly acts as a surrogate for her husband, will campaign in North Dakota. As of now, Sen. Edwards will not be making any trips to Delaware or Arizona.
"What an incredible two weeks we've had," Edwards said as he greeted his fellow South Carolinians. He was referring to his second-place finish in Iowa and third/fourth place finish in New Hampshire. He reminded the crowd that just last week he was 20 points behind Wes Clark and now they are more or less tied. The Edwards camp seems to be pleased with its 12% in New Hampshire, especially since he had been polling at 5%.
With the issue of electability so important to voters, Edwards spends a great deal of time talking about his Southern roots and how he's the guy that can beat George Bush. While this sounds all fine and dandy, Edwards now MUST win South Carolina. How can a candidate convince voters that he can beat Bush in the South and not be able to win his own home state? The answer is he can't. So it's do or die for Edwards in South Carolina.
But South Carolina is only one piece of the puzzle. Even if he does win there, with John Kerry clearly the Democratic frontrunner, Edwards will probably need to win in at least one or two other Feb. 3 states, or at least do very well. Besides time limitations, the Edwards campaign is not exactly swimming in money. They have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars (maybe even millions) in the past few weeks, but whether that will be enough to afford them to hit the airwaves with ads and get out the vote efforts remains to be seen.
For now, the campaign plans to stick to its message of hope and optimism. Even if the press corps is sick of hearing the stump, Edwards knows that each crowd is hearing it for the first time (unless they are glued to C-Span). "Crazy in Love" was music to my ears; a new line in the stump would be just as melodious!
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-Conn.
Wed. Jan. 28: Do I detect a note of change in the Lieberman camp?
When asked in New Hampshire whether he would continue beyond the Feb. 3 states, the senator said, "Yes." However, when asked the same question Wednesday at a press avail at the National Health Policy Forum at the University of Central Oklahoma, Lieberman replied "I'm an optimist ... I intend to go on".
A slight change but some register that things are not "better than expected".
To look at him, you wouldn't see any change. Last night on the charter from New Hampshire to Oklahoma, Lieberman slept most of the way. No anger, no tears, no huddles with his staff.
This morning, the press hounded deputy campaign director Brian Hardwick looking for some scoop. He refuted the AP's report that senior aides were urging Lieberman to drop out. "The AP report is false. No one who was in that room said such a thing," Hardwick stated. The room on N.H. primary night was peopled with Lieberman's family, Hardwick, Mark Penn, Mandy Grunwald and chief of staff Sherry Brown. Hardwick also said that he was with Lieberman from 4 p.m. Tuesday through this morning and had not heard any phone calls to the senator to that effect.
Hardwick acknowledged that Lieberman did speak with Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Thomas Carper of Delaware and that Lieberman's staff presented him with the campaign's money situation and "what it would take to play in the Feb. 3rd states." He also said that Lieberman and his staff "knew essentially where they would place in N.H."
Lieberman's plan is to focus on Oklahoma, Delaware and South Carolina, and to play up his moderate side. Who knew that mainstream could be marketed as the new alternative?
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.
Wed. Jan. 28: Recent polls showed Kerry with a double-digit lead over Howard Dean and that's exactly how it turned out on primary night in New Hampshire.
Kerry, in his victory speech at the convention center in Manchester, announced his adoration of the residents of Iowa and New Hampshire, the two states that have made him two for two in the early campaign season. But he put the wins in perspective, saying, "I hope to have the opportunity to love a lot of other states in the weeks and months ahead."
He begins a seven-state swing leading up to the Feb. 3 primaries, hitting every state holding a contest. On Wednesday, he'll visit Missouri and overnight in South Carolina, where he stays until Friday; then he heads to Delaware and back to Missouri. The rest of his schedule features stops in Oklahoma, North Dakota, Arizona and New Mexico.
Kerry spent most of the day on Tuesday out of the limelight. He started off with appearances on the morning news shows; then met with voters at a Manchester school before helping veterans make calls in a get-out-the-vote effort. Campaign aides said he spent the rest of the day making a lot of phone calls and doing radio interviews. As well, it was clear he made some time to trim his coiffure, a day after unveiling a new joke about his hair.
"Some of you saw me play hockey the other day," Kerry said Monday. "That wasn't a helmet I was wearing, that was my hair."
Mid-afternoon, campaign aides scrambled the press to a street corner in downtown Manchester for a surprise event. Standing on the corner of Granite and Canal Streets, then in the median on Granite, Kerry single-handedly caused a bit of a traffic backup as folks pulled over to shake his hand. Two fire trucks also stopped to greet the senator.
Later, before settling in to watch the returns, Kerry made another unscheduled stop at a local school to meet last-minute voters as they headed into the polls. He spoke to 10 or 15 voters, one of whom was extremely excited to meet him.
"It's a last-minute decision," a woman told him. "I was sitting there watching the news and President Bush, and I said, 'This is it. I'm leaving and going to vote.'" She said she was voting for Kerry.
When asked by reporters what would have to happen in New Hampshire for him to be considered a front-runner, Kerry responded, "All I have to do is just win. That would be the biggest turnaround in American politics in a long time," he said, referring to his lousy standing in N.H. polls just a couple of weeks ago.
Endorsement watch: Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J., endorsed Kerry on Tuesday. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who should help Kerry with African-American voters, will announce his support for Kerry on Thursday morning in Columbia. And all eyes are still on Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. Army (retired)
Wed. Jan. 28: Technically Wesley Clark's day on Tuesday started in Dixville Notch, N.H., when residents cast their votes in the first-of-the-nation primary at midnight. Receiving eight of the 15 eligible ballots cast, Clark won the early, albeit brief, title of official Democratic frontrunner. He had at least a few hours to enjoy the status before the rest of the state's primary sites opened.
The retired general arrived back at his Manchester, N.H., hotel just before 4 a.m., and had a few hours to rest before hitting the pavement hard. Just after the polls opened at 7 a.m., He delivered hot chocolate to grateful, sign-wielding volunteers standing outside a voting precinct as camera crews following Clark tried to keep from slipping on the ice.
Although the hospitality was appreciated, the purpose of Clark's visit was to shake hands and make last-minute appeals to voters. Whether it was too early or too cold, only a handful of voters showed up.
Clark later visited two other voting centers with similar results: lots of cameras and not so many voters. While polling volunteers attempted to clear paths for the few voters who ventured into the treacherous web of cameras, reporters and microphones, the general stood in the midst of the scrum, waiting.
Then, in what his staff called an "unauthorized" campaign stop, Clark played hooky from the press, and even from some staffers, to go to more polling places. Campaign chairman Eli Segal told reporters it was the general's idea to "meet every last voter," and communications director Matt Bennett insisted he didn't know about it until another staffer told him.
"I loved being out there tonight, welcoming the voters as they came into the polls in the darkness and the cold weather, because that's what democracy is really all about," Clark later reflected. "I mean, in my greatest dreams I never would have thought I'd have the chance to do that." It probably is easier to have such moments without a horde of cameras trailing you.
While Clark was implementing his stealth attack on voters, reporters sat on couches, checked e-mail and discussed the latest primary returns, which were pouring in over cable news programs. Although it was too close to call, Clark was behind rivals Kerry, Dean and Edwards. One volunteer shook his head; he couldn't believe the results were accurate based on the size of the crowds he'd seen at rallies.
When the general finally resurfaced at the hotel, he quickly breezed past the press corps that ran out of the hotel's restaurant to catch him walking in. Clark declared, "We're going to work." He disappeared again to look over the speech he was to deliver later that night on the primary returns in nearby Bedford.
Up until the day before the primary, the campaign staff told reporters we would leave N.H. at 8:45 p.m. for South Carolina. But by 9:30 p.m., the general was just getting started. The crowd watched as CNN announced on the big screen that Clark had surpassed John Edwards for third place. A roar to engulfed the room, and General and Mrs. Clark made a convention-style entrance, waving to the adoring crowd.
That night, a third-place finish was a victory. Through the applause, a network camera crew was mumbling about following this candidate through November.
"Four months ago, we weren't even in this race," Clark began. "Four months later, we came into New Hampshire as one of the elite eight. Tonight, we leave N.H. as one of the final four," he exclaimed, as the shouted "Third!" in response.
He thanked his staff, volunteers and the people of N.H., saying, "I leave N.H. a smarter, better, stronger and even more determined candidate. And never, never underestimate what a determined soldier can accomplish when he's fighting for his country."
But first he'll have to fight for the nomination. "We're heading south, we're heading west. And we're not slowing down until the final buzzer sounds," he said, acknowledging a long haul ahead.
It was 10 p.m. when Clark was whisked out through a back exit. Staffers shouted for the traveling press corps to quickly follow. We did a quick roll call; the press advance said he was impressed that we all made it, save one reporter who caught up with us at the terminal.
After a month of daily events in the state, Clark and his press finally left N.H. And in what the campaign would surely say was symbolic, as the plane climbed up into the atmosphere, a cheer erupted in the staff section of the cabin. The campaign had received word that Clark's third-place finish was official.
Soon the drinks were served and the laptops came out; it was supposed to be smooth sailing to South Carolina. But a little after 1 a.m., the campaign got word from the cockpit that if the crew, which along with the airplane replaced a plane with mechanical problems, flew the morning leg from Charleston to Tulsa, FAA crew airtime would be exceeded. The campaign decided to skip the early morning rally for a larger speech at Oklahoma State University. Rather than land in Charleston, the plane was diverted to Greenville to refuel for the trip to Tulsa.
Some journalists wondered aloud if the campaign knew before takeoff. Others demanded to be let off in S.C., leaving their luggage on the plane and staying in an empty Greenville airport at two in the morning. Mrs. Clark vowed nothing like this would ever happen again. General Clark slept. We arrived at our Tulsa hotel at 4:30 a.m. and prepared for another day out on the Clark campaign.
FORMER VERMONT GOV. HOWARD DEAN
Mon., Jan. 26: "That's me, that's me!" The shout came from the balcony of the Palace Theater in Manchester, N.H., where Howard Dean had just started to tell a story.
The story was about a man he had met the night before at yet another New Hampshire town hall. During the Q & A the previous night, a 28-year-old man named John waited patiently by a microphone for about 20 minutes. When his turn finally came to ask the governor a question, John launched into his own story.
He was unemployed in New Hampshire, he explained. John moved to Vermont and got a job as a dishwasher. But then, John said, he got sick.
But with enthusiasm and pride he shouted about he saw a doctor for two dollars... and then had a cavity filled for three dollars. "And I still got the lollipop," John told the audience.
John was so pro-Dean, the candidate felt the need to promise the audience that the young man was not a plant. After telling his story to the audience, John made his way to the stage to shake Dean's hand. He said something off mike, and Dean then announced to the crowd that John now owns his own business, working as a piano tuner.
During his standard stump speech, Dean usually tells two or three stories about folks he has met on the campaign trail. Today, while talking to a packed theater in Manchester, Dean started to tell the story of the young man he met the previous night.
And that's when the shout came out from the balcony. "John?" Dean asked looking up. John was there one more time. The governor asked his young supporter to tell his own story, which John shouted to the hall with heartfelt enthusiasm. After telling his story, John added one other thought to demonstrate his support for Dean: "Some people heard Howard Dean scream and it made them run away. I heard Howard Dean scream and it made me wake up!"