FORMER VERMONT GOV. HOWARD DEAN
Fri. Jan. 30: Before the Dean press corps stepped off the bus for the debate Thursday night, the scheduler announced there would be a visibility of the candidate walking to the debate. We should meet at 5:45 p.m.
The plan, as it was told at the time, was for Dean to be dropped off one block from the debate site so he could walk over, presumably with many supporters in tow. At 5:45, a road weary and flu-battered press corps gathered dutifully, prepared for whatever stunning visual the Dean campaign might provide.
As we waited for Gov. Dean to make his entrance, candidate after candidate arrived. One or two drove straight through; at least one stopped a block short of the debate in order to mingle with waiting supporters.
By 6:30, with an anxious press corps wondering if the Dean walk would happen at all, the governor's motorcade arrived, right where the press corps was waiting, and then kept going. And going.
One member of the advance team shouted for the motorcade to back up, hoping to salvage a blundered photo-op. Alas, it was a photo-op that was not meant to be.
After the debate, some journos received word that the governor might stop by a debate watching party. Once again, cameras were poised, pens at the ready. Wait, not sure yet. Maybe he's going to stop by the debate watching party. Maybe there will be a photo-op.
Hang on. Ok, yes. It's happening. Let's go.
Right, call the crew. The crew is on the way, heading down the stairs to the debate watching party, ready to get shots of Howard Dean mingling among supporters who had just watched him in yet another debate. Just as the crew arrived, Gov. Dean left. Alas, another photo-op that was not meant to be.
But the Dean campaign made sure to have a photo-op ready for today. This morning, in Columbia, S.C., Dean would meet with real people – unemployed people – for what was billed as "coffee" with several South Carolinians laid off since President Bush took office. Last night, as late as 10 p.m., Dean volunteers were making phone calls trying to round up people for the "roundtable" chat. This morning, although there was no coffee in the room, Dean met with five South Carolinians. Between camera crews, photogs and prints reporters, more than 20 journalists were there to capture the event.
Dean spoke with the guests for about twenty minutes, listening to their stories and responding directly.
Janet Rodriguez, 45, was laid off last year from the Department of Social Services due to budget cuts. She said after the meeting that she remains undecided but that Dean "has a great personality."
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.
Fri. Jan. 30: An endorsement, a debate and Republican attacks were the order of the day for John Kerry Thursday.
He began his day in Columbia, S.C., where he toured Midland Technical College before receiving the endorsement of Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
Clyburn's endorsement comes a week after Kerry received the backing of another major South Carolinian, Sen. Fritz Hollings. The African-American Clyburn had originally endorsed Dick Gephardt and after his withdrawal from the presidential race, Clyburn had reportedly narrowed his choice down to Kerry and Sen. John Edwards, who was born in South Carolina.
Clyburn ultimately went with Kerry, even though his "first priority was Dick Gephardt," because he said S.C. Dems are "looking for that person that can land on an aircraft carrier and bring it substance and real meaning."
Kerry accepted Clyburn's endorsement and told a story about their history together, reminiscing about the fish fries the two had shared. "I learned how to talk over loud noise in a garage at a fish fry and dance a bit late at night," Kerry said.
"I wouldn't call that dancing if I were you," Clyburn retorted.
"Really? I thought for a white guy, I showed some rhythm," Kerry jokingly shot back.
The jokes ended when Kerry was asked about his recent comments that, "Everybody makes the mistake of looking south. Al Gore showed he could have won without winning one Southern state, including his own."
Kerry responded to accusations that he was writing off the South by saying, "that was merely a comment about mathematical counting... not a strategy about me."
"It is not a strategy for me to not campaign in the South," he added. "I will continue to campaign in the South. I will wage a vigorous race in the South."
Kerry also answered questions about RNC chairman Ed Gillespie attacking him in a speech his party's national meeting Thursday. Gillespie charged that Kerry's "long record in the Senate is one of advocating policies that would weaken our national security."
The senator shot back, saying, "It's the greatest form of flattery. Bring it on. Let's have this debate."
Then it was on to Greenville where Kerry took part in a candidates' debate at Furman University, where he was clearly the target, though, even his advisers admit, he wasn't targeted as hard as expected.
Howard Dean took a couple of shots at him, as did John Edwards. Dean accused Kerry of not getting anything done as a senator on health care. "Well, one of the things that you need to know as a president is how things work in Congress if you want to get things done," Kerry responded. "That includes being able to pass legislation with the name of another lawmaker on it."
Kerry also unveiled a new television ad for two Feb. 3 states, New Mexico and Arizona, which features Kerry's Spanish-speaking ad debut.
"Soy John Kerry y he aprobado este mensaje porque quiero devolver la esperanza a este pais," said Kerry, who admittedly is just learning the language. Translation: "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message because I want to return hope to this country."
Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.
Thurs. Jan. 29: Call it "Whirlwind Wednesday" for Sen. John Edwards: he hit South Carolina in the morning, Oklahoma in the afternoon and Missouri in the evening. The day began in Orangeburg, S.C., where Edwards kicked off his "Bringing It Home" campaign. Then he bopped off to Durant and Tulsa, Okla., where the temperatures where in the mid-40s and the sun was shining. It was Edwards' 13th trip to Oklahoma, and between the warmer weather and huge crowds, it was definitely a bright day for the candidate.
After hitting the Sooner State, the campaign quickly jetted off to the Show Me State. Again, Edwards encountered larger then expected crowds in both Springfield and St. Louis. In Springfield, several voters reminded me it's the home of Attorney General John Ashcroft. They told me they had even elected a dead person: Mel Carnahan. The point is, and as Edwards said in a media avail earlier today, Missouri is a "wildcard" state.
Now, with Dick Gephardt out of the race, Missouri is a key state for the remaining Democratic contenders. Edwards made it a point to begin his Missouri speeches talking about Gephardt and letting the voters of Missouri know how much he respected the congressman. Since the state belonged to Gep before Iowa, and no candidate had focused any attention there, the voters are bound to see an influx of candidates and ads in the next few days. In fact, the Edwards campaign hit the airwaves first thing this morning.
From the whirlwind of South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, and back to South Carolina today, the Edwards camp is using every opportunity to reach out both to crowds of voters and the crowd of media that swarms around him at every event. While Edwards didn't return to his Raleigh, N.C., headquarters to do satellite interviews, like Howard Dean did at his home base in Vermont, he certainly got on the radar of voters in several key Feb. 3rd primary states. And that is exactly what he intends to do for the next several days (he has trips planned to Oklahoma, New Mexico and maybe Missouri for a possible debate).
But, as suspected, the main focus will be South Carolina. This is the "do or die" state for Edwards, and since he chose not give up his Senate seat, you can be sure that this man is not ready to go home unemployed next week.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. Army (retired)
Thurs. Jan. 29: For the past month, Gen. Wesley Clark has been pitching his standard stump speech to liberal New Hampshire voters, a largely white, homogenous group. Wednesday, Clark took his message on the road, testing his message on voters from Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.
Rather than driving, as he did in N.H., Clark now has to fly from state to state across the span of the country, which means his schedules are even more exhausting. But in the words of Clark senior strategist Chris Lehane, "As the days are getting longer, we become stronger."
Gone are the days when Clark's town hall-style meetings ran more than an hour and a half, complete with a lengthy question and answer period. In fact, the campaign no longer calls them "Conversations with Clark;" on the press schedule they're described vaguely as "General Wesley Clark greets supporters." The stump speech is shorter, punchier and, today, the general took only a handful of questions.
"This is our first stop after New Hampshire, and we are so happy to be in Oklahoma," he said to about 350 enthusiastic supporters at Oklahoma State University's Tulsa campus. "We like to say we came in first in the non-New Englanders in that primary," he exclaimed.
All things being equal, Oklahomans are more conservative than their New Hampshire counterparts, as was Clark's tone. He talked about the four values he learned growing up in Arkansas – patriotism, faith, family and inclusiveness – but he never spoke so candidly about his faith while on the trail in N.H.
"I took my profession of faith when I was nine years old at the Pulaski Heights Baptist Church, and I accepted the Lord as my savior," he told the crowd. "Of course like anybody else from the South, I can quote the scriptures, and I know what each book says and I've got my favorites too," he said.
And while he did refer to it later in the day, Clark did not include "sexual orientation" in his list of groups to be protected under the law in his inclusiveness tenet.
After shaking hands as headed out the door, Clark did interviews with local press while Mrs. Clark met with voters outside. She shook hands, accepted books and photographs for her husband to sign, and asked the voters their opinion of "American Son," the short film on Clark's life presented to the crowd before his appearance on stage.
Ever the campaigner, Clark shook hands with flyers in the gate area of Tulsa's airport before boarding the 737 charter to Albuquerque.
After a quick drive through the desert to an American Legion, Clark addressed veterans and supporters. Then he did something he would never do in the Granite State: he greeted the crowd in Spanish. "Continuaremos en Ingles por favor," Clark said after a few lines.
He went on to deliver his stump speech with a few bonus themes. After Clark asked vets to stand and be recognized, he continued, "And since we've got so many veterans here, I just want to say when I'm president, we're going to take care of our veterans."
The third and final speech of the day was held at a children's recreation center in a poorer Phoenix neighborhood. Police cruisers blocked the street, while police officers on horseback sat outside and several more stood on foot by the door.
While addressing the overflow crowd, Clark added a few lines on community in the family values portion of his stump. He said federal money given back to the states would be used to "restore the community based policing and law enforcement activities, neighborhood associations, and all the activities we need to make our communities safer and better places to live." He passionately added, "We are going to help our communities. That's a family value and it's ours."
When the campaign touched down in Oklahoma City at the end of the day (yes, we ended up two hours from where we started in the morning), it was after 1 a.m. Although he has never campaigned before, Clark does have a little experience coping with long, stressful hours. Earlier this week he told reporters he got more sleep out on the trail than he did as a four-star general in Kosovo.
But even the campaign trail can be draining. When an Albuquerque voter told him to get some sleep, Clark admitted, "Oh, it's been awful."
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?