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Campaign Roadblog, 1/9/04

Campaign Roadblog

CBS News reporters are out on the road covering the 2004 presidential race. They'll be sharing their observations, impressions and anecdotes from the campaign trail in our daily Roadblog.

Wesley Clark

Retired U.S. Army General

Fri. Jan. 9: Clark met his entire press corps, which seems to be growing by the hour, at the L.L. Bean factory outlet store in Concord, N.H., Thursday morning. While waiting for the general to arrive, Clark senior adviser Chris Lehane bought a hunter's hat, the kind with the earflaps, and director of press advance Sunny Gettinger purchased a red down jacket.

Although Clark met some shoppers and asked for their support along the way, the purpose of the visit wasn't retail politics on the trail. Clark needed a new sweater. Yesterday, at his Peterborough town hall meeting, he wore a tan argyle sweater that looked suspiciously like his brother-in-law Gene Caufield's argyle sweater. Turns out it was one and the same.

Upon questioning from reporters, Clark was forced to explain. "I took the sweater off the back of my brother in law," he said under pressure. "I was cold. He had a nice, warm sport coat on and I had this thin coat. We had a mix-up, so I needed a sweater."

After holding up different options to his concerned staff (one brown sweater got cast aside when Clark said, "That's a warm looking sweater, but I need something with a little more, you know, style") he decided on a forest green crew neck. It was an extra-large, tall, but it was the right color and, most importantly, it was wool, not cotton. The entourage followed Clark to the men's changing room, where we eagerly awaited the fashion show. Clark came out wearing a baggy green sweater, looked at the cameras and said, "This is so unfair."

Since Mrs. Clark was not there, Clark called on his argyle sweater-owning brother in law for his opinion. "It's too big," was Caufield's verdict. Thankfully, a staffer found the same sweater in a large. Clark emerged from the changing room for the second time, modeling the sweater for the press as photographers snapped photos. Clark bought the sweater ($19 and change) and wore it out of the store.

--Bonney Kapp

Howard Dean

Former Governor, Vermont

Fri. Jan 9: Blackberries, pagers, and cell phones began buzzing just moments after Dean took the stage Friday in the Portsmouth, N.H., Music Hall. Staffers and reporters alike discovered that Sen. Tom Harkin, who holds the most coveted endorsement in Iowa, planned to announce his support for Gov. Dean.

Harkin's announcement, which came at about 4 p.m. EST, brings much-needed relief to the Dean campaign which has been reeling of late because of recently discovered comments by Dean four years ago on a Canadian broadcast in which he disparaged the caucus process.

The comments received massive attention, particularly in the all-important "first in the nation" state of Iowa. Harkin's endorsement will help shift the media's attention and give Dean a boost just ten days before caucus night. When asked about the timing of the campaign's endorsement announcements, one senior Dean staffer conceded it was part strategy and part luck.

In other Dean news... Three days ago, Dean for America campaign manager Joe Trippi told reporters aboard the Iowa press bus that the governor's opponents' tactics were leaning toward dirty politics. Trippi said that committed Dean supporters in Iowa were receiving up to 18 "robocalls" a day from the combined efforts of the Gephardt and Kerry campaigns.

Dean supporters, Trippi said, were getting to the point of pulling their phones out of the wall, which of course meant they couldn't receive calls from the Dean campaign to organize for caucus night. Trippi told reporters he could provide them with a list of ten people who had received such calls.

Seventy-two hours later, the Dean campaign in Iowa has not produced a single name of a supporter in the state who will substantiate Trippi's claims. Both the Gephardt and Kerry campaigns deny the allegations.

Staff at Dean's Iowa headquarters cited an extremely busy schedule as the only reason why no names had been produced to back up Trippi's claims.

Meanwhile, relations between Dean's campaign staff and the press are growing increasingly strained. Today, Dean had an exchange with a reporter from the Boston Globe in New Hampshire.

Dean (as per Globe reporter): "I'll be happy to talk but not right now."

Boston Globe: "So you promise you'll talk to us?"

Dean: "No, I don't make any promises."

After Dean's campaign event, cameras and print reporters swarmed the candidate eager to ask about his remarks about the caucus system. Dean muttered a few quick answers but avoided fully addressing the gathered press by going into a private room. Press and staff almost immediately started trading barbs.

Before leaving the event room, Dean said, "We're happy to talk with you. This is not exactly the right place to do it."

--Eric Salzman

John Edwards

U.S. Senator, North Carolina

Fri. Jan. 9: With the clock ticking down to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Sen. Edwards didn't miss a beat Thursday, traveling to all three states. He had a morning event in Iowa, then flew to South Carolina for two afternoon events, then jetted off to New Hampshire late in the evening so he could be in place for a three-day swing through the state. It will be his last time campaigning in N.H. until Jan. 20.

The day began with Edwards receiving a private tour of BAE, a major producer of aircraft self-protection systems and tactical surveillance systems for the armed forces. After reporters checked in, presented photo ID and signed a non-disclosure agreement, Edwards addressed a crowd of approximately 100-150 BAE employees. Since many New Hampshire primary voters are mixed across party lines, the stump speech has been recalibrated to appeal to a bipartisan audience (as opposed to stump speeches in Iowa that are aimed solely at Democrats).

Edwards intends to use the next few days to lay out his plan for strengthening the middle class and to distinguish himself from his rivals; Dean, Gephardt, Lieberman, Kerry and Clark all have their own version of how to repeal President Bush's tax code. In fact, the campaign just unveiled a new booklet, "Real Change for American Families," which cites specific families in New Hampshire and across America to illustrate its message. What a knack for timing: the headlines in several major U.S. papers today talk about this very issue.

A room filled with predominantly middle-class professionals Thursday morning presented Edwards with an ideal opportunity to talk about his ideas. Some of the highlights of his plan are: a $5,000 tax credit for first time homebuyers; cutting taxes on middle-class investments; and matching savings dollar-for-dollar up to $1,000 per year. In other words, he is looking to create tools to create financial security for middle-income families. While Edwards is banking on the positive and optimistic tone of his campaign, he makes it abundantly clear that he disagrees with some of his opponents. "I disagree with the Democratic candidates that want to increase taxies on middle-class families because they're already struggling and these families need financial security," he says.

Edwards also spent time at an afternoon event at the Portsmouth Rotary Club talking about the problem with "boxes" (i.e. what's your plan for health care, what's your plan for jobs, etc.) "One thing that is worrisome to me about the nature and level of debate that you hear going on in the primaries is you tend to hear these things talked about in boxes," said Edwards. The point seems to be that you can't tackle any individual issue without factoring it into the big picture. Simply put, the sum is larger than its parts.

Money matters aside, a key concern for voters is the very issue that makes politicians an enigma: their ability to carry out all the promises they make on the campaign trail. Voters also want to learn more about all the stabs made at the Bush administration. Edwards, who is running a non-sniping campaign, points out that it's a mistake for Democrats to focus on President Bush. "I'm not running for president because of President Bush," he said. "He's an obstacle." (This garnished a bit of laughter from the crowd.) "We need to provide a positive, different, alternative vision for America," Edwards added.

--Alison Schwartz

John Kerry

U.S. Senator, Massachusetts

Fri. Jan. 9: Thursday was Kerry's second consecutive day in New Hampshire and day two of his focus on his "Workers Bill of Rights." He started Thursday much as he started Wednesday – slowly – with a couple of small events to highlight his theme. At the first event, he spoke to six New Hampshire residents at Veano's Restaurant about their financial situations and reiterated his theme of the past couple of days: the "unfairness" in America regarding average workers. He continued the theme at the Page Belting factory in Concord, an outfit that manufactures knife sheaths and leather Zippo lighter holders. Kerry spent about 45 minutes touring the plant, then speaking to 40 employees and taking their questions.

A footnote about the morning's events: Kerry has been interspersing these theme events with his rallies/town hall meetings and the energy level at the theme events is the polar opposite of the excitement at the town hall meetings. There are very few people, by design it seems, at the theme events and, clearly, it's more to make a point on an issue than to meet voters.

Kerry then headed to Manchester to address the College Convention 2004 at New England College. About 150 college students welcomed him and listened to elements of his financial theme of the day as well as a little about how important young people are to the political process.

The question and answer session started off innocently enough with a question about a provision in the Higher Education Act of 1998 that bars students with a drug record from receiving financial aid. Kerry said he supports "the repeal of the provision" regarding drug use but not for those who sell drugs. The answer was met with some applause but some boos. However, the drug theme continued. Question two was about the drug testing of students. Question three was about medicinal use of marijuana; Kerry replied that in localities where it is legal, people shouldn't be prosecuted for it. (Applause.) Then five questions later, another question regarding the medicinal use of marijuana. I hate to sound like an old curmudgeon but what's with the kids these days and the drugs? I found out later that this was an organized effort by a group called the Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Kerry then toured a jail under construction in Dover and a rest home across the street. During a press availability, he was asked about Wesley Clark and responded by asking voters to compare his "35 years of fighting" for the Democrats versus Clark's "three months."

After the tours, Kerry taped a CNBC interview with Gloria Borger where he criticized Howard Dean's use of religion in his campaign. "It seems to me like sort of a Southern strategy, that you have a regionalized religion strategy. ... I am saying that I don't believe we should raise religion as a matter of political strategy."

On Thursday evening, Kerry stopped by a local IBEW meeting and spoke to 50 or so union workers. In an effort to seem like a guy's guy, he talked about Saturday's NFL playoff game featuring the New England Patriots. "They've got me campaigning in Iowa during the Patriots game. It sucks!"

Afterwards, the candidate returned to Dover for one of his chili-feeds/town hall meetings. The 550 people at the event was by far the largest crowd he's had in recent weeks in either Iowa or New Hampshire. In two consecutive nights, two chili feeds organized by the International Association of Fire Fighters, who are supporting Kerry, have brought in over 850 people. Among the camera crews spotted was one who was working for Kerry's ad-makers. The suddenly energized Kerry delivered a fiery 29-minute stump speech and took a half-hour of questions.

--Steve Chaggaris

Joe Lieberman

U.S. Senator, Connecticut

Fri. Jan. 9: It was a day of "I feel your pain" politicking.

Lieberman pushed the details of his tax plan and middle-class relief efforts. As if on cue, many voters shared their personal stories of unemployment, lost healthcare insurance, and the burdens of mortgage, car, credit and college loan payments weighing on them each month.

A whole host of voters shared their pain at various town-hall meetings and diner chit-chats. Many of them said they either don't have healthcare or need to shell out exorbitant sums for basic coverage.

The highlight of the evening was a candidates forum at Temple Beth Jacob in Concorde, N.H., with Lieberman, Edwards and Kucinich. The atmosphere was friendly and respectful, which provided the candidates a chance to talk policy detail,s but, more importantly, to share their vision for America with the audience.

It was great to see Dennis Kucinich up close. In debates he often comes across as contrary; however, at this event, after bashing the U.S. presence in Iraq and the NAFTA treaty, he calmed down a bit and shared his personal boot-straps story, which was most compelling.

Edwards injected a lot of energy into the forum, and boyish charm. Lieberman came across as the most moderate/conservative of the three.

It was interesting to note the candidates' different styles when asked three-part questions by the rabbi. Lieberman just listened, no notes. Kucinich scribbled on the back of a handout. And Edwards, ever the trial lawyer, scratched his notes on a steno pad.

Next week, Lieberman visits the Feb. 3rd states of Arizona and Oklahoma on Monday, and delivers a "Clinton Legacy Speech" on Tuesday in New Hampshire.

--Tali Aronsky

Dick Gephardt

U.S. Representative, Missouri

Thurs. Jan 8: On his day trip to South Carolina on Wednesday, Gephardt had an event with 200 folks out in front of a closed down steel mill in Georgetown. With African American Rep. Jim Clyburn close by and surrounded by unemployed steel workers, Gephardt gave one his best "NAFTA closed your factory" speeches yet.

He made it clear that he and Dennis Kucinich were the only candidates to oppose NAFTA, making sure to include fast-moving Gen. Clark in his list of NAFTA supporters. He was given a United Steel Workers jacket, which he put on and even did a little bit of muscleman posing in it for reporters.

"Do you want me to do my Incredible Hulk routine?" (Laughs) "I used to do that with my kids," he said. Asked if he'd rip the shirt, Gephardt said "No, I'd pre-rip a shirt and then it would rip."

--Ben Ferguson