SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.
Mon. Feb. 9: In the final stretch before two Southern primaries, Kerry continued campaigning in Virginia and Tennessee on Monday, holding a couple of campaign events and continuing to rail against President Bush and not his Democratic opponents.
Before heading back to Washington, D.C. to sleep at his Georgetown home Sunday night, Kerry stopped by the decommissioned battleship, the U.S.S. Wisconsin (perhaps he was looking ahead to the Feb. 17 primary there?), in Norfolk, VA.
Monday, he headed to Roanoke, VA for an outdoor rally at a local fire station -- not the best idea in February -- attended by a few hundred where he didn't break much ground. Before leaving, in an interview with local reporters, he was asked if he felt Virginia was a way to wrap up the nomination and he continued trying not to sound overconfident.
"That is way beyond my pay grade. I just keep campaigning and someday, somebody will... take a count of the delegates and we've won the nomination," Kerry said. "But between now and then, I'm just going state-by-state, race-by-race, and I take nothing for granted."
Then it was on to Memphis, Tenn., where upon landing, he spoke to the media to criticize the president's jobs report and answer questions.
"I can only ask the question if the same people who produced this jobs report, produced the Iraqi intelligence estimate cause we don't see the evidence of these jobs," Kerry said about the administration's report that claims it will create 2.6 million new jobs.
Later, in addition to his regular use of the word "extreme" to describe President Bush and his administration, he added "radical" several times to make his point.
"My focus has always been my vision for our country compared to whatever you want to call what the Republicans are doing today. I think it's very radical. I think it is radical and extreme."
Afterwards, Kerry and Rep. Harold Ford Jr. attended a rally at the Cadre Building in Memphis where the crowd seemed extremely enthusiastic on the eve on the primary.
"Tomorrow in Tennessee, Tennessee gets an opportunity to register that sense of possibilities about the future and their anger about the past," Kerry told the cheering crowd. "We are going to reject the cynicism and the radical direction this administration is taking us."
Tuesday, Kerry visits polling places in Tennessee and Virginia before holding an election night party at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Wednesday and Thursday, Kerry is scheduled to take both days off from campaigning.
Endorsement watch: Kerry received endorsements from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY, and the 180,000-member Amalgamated Transit Union.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. Army (retired)
Mon. Feb. 9: As John Kerry's momentum surges and John Edwards' viability strengthens, Wesley Clark has been getting more questions from the press about his own candidacy. Not about the tax reform plan he's touting this week, but on how much longer can he last.
When asked how he would fare in Tennessee by a Memphis reporter Sunday, Clark responded, "We expect to win Tennessee and we expect to go right on."
The diligent reporter followed up with a hypothetical, "What if you don't win?"
Steadfast, Clark repeated, "Well, we expect to win Tennessee and go right on."
At Sunday's second media availability in Racine, Wisconsin, the candidate was asked if the outcome of the so-called, must-win (for Clark) Tennessee primary would affect his plans to campaign in the Badger State.
"Well, I intend to win Tennessee and be campaigning here next week, absolutely. That's my expectation."
The question was re-asked point blank. If he loses in Tennessee, will Wisconsin still be considered a destination for the Clark campaign?
"Absolutely. That's exactly right."
Translation: Clark seems to be implying he will be a candidate after Tennessee, even if the polls are accurate and he doesn't finish first – or second. So how can Clark win if John Kerry continues to pick up states like Michigan and Washington, as he did Saturday?
"The theory is if the Kerry trend continues, it will be hard to stop him," admitted Clark communications director Matt Bennett. "But he doesn't do well as front-runner," he continued, referring to when Kerry was originally considered the man to beat last year.
Hoping Kerry will stumble, the Clark campaign is fighting a campaign to be the alternative, which puts him in direct competition with John Edwards. Clark and Edwards have each claimed victory in one state, and the toss-up for the title of "Southern Candidate" is set for Feb. 10, when Tennessee and Virginia hold their primaries.
"We have good ground operations in both states," explained Bennett, adding "it's a much purer test as to who can win in the South than was the case in South Carolina, since there's no native son."
What is unclear is if Tuesday's primaries will send their "losers packing," as a local Tennessee paper declared Sunday.
While Clark says he will continue on through Wisconsin's primary next week regardless of his showing on Tuesday, his staff hopes Edwards won't make the same pledge. "That will be kind of ridiculous if he doesn't have a good showing on the 10th," said Bennett. "But that's his decision."
In order to continue, Clark will have to win something, and polls in the three states in which he's campaigning are not promising. To stand a chance, Clark has to assure voters a Kerry nomination isn't in the bag. "The polls are being driven a lot by just the national media sense of momentum and inevitability. And it's not inevitable," Clark said in Racine.
He continued: "[The voters of Wisconsin will] look at each one of the candidates, they'll look at them seriously. Look at their plusses and minuses not let their choice be driven by voters in Iowa or New Hampshire, or whatever, and make their own decision. Because that's the way we'll get the best nominee to beat George W. Bush."
But even Clark has referred to himself as an underdog, and without a win on Tuesday, the campaign's money and steam could quickly become scarce. Which may explain why he asked voters in next week's Wisconsin primary to help him win – this week.
"I want to ask you now: how many of you have relatives in Tennessee or Virginia?" Clark asked. "This afternoon when you leave here, if you like what I said, I want you to immediately get on the phone. I want you to call them, I want you to tell them to call ten of their friends and neighbors and I want them voting for me on Tuesday and I'll be here in Wisconsin on Wednesday."
In the meantime, Clark returned to Tennessee to campaign through Tuesday's election. With no less than six events, the campaign is leaving nothing to chance.
FORMER VERMONT GOV. HOWARD DEAN
Sun. Feb. 8: Maine, in a word, is different.
With 24 delegates to divvy up among the Democratic contenders, Maine is another one of those caucus states. The difference in Maine is that candidates can actually enter the caucus halls themselves and speak directly to voters.
Howard Dean, trying to create some sort of momentum going into his do-or-die state of Wisconsin, spent the day hitting seven caucus sights. Beginning in Bangor, where Dean addressed a crowd of about 100 supporters willing to brave the outdoor temperatures of "Why didn't I wear a hat," Dean continued on to a firehouse in Oakland, high schools in Waterville and Lewiston, a middle school in Auburn, and so on and so forth.
Caucus attendance varied from just a couple dozen people in places like Oakland to well over 1,200 enthusiastic voters in Portland. In each venue, Dean had the opportunity to make a brief appeal for support. One advantage to the system in Maine was no need for the candidate to urge those in the audience to get out to vote. Everyone in the room was there for just that - which made the process extremely efficient.
Dean tried out a new approach to what he hopes will be perceived as a one-on-one duel with Senator Kerry. The governor asked his audiences how it would look for President Bush to turn to his opponent in the general election and ask: you supported me on the war, you supported me on No Child Left Behind, and you supported me on some of the tax cuts... why not support me now for president?
Dean is trying to distinguish himself as a more stark alternative to George Bush and perhaps a more electable Democrat than John Kerry.
In other Dean news: his press corps received a true Maine treat thanks to some seriously persistent whining. The group of journos tired of stale breakfast buffets, turkey sandwiches, and airplane food received 25 authentic Maine lobster rolls aboard the flight out of Maine en route to Wisconsin.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
Sat. Feb. 7: On a day that Edwards' main rival John Kerry is hoping to do well in the Michigan and Washington primaries, Senator Edwards spent his day jetting from Tennessee to Wisconsin to Virginia. Since he decided to skip Washington and not focus on Michigan, he's now putting all of his efforts into the February 10th and 17th primary states (Virginia, Tennessee and Wisconsin).
A critical component of Edwards' campaign is that he can do well in the South. Last week he proved that he could win his home state of South Carolina, but with the primaries moving to Virginia and Tennessee, Edwards is not as confident that he will have the same results as S.C. In fact, at a press avail earlier today, Edwards said that this is a long term process and they need to be competitive and place in the top two (but not that he necessarily has to win). He said that this is a war of attrition and they are narrowing the field down to two.
Edwards began his morning at the University of Memphis. As the crowd waited for him to arrive, they were playing the Beatles, Bill Withers and Marc Cohn ("Walking in Memphis"). There was also an Elvis impersonator that was trying to attract a lot of attention, but much to his dismay, the focus this morning was on Edwards and not Elvis.
While the campaign has moved from city-to-city/state-to-state, the stump has more or less remained the same, with the exception of a few tweaks here and there.
For instance, today he talked a little more about health care in Tennessee than he normally does, and he criticized Bush for not having his own proposal for what he'd do about this issue. "Bush leads a sheltered existence and needs to be out in the real world doing what I am doing," said Edwards.
Furthermore, Edwards usually ends his stop by mentioning all of the petty attacks by the other candidates. He constantly says, "If you are looking for the presidential candidate that can do the best job sniping at the other candidates, then you have lots of other choices. That's not me."
Along those lines, this morning he added that the attacks have been as recent as yesterday and voters will continue to hear them. What Edwards was referring to were the attacks by Clark about Edwards' record on support for veterans. He was asked about it again today and Edwards said that he will continue to focus on his positive message.
As for his rivals, Edwards is also asked repeatedly if he plans to attack Kerry. Edwards response is that he will continue to campaign the same way that he has been doing all along - outlining a positive vision for America.
However, he did say that he'd point out the distinctions between his rivals, particularly Kerry and himself. It seems like the media and political analysts are desperately waiting (and in some ways hoping) for him to go negative, but so far he has not strayed far from his original optimistic course of action.
After Virginia and Tennessee, the next big state is Wisconsin. While many of the pundits are characterizing it as a must-win state for one of the candidates, Edwards says that this is also part of the nominating process and not one single state is the end-all be-all. He already has ads up in Wisconsin and plans to put up a big fight there. He says that Wisconsin is "wide open" and he thinks that in the next 10 days more people will begin focusing on the state.
Edwards anticipates that the same thing that happened in other states (I assume he means Iowa in particular), will happen in Wisconsin and the momentum will become even stronger after Tennessee and Virginia (especially if he does well in the Feb. 10th states).
At a stop in Milwaukee this afternoon, Edwards was greeted by hundreds of members of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), a union of 500,000 members nationwide that have endorsed him.
Edwards reminded the crowd that the union stood by him when he ran for the Senate in 1998 and because of them he was able to defeat the Jesse Helms political machine and now he's the senior Senator from North Carolina. He also told the union members that his mother and brother were part of unions and because of that they were able to get health insurance. A common message for Edwards is to remind people that he is one of them and that he understands what they are going through.
Even if Edwards does not win any of these three states, he'll still continue to fight for the nomination. There are several big primaries on March 2nd, and so long as the Edwards camp has enough money (which they keep saying they are in the best financial shape they've ever been in), it seems like he will fight til the very end.
For now, the strategy is to do well in Virginia, Tennessee and Wisconsin and to dwindle it down to a two-man race between Kerry and Edwards. Then the real showdown will begin.
REV. AL SHARPTON
Wed. Feb. 4: Months of campaigning yielded just 10 percent of the vote and zero delegates, which makes it hard for the reverend to claim even a moral victory from Tuesday's South Carolina primary. A token delegate was won in Delaware guaranteeing Sharpton a seat at the table at the Boston convention.
But as Sharpton said to CBS News' Byron Pitts this morning, he will be going to the convention even if he has to put on his old jogging suit and "walk from Brooklyn to Boston." He is determined to have his issues heard.
And while he wanted to gain at least a delegate in South Carolina he was still pleased in his own special way.
"If I had told you when you had come on the road with us that I would double Howard Dean and triple Joe Lieberman in south Carolina you would say I'm on crack."
His critics are still vocal even amongst the African American community.
"It has to go beyond symbolic they have to raise an organization," said Kevin Gray, former South Carolina state director for Sharpton, wondering if the reverend's campaign has become more about Sharpton than his voters and their issues. "The leverage is having a network to deliver the black vote," said Gray.
Today's inside baseball story came from one of Sharpton's hometown paper's, the Village Voice. It detailed Sharpton's financial woes and his financial and political connections to Republican political operative Roger Stone. According to the FEC, Sharpton is close to $350,000 in debt. When I asked about the true relationship between the strange bedfellows, Sharpton's campaign manager, Charles Halloran, said, "I think they have respect for each other's skill sets."
But does Stone aid Sharpton in his attacks against his Democratic rivals such as Howard Dean? "If Roger could find some ants on an anthill to divide he'd be back there with a magnifying glass," said Halloran.
In a telling moment, five homeless men and women were hired to stand outside the Second Nazareth Baptist Church, a polling site in Columbia, to hold signs for Sharpton. They were paid $50 for ten to eleven hours of work – less than the minimum wage.
"He could have given us more," said Angela Hair of the Hampton Street winter shelter.
I'm not so sure Angela.
Sharpton flies to Detroit tomorrow morning.
Sen. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-Conn.
Tues. Feb. 3: Speaking to a crowd of family, friends and supporters at the Hyatt's Senate Ballroom in Arlington, Va., the senator finally accepted defeat, "I will respect the voters' verdict" and "end my quest for the presidency of the United States of America," he said.
But Joe Lieberman still managed to remain upbeat. "Am I disappointed? Naturally, but I'm proud of my message," he said, and he went on to reiterate that message, mainly that only a centrist candidate could win the Democratic nomination and go on to beat President Bush.
Lieberman vowed to continue the fight for values and bipartisan efforts in the U.S. Senate and thanked the people of Connecticut for their abiding support and encouragement.
Looking at his wife Hadassah, his mother Marcia, sister Ellen and all of his kids gathered round him on the American flag-draped stage, the Senator said he felt like a winner, "Everyday when I wake up in the morning I praise God for allowing me to serve the in the Senate and for the great family and friends that I have."
As the crowd cheered "Let's go Joe" for the very last time, the senator stepped off the stage, hugged a few supporters, declined all media interview requests and slipped out a back door.
His staff and spokespersons milled about. All were in agreement that they were OK because the Senator was OK. Deputy campaign director Brian Hardwick told me "I feel really proud of the campaign that we ran. It was honest and full of integrity until the end. We didn't get ugly or snippy."
Spokesman Jano Cabrera quipped, "Everyone's real proud of Lieberman. He engenders the kind of loyalty that you don't see with other politicians."
Loyalty, indeed. Not one of these guys would intimate just when the death toll began to toll, nor would they throw out a guess as to why the Lieberman campaign never really gathered too much momentum or enthusiasm from voters.
Before he addressed supporters, Joseph I. Lieberman called both Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards to offer his congratulations. In his speech to supporters, Lieberman promised to throw his support behind whoever wins the Democratic nomination.
"The most important thing is that we deny Bush a second term," he said. Just who will do that denying remains to be seen.