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Campaign Roadblog, 1/08/04

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

Thurs. Jan. 8: Clark is obsessed with his "blue cards." They are postcards – postage paid by the campaign – asking voters to write in their contact information and circle what issues concern them. And if they want to donate their time and effort, there's a place where they can sign up to go door to door or put up a yard sign.

The general has taken to waiving the blue card high above his head at the end of every town hall meeting, asking voters in some variation to fill them out and put them in the mailbox.

"By the way, everybody here, we gave out these blue cards and if you're interested and like what we're saying, fill out these blue cards and we'll stay in touch with you." (Jan. 2, Conway)

"Fill out this card for me, drop it in the mailbox. We need your help." (Jan. 3, North Hampton)

"Please sign up on this blue card, tell us who you are. Join up and help us." (Jan. 4, Nashua)

"Amad Jackson, my assistant has them in the back of the room and we will have them for you when you leave."(Jan. 5, Exeter. Clark forgot his token card to wave so Jackson had to hold the card up from the back of the room.)

The candidate is quick to distribute these cards wherever he meets voters – in a coffee shop, at a restaurant or even walking down the street. At the rate he pawns the cards off, it would make sense for Clark to carry a stack of them in his back pocket. But he never has more than a couple in his hand, prompting his staff to carry wads of them at all times.

While shaking hands with veterans in a Portsmouth VFW, for example, Clark gave away his last card before asking an old vet to fill one out. "Listen, if you like what I'm saying, take one of these blue cards and you fill it out, drop it in the mailbox, and come on my team," he told the man. "I need some help. I need another blue card." A staffer quickly handed Clark one over.

And at a tiny Concord diner, Clark desperately wanted to give his blue cards to two 15-year-old girls to give to their parents. Realizing he didn't have any, Clark called out for his aide, "Where's Amad? He never gives me enough cards!"

Clark even gets his wife into the act. He chatted with a couple of women in a Conway coffee shop before asking them, "Did you get one of our blue cards?" When they said no, he turned to his wife, "Wait a minute, Gert, you talked to these people and didn't even give them the courtesy of one of those blue cards? We gotta get more blue cards. There must be more blue cards."

Now it the campaign has a new card trick up its sleeve. Rather than hoping people will actually follow out and send in the cards, the campaign decided to hold a raffle for those who fill out their cards on site. The prize? For one audience member: an autographed copy of Clark's book "Winning Modern Wars." For the campaign: a box full of blue cards.

--Bonney Kapp

Howard Dean

Former Governor, Vermont

Thurs. Jan 8: At dozens of Howard Dean events across the country, two familiar faces are popping up with increasing frequency: David Krikorian and Eric Burdette.

Krikorian and Burdette, who both used to work for financial investment firms, are the co-creators of Dean Deck, a novelty set of playing cards featuring political figures. As you may have guessed from the product's name, the ace of every suit is the candidate himself.

The deck of cards includes the standard four suits, ace through king, making it perfectly suited for a game of Hearts or Oh, Hell (even for those who like to overbid), but on each card is a political figure, ranging from former Vice President Al Gore to Bush adviser Karl Rove.

"The first printing we only did 3,000 which was a huge a mistake," Krikorian said. Parody Productions, the company he shares with Burdette, has already sold 25,000 sets of Dean Decks and they're now using two printers in separate states to make more. They sell the cards on line at and through more than 200 bookstores nationwide, including 25 Border's Bookstores.

Krikorian is hoping Border's will take the cards into the chain nationally after the success they've had in the stores carrying them. He says the cards are the number-one selling sideline item in those stores, and the top-selling item overall in the Burlington, Vt., Border's.

"We're taking playing card decks to a place they've never been before," Krikorian said.

Like, for example, Iowa.

At a Dean campaign stop in Muscatine yesterday, the Dean Deck duo announced their presence with oversized playing cards. They sold a number of decks to both journalists and supporters alike. But Krikorian says he and his partners are not attending Dean events to make sales.

"We're not going to go to the events to make a whole bunch of money. The reason we go to the events is to support the candidate," he said.

Support they wouldn't have thought they'd be giving four years ago. In 2000, both Krikorian and Burdette voted for George W. Bush. For now, they remain independent, but they plan to register as Democrats so they can vote for Dean in their home state of Ohio this primary season.

--Eric Salzman

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

John Kerry

U.S. Senator, Massachusetts

Thurs. Jan. 8: Kerry began the day Wednesday with a radio interview on New Hampshire public radio. Not much to report except he did make a couple of comments about Wesley Clark, who has moved up in the polls in N.H., regarding Clark's recent switch to the Democratic Party.

Later at a Politics and Eggs meeting in Bedford, Kerry gave a long, long 40-minute speech (no applause until the end of his remarks) that was billed as a "major speech" unveiling his "Workers' Bill of Rights," the theme of the day being "fairness" and economics. The major news out of it: Kerry would appoint a "pocketbook watchdog" or "director of personal economic security" to help prevent identity theft, protect people's retirement savings and provide various education programs to teach people about saving money.

"I will appoint a powerful advocate whose job - morning, noon and night - will be to look out for the everyday investors who are too often exploited," he said.

He seemed a bit off while reading the speech, though normally he isn't the most dynamic speaker from behind a podium. Later, Kerry confessed that he could barely read his notes because the podium light was out and it was too low.

At Timberland headquarters in Stratham N.H., Kerry was asked directly about Howard Dean's standing in the polls and responded: "I've been working my you know what off. I know what the polls say. I don't care what the polls say."

After the event, Kerry stopped by the on-site Timberland store where he purchased a new jacket for $106.00. No sales tax. That was 40 percent off the regular price since he was an official visitor to the headquarters.

Later, Kerry came aboard the press bus and cryptically told reporters, "Some big things are coming in Iowa." When we asked him if he was referring to Sen. Ted Kennedy, who will be campaigning there with him this weekend, he said no. When we asked him if he was referring to an upcoming endorsement from Sen. Tom Harkin, he said no, "just a few big things," whatever that means.

A nighttime chili feed in Merrimack turned rowdy, to say the least, when about halfway through Kerry's stump speech, a woman began shouting out questions. He was talking about education and she hollered, to the jeers of the audience, "What have you done about it?" Kerry, startled but not thrown off, said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do." She retorted, "I want to know what you've done about it! You had an administration for several years... and you're standing here blaming him (George W. Bush)."

She went on to explain that she used to be a Democrat and now she's a registered independent. "How do you think I got in here?" she asked, adding that she received a recorded telephone invitation.

Kerry, who was not thrown by the woman's outburst, said to loud cheers from the crowd of around 300, "Four Republicans have come up to me to say they changed their vote for me." He continued: "This is what makes this process great... I'd rather she be here to disagree with me than not out at all." The woman wound up staying for most of the event, which, while raucous, seemed to go on forever. From beginning to end it was 90 minutes, including around 75 minutes of stump/questions-and-answers.

--Steve Chaggaris

Joe Lieberman

U.S. Senator, Connecticut

Thurs. Jan.8: "Putting the word 'major' in front of a speech doesn't just make it so. There was nothing new here," one reporter told me after Lieberman's "major speech on the choice facing N.H. voters" at BAE Industries in Nashua on Wednesday.

However, it's clear that from here on out, Lieberman's stump speech will include efforts to differentiate his candidacy from "the Bush extreme on one hand and the Dean extreme on the other", as well as attacks on Wesley Clark following Clark's recent rise in the polls.

Later, at a house party in Windham, the hostess Kerry Stap, told me on camera how she came to host the Lieberman event. "I called up campaign headquarters to get a lawn sign and the next thing I know they asked me if I wanted to host a house party for the senator." It was here that Lieberman shared the good news: The New Republic endorsed his candidacy.

A town hall meeting in Derry was a good one. Lieberman does very well in this format: a bright room, him in the center, people firing away with questions. In a recurring theme, a show of hands showed roughly 1/3 of those in attendance were registered Republicans who "would've voted for Joe had they been Democrats."

The day ended with some pizzazz as Lieberman and his supporters rallied at the Manchester field office. They were chanting "Joe, Joe, Joe", clapping and hollering. The candidate was fired up. It was a good end to the day for a campaign that needs energy.

Meanwhile, we've learned that Marcia Lieberman, the senator's mother, will be taking up residence in Manchester, as well. She'll be moving in to the same complex as Joe and Hadassah, approximately two weeks before the N.H. primary.

--Tali Aronsky

John Edwards

U.S. Senator, North Carolina

Tues. Jan. 6: Sen. Edwards loves to begin his day with a five-mile run (or at least allocate time in the day for it), but when the temperature outside is 1 degree and minus 19 with a wind chill then that becomes a little difficult. And Edwards wasn't very happy with the treadmill at the Mason City Holiday Inn, so no running today. He's dressed quite spiffy in his dark navy suit and light blue tie; no red white and blue tie like he usually wears.

He's skipping the NPR debate, saying that he's enjoyed the debates but times have changed and he wants to meet more one-on-one with voters. He did a radio call in this morning for ½ hour and according to his Iowa press secretary it went really well (the media wasn't told about it and by the time we tuned in on the press van it was over).

With less than two weeks until the Iowa caucuses, Edwards gets right to the point. "I need you to caucus for me." It's that simple. He needs a strong finish in Iowa and/or N.H. to give him ammunition for the Feb. 3rd primaries.

Edwards tells the voters that they need to pick someone that they will be proud of, someone that their children and grandchildren can be proud to call their president. And he says that it's not enough to say what's wrong – we need to say what we can do to make it right. When people ask Edwards how he can change America, he reminds them that cynics didn't build this country … OPTIMISTS did.

One voter said to Edwards that every presidential candidate comes through Iowa and makes promise after promise. Edwards replied by saying, "I am not like every other politician." And this is the theme of many of his stump speeches in recent days. Edwards points out that he's NOT a Washington insider and sticks to his word. (For instance, when he ran for his Senate seat he said that he'd never take a dime from PACS and DC lobbyists, and he never ever did.)

In a cute moment one woman asked about Elizabeth and how she'd be as the first lady. Edwards was like "Oh I think she'd be spectacular!"

--Alison Schwartz

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