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Campaign Roadblog, 1/12/04

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.

Dick Gephardt

U.S. Representative, Missouri

Mon. Jan. 12: Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy, in a conference call with reporters on Sunday, again warned about outsiders (non-Iowans) infiltrating the caucuses. He said while there are no restrictions on who can come to caucus, there are restriction on who can vote. He is also worried that entrance polling may have validity problems because of the way that numbers are reported from the precincts.

Murphy also tried to do damage control on a statement by Gephardt at the end of a speech in Norwalk that "I have to win in Iowa to win the nomination and take on George Bush." He usually dances around this question. Murphy said it was a moot point because Gephardt is going to win in Iowa; it will be a bigger blow to Dean to lose than Gephardt because Dean is the frontrunner.

Asked why Gephardt is stagnant in the polls, Murphy said you cannot poll for a caucus when voter turnout is so important; no one is really moving in the polls and everyone is kind of stuck with a large undecided still there.

--Ben Ferguson

John Kerry

U.S. Senator, Massachusetts

Mon. Jan 12: On Saturday, Kerry hit the trifecta, enjoying three highly attended Iowa rallies with Sen. Edward Kennedy, two Iowa newspaper endorsements (Quad City Times, Iowa Press Citizen) and one NFL playoff win for his home state New England Patriots.

Kennedy parachuted into Iowa for the day for rallies in Davenport, Dubuque and Cedar Rapids, with each rally increasing in size. Contrary to the inflated numbers provided by campaign staff, the Davenport event had around 500 attendees, Dubuque around 600 and Cedar Rapids near 800; all excellent turnouts considering Howard Dean had Al Gore and favorite son Sen. Tom Harkin joining him in Iowa.

And Kennedy was a huge hit with the attendees, signing autographs on Kerry signs, in peoples' scrapbooks and in several books about his brothers. One young woman in Dubuque, who looked as if she was barely in high school when JFK Jr. died in 1999, seemed to melt when Kennedy signed her copy of Richard Mohoney's "Sons and Brothers: The Days of Jack and Bobby Kennedy."

"I really love your brothers Mr. Kennedy! You have a lot of class and I love you very much," she said as if she was addressing Eminem or Britney Spears, not the 71-year-old brother of JFK and RFK.

Kennedy's appearances were short, to the point and heavy on humor. One joke he repeated at all three events began as an anecdotal story of Kennedy asking Kerry whether he thought he would grow up to be a Vietnam vet turned senator turned presidential candidate. Kerry responded, "No. But aren't I lucky?" Kennedy continued, saying Kerry had turned the tables and asked him, "Did you ever think that you would grow up to be the uncle of an Austrian bodybuilder, Republican governor of the state of Ca-lee-for-nya," mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger's accent. "I said 'No. But aren't I lucky?'"

In Cedar Rapids, both Kennedy and Kerry kept their comments short; Kerry's remarks were under 15 minutes, perhaps because the senior senator wanted to get on his charter back to Massachusetts for the big Patriots game. "The New England Patriots are playing the Tennessee Titans and I said 'No, I want to be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa,'" Kennedy told the Cedar Rapids crowd a couple of hours before kickoff.

Kerry, meantime, had a real dilemma as he was scheduled to participate in the Linn County Democrats banquet during the game. Kerry promised on Friday that he would keep his speech short and he wouldn't make any news. He kept his promise and his staff and traveling press were in the bar watching most of the Patriots' 17-14 win while Kerry watched the end of the game in his hotel room. Interesting note: after the conclusion of his speech, Kerry was escorted by staff away from the front row table where Howard Dean was sitting, so the two never crossed paths. Dean had entered the room after Kerry had been seated and sat a few tables away.

Spotted in the bar after Kerry's speech were several Kerry money men, including Peter Maroney, his finance director and treasurer Bob Farmer, a day after the campaign bigwigs got together. Also spotted earlier on Saturday were campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill and adviser Bob Shrum.

Sunday, Kerry began his day on "Meet the Press," live from Cedar Rapids before heading to Des Moines. Later, he spent the afternoon preparing for the evening's debate, then attended a rally at a Des Moines supporter's home and the debate itself. He also up his third Iowa newspaper endorsement of the weekend from the Burlington Hawkeye.

--Steve Chaggaris

Joe Lieberman

U.S. Senator, Connecticut

Mon. Jan. 12: The Black and Brown debate in Des Moines on Sunday was a weird debate. However, all the candidates seemed very much in character: Howard Dean got most of the attacks/attention and tried to run things; John Kerry was in the shadows and came off as presidential and aloof; Joe Lieberman, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton were fighting for some playing time.

At one point, Lieberman said, "I was beginning to hope someone would attack me," and Sharpton was heard telling moderator Lester Holt during one of the early breaks, Iif I don't get more talking time soon, I am outta here." Johnny Boy Edwards remained ever optimistic and hopeful for the future, while Dennis Kucinich still hammered to get our troops out of Iraq.

Sharpton did dig in to Dean, though, on the issue of the lack of color in Dean's Vermont government. This could prove a harbinger for February 3rd states, when the South/ African-American vote comes out, especially in South Carolina.

In the end, perhaps the real winner of the debate was Wes Clark. He was up in New Hampshire and above the fray.

Later in the spin room, Lieberman spun his non-question about having all the Democratic candidates sign a letter to President Bush urging him to implement the bipartisan election reform law passed last year. I couldn't quite figure out of this was a media/debate ploy by Lieberman for some attention or if it simply pointed to his not yet being over the 2000 election. Either way he got some teasing for his long-windedness from John Kerry, who said, "I was going to ask Joe Lieberman a question, but given his long question, I was afraid his answer might be ... longer than Britney Spears' marriage."

--Tali Aronsky

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 Caulfield'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 Caulfield'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

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