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Campaign Roadblog, 1/15/04

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.

Howard Dean

Former Governor, Vermont

Thurs. Jan. 15: It's Day 2 of the Howard Dean bus tour across Iowa. The day, as is often the case in Iowa, began with Dean flipping pancakes for a couple hundred would-be caucus goers. Then, to spice things up a little, Carol Moseley Braun dropped out of the race and endorsed Dean.

But that's not all of what Dean's press people want you to know.

Sarah Leonard, Dean's Iowa communications director wanted to make sure everyone on the press bus had heard the governor's new line. Yes, thank you - got it. Campaign manager Joe Trippi already made sure we knew.

Because Howard Dean has a new line.

It's clever, at least in the sense that it will get play. First, Dean reminds the audience of Bill Clinton's 1992 classic, "It's the economy stupid." Then, after the wind up, he tells 'em, "This time, it's the people, stupid."

BAM! Howard Dean has a new line. Pass the word, if you could, please.

"We're leading our piece with it," one network producer said. Other producers and print reporters started calling it in to their desks. Trippi went so far as to thank one producer for running it.

Because yes, Howard Dean has a new line. A perfectly crafted, decently delivered, television oriented ... line. Because of the reference to the 1992 reigning sound bite champion, Dean's new line is sure to get some sort of trial run. After all, thanks to the governor's staff, the national press corps now knows all about it - twice. (Just in case any of had missed it during the event).

Yes, the news shows will run it, the newspapers will print it and the cable nets will probably debate it.

Because Howard Dean has a new line. And according to Trippi, Dean came up with the line himself.

--Eric Salzman

John Kerry

U.S. Senator, Massachusetts

Thurs. Jan. 15: It seemed like another routine campaign stop Wednesday in Des Moines when Sen. John Kerry visited the Romance Café to meet with local Asian Americans. Little did he know that he would run into a long-lost friend there.

About 15 minutes after the conclusion of the event, Kerry jubilantly picked up the microphone and said he had a surprise. The woman who had taught him Vietnamese before he was sent to war had come to see him and help his campaign.

Van Pham and her husband, Kerry's Navy mate Steve Carroll, came to Des Moines from their home in San Diego to volunteer their help. And while Kerry had seen Carroll since his war days, it's been 35 years since he has seen or spoken to the teacher he referred to as Miss Van.

"He didn't have any clue," Pham said about their reunion. "We really wanted to come," she added, "We have to give John our support."

Kerry seemed unbelievably surprised at her appearance, telling her, "I love it. That's so amazing!"

He explained that during his training in 1968, the troops were taught Vietnamese while stationed in Coronado, Calif. There, they learned the basics of the language as well as some terms that were sure to come in handy.

"She taught me how to say, 'Please, don't shoot me,'" Kerry quipped.

Later, he raved about Pham and the others who taught them how to speak Vietnamese saying, "They were really wonderful, these teachers."

And Pham had as much adoration for her former student. "He's fantastic," she said. "I hope he makes it."

--Steve Chaggaris

Dick Gephardt

U.S. Representative, Missouri

Thurs. Jan. 15:
Having campaigned for president in Iowa in '88, combined with the amount of time he has put in this year, Dick Gephardt may have spent more time in the state than some Iowa politicians. But one week before the caucus, Gephardt is noticeably absent from the Hawkeye State – though he's been busy nonetheless. Stuck in the snow in Grand Rapids Michigan, the Gephardt campaign was hoping to get back to Iowa Wednesday night.

This week's last minute, multi-state trip included speeches, events and fundraisers from New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Michigan. Tuesday morning at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, he discussed his campaign itinerary.

"I figured it was a slow week on the political front; I might as well take advantage of it," Gephardt said in jest. "For my own sake I should probably be in Iowa right now," he said, but added that the very heart of his candidacy was to restore American leadership in the world.

In his speech to roughly 100 members of the Council he discussed his foreign policy differences with President Bush. "We don't need a president who says, 'Bring 'em on' ... We need a president who will do the hard work of diplomacy and says, 'Bring 'em in.'"

But as the battle for the Democratic nomination in Iowa rages, many in politics question the decision to leave the state. Some associated with the campaign wish he didn't have to be outside Iowa this week.

A major component of the trip was a last-minute push for cash. There were three fundraisers in New York, L.A.. and Chicago. "New York is what puts gas in the car," said a senior Gephardt staffer.

But this week's trip wasn't strictly business. Monday included a brief appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman. Appropriately, Gephardt listed the top ten signs you have been on the campaign trail too long. Written by the "Late Show staff," number ten was: "Every speech begins with, 'It's great to be wherever the hell I am today."

While on the bus from the airport, Gephardt offered his own addition to the list. You know you have been on the campaign trail too long… "When you have a Super 8 platinum card," he said. But that wasn't a knock the hotel chain; Gephardt is one of the few candidates who will openly admit he enjoys staying at the Super 8.

In these days of tight schedules, a chartered Gulfstream or sometimes a Fairchild Metroliner whisks him around the country, but that normally isn't Dick Gephardt's style. Coming from a working-class neighborhood of south St. Louis, he's always felt more comfortable in a blue collar than the blue necktie.

"I just grabbed four ties and they happened to be blue," said Gephardt when asked how he packs for these trips. "My wife says I have a pink complexion so blue is better than red, I think,"

But the brutal schedule that can take its toll on his even his young campaign staff doesn't seem to be a problem to the 62-year-old congressman. "I would never have done this if I didn't have good health. I'm very lucky," he said. One of the few times Gephardt has ever had issues with his health was when he was running for majority leader. Two days before the election he was in pain and the doctor said he had to have his gallbladder removed.

"I told him I can't, right now," said Gephardt. He had it removed soon after winning.

To say that Dick Gephardt has a lot ridding on next week's caucus is an understatement. With seven cities on two coasts in just a couple of days, the senior statesmen – like the snow in Michigan – shows little sign of letting up.

--Ben Ferguson

Wesley Clark

Retired U.S. Army General

Thurs. Jan. 15: After listening to Wesley Clark's stump speech several times a day – day after day – I have become immune to the laugh lines. But I'm not expected to laugh; Mrs. Clark, when she's on the road, always laughs at her husband's jokes. And I would imagine she's heard them even more times than me.

Every time Clark delivers a speech, his standard jokes get quite a response. This is, of course, relative. Voters who come to hear a candidate may not exactly have high standards for comedy; they didn't come to a comedy show after all.

Here are Clark's greatest lines, usually delivered in some fashion at least once a day:

  • "When my father turned 40, he was the oldest of seven children and they were all married and everything. And my Grandmother Kanne apparently told him, 'Ben, you're 40 years old. Just marry anyone.' So he married my mother. A few years later, my mother thought she had a tumor. But it was me!" (Bismarck, N.D., 1/10/04)

  • "And so we decided to make our own powder. So we ran to the drug stores around Little Rock and, believe it or not, in those days you could buy chemicals at the drug store like potassium chloride. So we began to make gunpowder. But then somebody said, 'Look, you're using the wrong stuff. You should get potassium chlorate, because it's got extra oxygen molecules in it.' So I learned chemistry trying to learn rocket fuels. We never did make any substantial contributions to America's deterrence, I'm sorry to say."(Discussing being a teenager during the Cold War. Hudson, N.H., 1/14/04)

  • "Now my father was Jewish and my mother wasn't; she was a Methodist. So when I was born they named me after my mother's father, Thomas Wesley. And they compromised and they agreed I'd be brought up as a Methodist." (Peterborough, N.H., 1/7/04)

  • "My mother told me to pick out a church. And the only thing I could remember about the Baptist church was that it had beautiful, stained glass windows. So I picked out a church with beautiful, stained glass windows. It was the Emanuel Baptist Church, and I grew up Baptist." (Keene, N.H., 1/7/04)

  • "We'll ask former Attorney General John Ashcroft to testify on his use and abuse of the Patriot Act." (The operative word being "former." Nashua, N.H., 1/11/04)

  • "Tuition costs have risen 28 percent in the last three years. Now, I don't know of anybody whose income's gone up 28 percent over the last three years unless they're associated with the Halliburton company." (Keene, N.H., 1/7/04)

  • "They nominated me that morning in homeroom and they nominated my best friend, Steve Buchanan. The teacher said, 'Put your heads down on the desk and let's vote. If you're in favor of Steve, raise your right hand.' I raised my right hand. 'If you're in favor of Wes, raise you right hand.' And she said, 'Steve won by one vote.' I looked and said, 'Steve, I voted for you, did you vote for me?' He said, 'No.' That was my first lesson in politics. I will vote for myself in this election." (Describing his first and only election campaign – until now. (Candia, N.H. 1/11/04)

  • "Paul Bremer can come back and resume his job working for Henry Kissinger's consulting firm." (Nashua, N.H., 1/11/04)

  • "I told you I wasn't going to bash George Bush but I gotta tell you a couple of things..." (Hudson, N.H., 1/14/04)

    --Bonney Kapp

  • John Edwards

    U.S. Senator, North Carolina

    Tues. Jan. 13: If Sunday's endorsement of Sen. John Edwards by the Des Moines Register wasn't enough good news, Edwards appeared Monday on the FRONT page of The New York Times. This, coupled with the overall increase in attention he's been getting in recent days, is all great news for the North Carolina senator, who is banking on a strong finish in Iowa. While several weeks ago this may have seemed implausible, with just one week to go before the caucuses, it may not be so farfetched. In fact, a poll released by Zogby Monday has Kerry at 16 and Edwards at 12 (note: poll was taken over three days, Fri.-Sun., but Zogby says he wouldn't expect any effect from the DMR endorsement to show until tomorrow). A strong finish in Iowa is important, if not critical, if Edwards is to move forward with his campaign.

    After participating in the Brown/Black Forum debate Sunday night, Edwards began his day talking about rural America. He says he will bridge the divide between the small towns and farms of rural American and the group of insiders who get what they want. "Small farmers are the heart and soul of this country," says Edwards. He delivered his message in the form of a speech (versus a more informal type of stump), which is something that he's been getting noticeably better at lately. Usually he takes Q and A after speaking, but at his first event he did not. That's something that bothered one undecided voter. "I am choosing between Edwards and Gephardt, but I'm leaning towards Gephardt because he took Q and A after his speech." It seems that everything counts, and at this point in the game Edwards can't afford to miss a beat.

    A message that's becoming part of Edwards' stump is his ability to beat George W. Bush. The Democrats will obviously want to pick a candidate they feel can defeat Bush, and Edwards thinks he can do just that. "You're looking at the candidate that can go head to head with George Bush in the North, the Northwest, and talking like this [he points to his mouth as he refers to his Southern drawl] in the South." He adds, "The South is my backyard, not George Bush's backyard."

    The crowds are getting bigger, but it's hard to tell if it's because they're coming to see Edwards, or because the caucuses are just around the corner. Either way, Edwards needs to win over these undecided voters, and so far it seems like he's doing a good job. "I'm leaning towards Edwards," says Sherry Lester of Sioux City. He's easy to understand and I like what he says about helping to keep jobs in this country." As for the DMR endorsement, Lester says she was really pleased about it and was disappointed by some of the other candidate's endorsements – like Harkin and Gore supporting Dean. "He also exudes energy," says Lester of Edwards, "and he reminds me of Kennedy," an opinion voiced several voters.

    Edwards will be in Des Moines on Tuesday morning, and then jet off to New Hampshire for two events. After that, it's all Iowa all the time.

    --Alison Schwartz

    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

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