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Campaign Roadblog, 1/24/04

As the race for the White House heats up, CBS News reporters are out on the road covering the presidential candidates. They'll be sharing their observations, impressions and anecdotes from the campaign trail in our daily Roadblog.


Sat., Jan. 24: The Dean campaign is hoping for a dramatic turnaround in New Hampshire, so with just a few days to go until the primary, Governor Dean started the day in Somersworth, N.H., to rally the troops. Dean addressed about 250-300 door-knockers prepared to brave the New Hampshire winter weather going house to house speaking about Dean. In addition to the hundreds of hardcore supporters, also in attendance at the pep rally in the Somersworth High School cafeteria was Binx the Goat.

Binx the Goat favored Al Gore in 2000 and now sports a Dean bumper sticker on his goat coat. (to learn more about Binx the Goat go to

Then the real fun started. Dean went to do some canvassing of his own in the charming town of Dover, NH. As Dean walked down the street, hoping to create the image of going door to door (which in fairness, he really was) the absurdity of the image with more than two dozen reporters in tow was not lost on press or staff.

Dean staffers held cameras for reporters as the TV people took advantage of the situation to ad lib some Daily Show-esque stand-ups. The scene was too delicious to resist. Dean going door to door, campaigning in a "personal" way, walking down the street blocked off by staff holding yellow rope around him as a barricade to indicate how close the press could get.

But certainly it's not Dean's fault dozens of reporters want to follow his every move - so that's how it is. He campaigns, we watch, and sometimes, everyone has a little fun.

With just days to go before what is being seen by some as the do or die New Hampshire primary, Dean is also doing retail politics. Every stop is a photo-op. Every passerby is a potential vote. Every move is a potential feature story - like today - Dean bought his mother flowers while hitting the streets and shops of downtown Portsmouth. All together now: Awwwwwww.

In the afternoon, Dean's mother, Andree, joined him on stage at a town hall meeting in New Castle, NH. The crowd packed the room, which seemed to max out at about 500 people. Hundreds more listened along out in the lobby.

Dean ended his day of campaigning in Nashua where he and most of his opponents for the nomination appeared at the 100 Club Dinner, a New Hampshire Democratic Party candidate forum.

The crowds at Dean events have the staff convinced their candidate is on the rebound - despite what the polls say. Dean himself, is getting his voice back, and along with it, his message. "Things are closing. We can win this," Dean told his door-knockers this morning. "What we can see over the last few days is people who ran away from us after we lost Iowa are coming back to us." On Tuesday, we'll find out just how many.

- Eric Salzman


Sat. Jan. 24: A winter wonderland nearly turned disastrous Friday as Kerry went full-bore on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

In the scenic New England-esque town of Newport, Kerry visited the town square's skating rink to meet voters and do a little ice skating. As has been the norm since Kerry won Iowa, the media hoarde, which has been quite large and sometimes unruly, swarmed the senator as he walked on the ice to talk to kids and voters. While the press originally was asked to stay along the sides of the rink to observe and take pictures, unless there's something penning them in, reporters and photographers will naturally try to get as close to their subject as they can. For one TV cameraman, that natural instinct earned him a trip to the hospital.

As William Walker, a CNN cameraman, hit the ice, he fell onto his backside, his camera landing hard on his ribs. Kerry and others tended to him as they waited for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Initially Kerry thought "he broke some ribs," but word later came that he probably suffered bruised, not broken, ribs.

That word came from Kerry who, shortly after cutting his Newport visit short, went to a Claremont hospital to visit Walker, sans media. In fact, Kerry's trip was so clandestine, the media wasn't even told he went until he arrived at the Claremont chili-feed that the media sat at waiting for Kerry while he was making his hospital visit.

The day began in Derry at Maryanne's Diner, where Kerry schmoozed with voters as they ate breakfast. Upon his arrival, there were as many members of the media on his trail as there were customers in the restaurant.

Kerry kept apologizing to diners for interrupting their meals, and he made chit-chat with almost everyone in the shop. Then it was on to a local factory where Kerry toured the facility and spoke to employees.

At just after noon, Kerry's largest event of the day was a town-hall meeting focusing on veterans' issues. He was joined on stage by WWII vet and Senator Fritz Hollings, who just endorsed Kerry on Thursday; former Sen. Max Cleland, D-Georgia, a Vietnam veteran who lost three limbs in combat; and Jim Rassmann, the soldier Kerry fished out of a Vietnamese river.

In front of 23 television cameras, Kerry spoke for 15 minutes and took questions from the audience. One asked him if he would consider Sen. John McCain, President Bush's main rival in the 2000 GOP primaries, as vice president. "I've gotta win this nomination first. I have a tough fight the next few days and I'm counting on you to help me do that." Later at the Claremont chili-feed, another voter, a Republican who said Kerry had almost "won (him) over," asked about who Kerry would choose as a running mate. "I'm thinking about how best to dodge that question," quipped Kerry.

One more note: It seems Kerry is cornering the market on Fritzes. He received his second endorsement from a Fritz on Friday: 1984 Democratic presidential nominee and former Sen. Walter "Fritz" Mondale, D-Minnesota.
--Steve Chaggaris

Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.

Sat. Jan. 24: From New Hampshire to South Carolina then back for an overnight in New Hampshire, Sen. Edwards spent Friday hop-scotching across the country trying to drum up both support and money - he also made a quick stop in Birmingham, Ala., for a private fundraiser – for his bid for the Democratic nomination. In South Carolina, the state where Edwards was born, he greeted close to 200 supporters at a voter education project in Columbia.

In less than three days, Edwards will face the New Hampshire primary, and in less than two weeks, the South Carolina primary. While some had speculated that he would skip N.H. and go straight to S.C., the Edwards camp says that was never part of its strategy. And with the rollercoaster ride that we experienced in Iowa, it proved to both the candidates and the voters that you never know what can happen.

On the stump, Edwards constantly tells voters that no Democratic candidate has ever become president without winning at least five Southern states. Since Edwards' Southern roots are such a selling point in his stump, he knows that he MUST win his home state. In addition to S.C., he also needs to make a strong showing in some other Feb. 3rd states like Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Now, with Dick Gephardt out of the race, the Edwards campaign also announced that it is building a staff in Missouri, comprised of some ex-Gephardt people and some Edwards' Iowa people. They have not said whether they will put any ads up or make any trips there, but all indications are pointing in that direction.

For the next few days, however, the focus will be on N.H. And so far it's been all about THE GOOSE KHARMA. Last night, the press plane arrived before Edwards, and when we arrived at the Berlin Municipal Airport, temperatures were below freezing. If the frigid weather wasn't bad enough, when we asked where our van was, we were told it would be there in half an hour. A couple of minutes later we found out that our driver hit and killed a MOOSE! Once we found out that the driver was fine, we were all hysterical. We were then discussing what we wanted for dinner and one guy said, "I'd kill for a moose burger." We all replied, "You already did!" Only on the campaign trail!

Once we thought Moose-gate had subsided, we settled in to a quaint little bed and breakfast. We have been running around nonstop for the past several weeks, so it was a nice break for a whopping seven hours. After a good night's sleep in the coldest part of N.H., the morning began at a town hall meeting in Gorham where Edwards was greeted by about 150 voters. It was a very interested and enthusiastic crowd for 10 a.m. on a Saturday. We thought the moose was well behind us, but as it turns out, the moose seemed to haunt us the whole day.

We ended up getting lost in the picturesque N.H. mountains and the entire press corps missed the afternoon event. We were not happy to say the least, and the lack of food and a working restroom (an outdoor port-o-potty in below zero temperatures is definitely not pleasant) only added fuel to the fire. When we finally made it to the next event at Rochester Middle School, there was no high speed and only one dialup line. You can imagine how unhappy we were. While the press corps may have been disgruntled, the campaign was very happy with the turnout. There were so many people that they had to set up another room for the overflow. (This is pretty common at Edwards' events lately.) In fact, Elizabeth Edwards and Glenn Close (who is campaigning with Edwards this weekend), snuck out of the main event so that they could entertain the other room filled with voters. It was quite a circus.
--Alison Schwartz

Allison Davis, an associate producer for the CBS News Campaign Unit, recounts her experience producing the Howard Dean Top Ten segment for "The Late Show with David Letterman":

Fri. Jan. 23: 1:30 p.m. - The Chuck truck and I arrive in Hanover, N.H. After a brief chat with Lee from the Dean campaign, we head to the back entrance of Lou's Bakery. Chuck enters first and makes instant friends with the manager. Before I know it, he is running cables through the kitchen.

2:00 p.m. - Lee from the Dean campaign has showed up. The Top Ten List is not approved yet and she is waiting for the writers to fax the list to Lou's Bakery directly.

2:15 p.m. - A new Dean staffer arrives with Dean banners and mentions in passing to Lee that she sent out an email blog for students to arrive at Lou's at 3 p.m. This soon-to-be disaster does not initially register.

2:45 p.m. - The camera is in position; we are up on the satellite. New York is seeing a picture. I am feeling good.

3:00 p.m. - Dean's hit time is 3:15 p.m. There is no fax, no cue cards are written. The front door opens and 45 college students with Dean buttons and cardboard banners pile into the bakery. There are still customers enjoying a leisurely lunch.

3:10 p.m. - I place a call to Jill at the Letterman show. "Jill, a number of Dean supporters just got here with posters. They want to stand in the background while Dean does the Top Ten." Jill: "Absolutely not, no way. It has to be a clean shot." I run over to Lee while trying to talk Jill down. "There can't be anyone in the shot. These kids are not allowed to be in the picture." I am not popular.

3:22 p.m. - "Allison, this is Larry the director. Allison, how can we make this picture into a single shot of Dean and not a campaign rally?"

"We are working on that right now," I say. I am trying to move out of the way as sullen college kids climb over the lights and cables.

3:30 p.m. - Still no fax, no cue cards. I overhear that Dean has not approved the Top Ten list yet. Satellite space runs out at 3:45 p.m. It takes a miracle, I remember, to extend it.

3:45 p.m. - Trisha from the Dean campaign arrives. She is instantly upset that no one is allowed in the background of the shot. "It can be turned on us to look like he can't find anyone to have lunch with," she says into her cell phone. I am sure it didn't help that a few minutes later I tripped on one of the wires, sending her cell phone crashing to the floor. Not my finest moment.

3:50 p.m. - Still no fax. With an IFB cord hanging out of my ear, a microphone pack clipped to my jacket, I am instructed by the writer in New York to transcribe the Top Ten list as he says it into my ear. The anxiety mounts and the sweating is becoming uncontrollable. I grab the closest piece of scratch paper I can find, which happens to be the brown paper bag that used to carry the thick sharpie markers that are now sprawled all over the booth. I notice a snoopy little Dartmouth paper reporter leaning over the booth trying to copy down the jokes as I write them down.

4:00 p.m. - I am barely finished writing each joke out on large cue cards when I overhear that Rob Reiner has not approved this list. I am out of poster board.

4:02 p.m. - Jill gets back on the IFB line. "Allison, here is a new one that I need you to take down. Ready? 'I can't give specifics yet..." she starts. "Oh okay, I can wait." "No, Allison, that is the joke..." Could it possibly get any worse?

4:05 p.m. - The cards are done. Trisha has looked at them. They are all in order. The sweating remains uncomfortable but things seem under control.

4:07 p.m. - I hear cheers outside, indicating someone's arrival. They are calling for me on the IFB again. Jill says that the order of the jokes needs to be redone. Dean has walked into the diner. I am using his IFB to hear Jill from the Letterman show in N.Y., but the technician unhooked the microphone so I can hear Jill but she can't hear me. At one point, I have to move closer to Dean and lean in to the microphone that is now attached to his lapel.

"Jill, I can hear you just tell me the order." Jill reads out each joke in the correct order while I rearrange the cue cards and I gave a thumbs-up to the camera to let her know I had it down.

4:10 p.m. - I am behind the camera and things are rolling. Letterman's control room is talking to Dean in his ear and he is practicing the jokes. He is a bit of a stiff. The line about his showing more skin took a number of takes because he couldn't get he whole blazer off the shoulder movement.

4:15 p.m. - We get to number three: "I can't give specifics yet but it involves, Ted Danson." Dean reads the line but looks confused. "Shouldn't that say, 'I can't give specifics yet but it involves, tap dancing?'" he says. Everyone looks around with no clue as to what he is talking about.

4:16 p.m. - Someone that I swear I have never seen before pipes up: "Ted Danson is a running joke at the David Letterman show." Everyone seems to buy it because before I know it we are back on track and counting down.

4:20 pm - Rob Reiner taps me on the shoulder. "Do you know the Ted Danson joke?" "Uh, no. I don't know what it means."
He gives me an uncomfortably dirty looks and storms away from the set.

4:25 p.m. - We end with Dean taping an awkward wave to Dave and everyone is out of the bakery as quickly as they came.

I never saw Rob Reiner again. And After a long breath, I realized how badly I needed a shower.


Fri. Jan. 23: The Lovebirds.

Hadassah and Joe are a touchy couple. Whenever they're together, they're touching; which is often these days. The Liebermans rented an apartment in Manchester for the month of January. No Judith Steinberg Dean syndrome, here.

It's actually quite nice to see a couple so in love, especially since it's a second marriage for both and because it seems quite stressful to have a spouse away for such a long amount of time, let alone one who is running for the nation's highest office.

Tonight, after the New Hampshire debate, the Lieberman campaign and supporters celebrated at a bar near the Joe 2004 Manchester headquarters. Hadassah stood by her man in a tweed suit and heels, looking all first lady-y. When Joe finished revving up the crowd and sharing his vision of "a political uprising", i.e. building on momentum following his "best debate ever," the two stepped off the riser to greet the crowd and thank them for their support. The music started playing (blasting is probably more accurate) and, swept up by the mood, Hadassah took Joe's hands and began to dance with him. Before you knew it, the crowd had cleared a path for the twirling duo and, for a split-second, it almost felt as though, for those two, no one else was in the room.

Unfortunately, in real life as in politics, "West Side Story" moments only last so long.

A staff member soon whisked them out through a back door to the SUV waiting to take them home. The lights in the bar flickered on, the music got low, a few supporters hung around to have some beers and everyone else headed back out into the night.
--Tali Aronsky

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. Army (retired)

Thurs. Jan. 22: Ever since John Kerry was knighted with the title of "frontrunner," Gen. Wesley Clark has had to tweak his pitch just a bit.

Instead of simply touting his military service (as he did when the perceived frontrunner was Howard Dean), Clark now has to qualify that experience, given Kerry's own service in Vietnam. Clark uses phrases like "high-level" and "executive leadership" to distinguish his role in the armed forces from Kerry's.

After discussing patriotism and issues pertaining to veterans at a Portsmouth, N.H., Veterans of Foreign Wars hall Wednesday morning, Clark told reporters, "My military experience has been executive leadership so I know how to set goals, lay out the standards, bring people together, and get the mission accomplished."

Executive leadership is what Clark says sets him apart from Kerry. "We were both junior officers in Vietnam and we both did the same kinds of things in Vietnam, and we both won the Silver Star. That's not what's at issue here; it's two different paths of public service."

While Gen. Clark returned from Vietnam on a stretcher and stayed with the military, Kerry left the military and ran for public office – a different path Clark hopes will bolster support among veterans like Dennis Durpin. "I don't think legislators have the executive experience," said Durpin. "I think Gen. Clark's experience being the head of such a large organization such as the military is important."

According to Clark's head veteran mobilizer, Eric Massa, the campaign has more than 500 "Veterans for Clark" and "thousands" more who have expressed interest in Clark's campaign. While the veteran vote is important, one of Clark's handicaps is the fact that he is, well, a general.

One of the more frequent questions Clark is asked by voters in his town hall-style forums is whether or not his military credentials offer broad enough experience to lead a country. Usually he cites his varied duties as commanding officer, which included everything from ensuring healthcare and education, fixing potholes in the streets and stocking the commissary with pampers. Sometimes he even goes so far as to say he was a camp counselor at the age of 14.

Not all voters think that experience cuts it, however. After a "Conversation with Clark" in Rochester, N.H., Wednesday evening, one Kerry supporter explained her choice, saying, "He served in Vietnam and he has a very distinguished senatorial career, which is very important to me."

In a tactic that didn't jibe with the Clark's mantra of conducting a "positive" campaign, the veteran and commander of a local VFW, Brian Hardy, who introduced Clark to Rochester voters, sharply criticized Kerry.

"John Kerry has had an extreme makeover in Iowa. He's gone from a Boston-bred man of privilege and wealth to the man of the people. Don't buy what he's selling," Hardy told about 200 voters in the VFW hall, and thousands watching live on C-SPAN.

Hardy continued, "Wes Clark has led an army and he's administered to the health, housing and education needs for hundreds of thousands of military families across the globe. Mr. Kerry has run a Senate office, and now he wants to run the White House."

When Clark took the microphone from Hardy, he did not address the comments, but did so toward the end of the event.

"[John Kerry] is a friend of mine and whatever people say, I consider [Kerry] a patriot, I consider him a distinguished senator. I consider him a fine presidential candidate. And it's really up to the people of N.H. to make the distinction between the two of us. I'm here telling you what I believe in, what I stand for," Clark said, putting his diplomatic skills to work.

Clark's staff was quick to inform the press that Hardy's comments were unsolicited and denied the campaign knew the content of his introduction.

Hardy later confirmed that to reporters, saying, "This campaign didn't see any of my remarks and they never suggested I say a thing."

Clark may have put out a fire by addressing the situation. "That was really gentlemanly of you," said Kerry supporter Elaine Baillargeon, while asking Clark for his autograph.

"Well, I didn't know he was going to say anything like that," he said under his breath.

The battle for the veterans' votes is a tossup between Gen. Clark and Sen. Kerry, but one thing can be sure: the chances of the words "executive leadership" being used in tonight's Democratic candidates debate are pretty good.
--Bonney Kapp


Wed. Jan. 21: The Lovebirds

Last night, Howard Dean was supposed to return to Vermont for a previously scheduled day without public events. Instead, he spent the night in New Hampshire in order to address staff and supporters at his state headquarters in Manchester this morning.

Dean, sounding hoarse and looking a little tired, presented his plan for an overhaul of the financing of presidential campaigns. The candidate wants public financing for all federal elections. Dean also wants a tax credit for the first $100 of contributions to a presidential candidate. Tomorrow, at yet another Democratic candidate debate, Dean will call for a $250 limit on campaign contributions with a 5:1 public match.

After his speech at headquarters, Dean headed for the van waiting outside to take him to the airport. As was the case twice last week in Iowa, the campaign ended up in a heated moment with the gathered press. With reporters, photographers and camera crews gathered outside the door and in the path to Dean's van, word went out to staff to clear a way for the governor.

Before the staff could react, Dean was on his way out. An aide tried to barrel his way through the waiting press, only to end up flailing with a determined reporter. The aide fell against some of the people in the crowd and another staffer was struck during the commotion as Dean moved toward the van.

On the way to the airport, Dean stopped by a Dunkin' Donuts, where he shook hands with patrons, received a $500 check from a supporter and again tried to work within the confines created by an abundance of photographers. After the stop, Dean flew back to Vermont where he did a whirlwind round of satellite interviews with television stations located mainly in New Hampshire or Feb. 3rd primary states.

Advisers to the governor expect their candidate to focus for the next few days on his message of removing special interests from politics. Staffers, however, are scrambling to come up with a way to shift the kind of press Dean has been receiving over the past week, and particularly, the past 48 Hours. Some staffers see New Hampshire as a must-win state for Dean and are making contingency plans should the governor fail in a state where he once held a commanding lead in the polls.
--Eric Salzman

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