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Campaign Roadblog, 1/26/04

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.


Mon., Jan. 26: "That's me, that's me!" The shout came from the balcony of the Palace Theater in Manchester, N.H., where Howard Dean had just started to tell a story.

The story was about a man he had met the night before at yet another New Hampshire town hall. During the Q & A the previous night, a 28-year-old man named John waited patiently by a microphone for about 20 minutes. When his turn finally came to ask the governor a question, John launched into his own story.

He was unemployed in New Hampshire, he explained. John moved to Vermont and got a job as a dishwasher. But then, John said, he got sick.

But with enthusiasm and pride he shouted about he saw a doctor for two dollars... and then had a cavity filled for three dollars. "And I still got the lollipop," John told the audience.

John was so pro-Dean, the candidate felt the need to promise the audience that the young man was not a plant. After telling his story to the audience, John made his way to the stage to shake Dean's hand. He said something off mike, and Dean then announced to the crowd that John now owns his own business, working as a piano tuner.

During his standard stump speech, Dean usually tells two or three stories about folks he has met on the campaign trail. Today, while talking to a packed theater in Manchester, Dean started to tell the story of the young man he met the previous night.

And that's when the shout came out from the balcony. "John?" Dean asked looking up. John was there one more time. The governor asked his young supporter to tell his own story, which John shouted to the hall with heartfelt enthusiasm. After telling his story, John added one other thought to demonstrate his support for Dean: "Some people heard Howard Dean scream and it made them run away. I heard Howard Dean scream and it made me wake up!"
- Eric Salzman


Mon. Jan. 26: Two days before the New Hampshire primary, Kerry went door to door in Merrimack to ask for votes.

After interviews on the Sunday morning news shows, he headed to Craig Drive in Merrimack, in a middle-class neighborhood with houses on ½- to 1-acre lots, and literally knocked on doors to talk to voters. The street was chosen, according to campaign aides, because there were a lot of undecided voters on the block.

Over about an hour, in single-digit temperatures, Kerry stopped by seven houses; at five of them, someone answered the door. One woman, Diana Frothingham, told Kerry that she and her husband were trying to decide between him and Howard Dean. With only a print reporter within listening distance, Kerry used the term "flip flop" to describe Dean's positions and added that he's weak on the war and wants to increase taxes. "The Republicans will just kill us on that. ... It's a serious problem," Kerry said.

Later, over 2,000 people attended a rally for Kerry where Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and his son Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I. (a strong Gephardt supporter who endorsed Kerry on Sunday) were featured. The rest of the day included two town-hall meetings, one in Hampton that had over 400 attendees plus another 250 in an overflow room; and another in Somersworth where 400 showed up. By the way, the Hampton event featured a stump speech that all reporters agreed was Kerry's shortest ever: 6 minutes 45 seconds.

While Kerry continues to say he's not looking past New Hampshire and that he's "fighting for every vote" in the Granite State, plans for the Feb. 3 primaries are slowly coming together.

Campaign aides are strongly hinting that the senator will head Wednesday to Missouri, the newest battleground since favorite son Dick Gephardt bailed out of the race. Missouri is now the largest prize on Feb. 3, followed by South Carolina, where Kerry is scheduled to head on Thursday.

Both states feature local politicians that the candidates have been working hard for endorsements. In Missouri, two of the big prizes are Gephardt and former Sen. Jean Carnahan. In South Carolina, Rep. Jim Clyburn, who was a Gephardt guy, is the most coveted because of his standing among African-American voters.
--Steve Chaggaris

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

Mon. Jan. 26: If Wesley Clark could only go around from restaurant to restaurant, courting voters table by table, he just might win the election.

After attending a house party and two rallies Sunday, Clark stopped by two restaurants in Hanover, N.H., before retiring to a nearby hotel for the night. The press schedule suggested we would be checked into the hotel by 9 p.m. to rest for a long day ahead, but Clark mingled with patrons until 11:15.

When Clark walked into the Canoe Club, women who had attended a Lifetime "Every Woman Counts" forum (Clark was invited, but did not attend) were sitting at a front table for dinner and drinks. When one shouted out to Clark to join them, he obliged. While his staff ate dinner at a table across the room, Clark entertained the table of six, including the president of NOW, Kim Gandy.

It became an intimate "Conversation with Clark," as people pulled up chairs next to the general until there were about 30 voters hovered around him, watching him eat and listening to him talk on a host of issues.

He is good – really good – at retail politics. He spoke openly and candidly; "I have an opinion on everything," he said. He charmed the group of students, locals, and women's activists while talking about healthcare, the death penalty, Cabinet appointments, election strategy, education, and art and social reform, to name a few topics.

On retail stops, Clark is relaxed, funny, and intelligent. And it's obvious he enjoys meeting voters, shaking hands and talking. When asked by the table if his Cabinet would be half women to reflect the nation's population, Clark retorted, "What if 70 percent were women?"

But he also wants to win the nomination. "OK, let's get down to brass tacks. I want votes," he said. "It's about winning an election and changing a country," he said, his grin melting away into seriousness.

In the two hours or so he spent in the restaurant, he did manage to win over at least a few Dean supporters and undecided voters, like Mary Fosher. "He's genuine, he's forthright and I'm really leaning towards supporting him," she said.

Voter Gretchen Stewart said she enjoyed getting to know a side of Clark she hadn't heard too much about, something other than what she called his "one-dimensional" military background. Stewart noted, "He talked about the other experiences that he's had in his life, in addition to the military. I think that makes a big difference because a lot of times that's a real turnoff."

Clark will tour all 10 counties in New Hampshire on Monday, starting at 6:30 a.m. in Lebanon, and returning to Manchester by 4 a.m. election morning. Clark will try and shake as many hands as he can, but he will only be at each of the events for a fraction of the time he spent at dinner. With the primary taking place on Tuesday, time is not on his side. If he had more of it, according to Stewart, he might win the votes he needs to catch up with projected frontrunner John Kerry.

"I think he'd impress a lot of people. Absolutely," Stewart said.
--Bonney Kapp


Mon. Jan. 26: Madame President.

Howard Dean, Joseph Lieberman and Dennis Kucinich addressed Dartmouth College's Women's Forum on Sunday. Among the more spirited questions asked of the candidates was, "When will a woman be elected president of the United States?"

Without blinking, Dean replied: "2012. When I'm done and Hillary takes over."

Thankfully, Lieberman nominated neither of the loves of his life: his mother or his wife Hadassah. Instead, the senator reached back into his own home state's history and posthumously nominated Connecticut's first female governor, Ella Grasso, as president.

Kucinich dodged the question. He took the transgender route, namely, "It should be sufficient to seek a man with a feminine perspective to lead our nation."
--Tali Aronsky

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

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