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Campaign Roadblog, 1/27/04

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.

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

Tues. Jan. 27: Gen. Wesley Clark barnstormed New Hampshire Monday, campaigning in each of the state's ten counties. From a truck stop in Lebanon to a coffee shop in Claremont to a rally in Manchester, he shook hands and spoke to hundreds of Granite State voters in an ambitious day that began at 6:15 a.m. Some of the events were less than successful; several locations only had a handful of people and a rally in Concord fizzled due to the cold and moved indoors.

But Clark's day came to a climactic end when the campaign's motorcade rolled into the tiny town of Dixville Notch to witness the country's first primary vote at the Balsams Resort.

Every four years the citizens of Dixville Notch are thrust into the spotlight when the national media comes to record the pomp and circumstance surrounding the ritual. One by one, the town's registered voters (this year there are 11 Republicans and 15 Independents) come dressed in sequins and bow ties to cast their votes in the cramped ballot room, where dozens of TV crews and journalists record the very serious ceremony.

By law, Clark had to wait outside the room, as candidates can only come within so many feet of a polling place. During the voting, he busied himself by talking with voters and making himself a cup of tea. When the last ballot was cast, the town moderator, Tom Tillotson, asked the room be cleared for the count. A few minutes later, he emerged from the room and walked up to a podium.

"It's now a lucky 13 minutes after midnight. The polls are closed; we've counted the ballots and I'd like to make the following announcement," Tillotson said. George Bush swept the GOP vote with 100 percent of town Republicans; Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman got one vote each; and John Edwards fared better with two.

And then, for Clark supporters, perhaps the best words you could hear: "And the runner-up is … John Kerry with 3 votes."

Cheers and applause broke out when a quick subtraction showed that Clark won decisively with eight of the 15 Independent votes. During the subsequent press conference, a man shouted out, "How does it feel to be number one in the United States?"

"It feels very good and we're very happy," a tired, but delighted Clark answered; later adding, "This is really a great way to begin the next day."

General and Mrs. Clark left the room flanked by campaign staffers shouting out, "First family coming through!"

And for a few hours, Clark was the number one Democrat in the country with a five-vote margin over John Kerry. But polls opened later in the morning in the rest of the state. Not relying on his early victory to carry the whole state, Clark will be out much of Tuesday shaking yet more hands.
--Bonney Kapp


Tues. Jan. 27: Regardless of the fact that most polls show him way ahead of Howard Dean, Kerry insisted he wasn't taking any votes for granted and made a major push for votes Monday, including flying across the state via helicopter to attend two events.

Repeating the formula his campaign felt worked in Iowa, Kerry spent the day interacting directly with voters at town hall meetings and walking a main street in Rochester.

He began the day in Portsmouth where he broke his stump-speech brevity record by speaking only five-and-a-half minutes before taking questions. One of the 100 or so attendees asked him how he would respond to Republican attacks if he became the nominee. Kerry responded, "If the worst thing they can say about me is that I'm a liberal or something, let's go, bring it on. ... If the worst they can do is start calling me names in this election then they've got a problem in this election."

Taking a page from his Iowa strategy, Kerry hopped on a bus with four undecided voters. During the 40 minute ride to Rochester, Kerry spoke to the four and answered questions on taxes, Iraq, education, his hobbies (he "hack(s) around on the guitar" and "used to make model ships") and what pets he owns (two canaries, one in Boston and one in Washington, as well as a German shepherd named Kim). "I haven't gotten to see my dog. I miss him," Kerry lamented. Turns out the bus stunt worked out for Kerry; at the end of the ride, all four undecideds said they'd support him.

In Rochester, Kerry walked the streets and spoke to voters, stopping in several local shops including a sub shop, a camera store, an antique dealer, an insurance company and the local firehouse. After his jaunt through town, Kerry boarded a helicopter to take him across the state to Keene State University where he held a town-hall meeting with 500 people.

During the question-and-answer session, a young Kerry volunteer who was on stage behind the candidate collapsed. Kerry and others immediately surrounded him and within a minute he came to; it was just a fainting spell. As the woozy volunteer was escorted off stage, Kerry quipped, "It shows you how hard we're working to win."

Following the Keene State scare, Kerry boarded another helicopter to fly to another town-hall meeting in Jaffery where over 200 people showed up.

Kerry wrapped up the night with town-hall meetings at Pinkerton Academy and Salem High School, where he was joined by his daughters, Alex and Vanessa, and stepson Andre Heinz. He then made a late-night stop at his Manchester headquarters with the kids and his wife Teresa to rally his staff and volunteers.
--Steve Chaggaris


Tues. Jan. 27: Singer/songwriter Cody Harris was preaching to the choir as he serenaded Lieberman supporters on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. The crowd at Milly's Tavern in ManchVegas (what hip Manchester youngins' call their beloved city) was pumped up and ready for a little nacht music. What they got instead was Pete Seeger does politics.

Harris, a Lieberman supporter from San Francisco, became the resident rock star after he came up with a folksy, Seeger-y theme song for the Lieberman campaign.

The copyrighted lyrics go something like this. And, while I can't replicate the tune on paper, hum along to Adam Sandler's SNL Hanukkah song. It'll do just fine for now:

Joe Lieberman
He's not flashy but he's good
He's the best president for the neighborhood

So tell all of your friends
To go make up their minds
He's go the longest name on the ballot
It's the easiest to find!...

A better America
Is what we all are makin'
So vote for the candidate who refuses to eat bacon...

Joe Lieberman
Well, you know he's not so bad
And he'd be in the White House now
If it weren't for all those chads!

Four more years of Dubya
Will turn our brains to mush
So vote for the candidate
Who can actually beat George Bush...
--Tali Aronsky


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

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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