Campaign Roadblog, 2/19/04

Campaign 2004 Bus Election
With the primary season in full swing, CBS News reporters are out on the road covering the candidates' every move. In our daily Roadblog, they share their campaign trail observations, impressions and anecdotes.


Thurs. Feb. 19: "Primary Sets Up a Clean 2-Way Competition for Party's Nomination" (New York Times, 2/18).

"Kerry and Edwards Square Off As Dean Abandons Campaign" (New York Times, 2/19).

They could not have asked for better headlines. Ever since Sen. Edwards came in a strong second behind Sen. Kerry in the Jan. 19 Iowa caucus, the Edwards campaign has been hoping for a two-way race between the two senators. One month later, their wish is now a reality.

On Tuesday night, Edwards came in a strong and very surprising (note: even Edwards says that he was surprised) second-place finish in the Wisconsin primary. This victory, once again, gave Edwards the green light to move forward with his campaign. Just when you thought it could be over, the Edwards campaign hopes it's only just beginning.

Edwards has won only one of the 17 primary states so far, but with only one-quarter of the delegates chosen, it's too early to declare front-runner Kerry the nominee. And the Edwards camp, which has by all accounts run a positive and optimistic campaign, has reason to believe it's not too late for the tide to turn. In their estimation, the frontloading of the primary season has benefited Kerry. The early primaries were so stacked together that it did not give the voters enough time to sit back and really assess the pros and cons of the candidates. The Edwards folks say, instead, that voters went straight to Kerry because he was the one with the momentum. This, in turn, was disadvantageous to Edwards.

However, with Super Tuesday two weeks away, Edwards is hoping that voters across the country will now have a chance to look more closely at the two candidates and not jump on the momentum bandwagon. And with Gov. Dean ending his bid for the candidacy yesterday, he will no longer be an obstacle to either candidate. The issue of whether Dean will lend his support to Kerry or Edwards is still up in the air; Edwards has said that he would welcome Dean's support. For now, the issue is John/John all the time.

It is undisputed that Edwards needs to win several of the Super Tuesday states in order to overcome Kerry's triple delegate count. It will be nearly impossible (with the funds they now have) to advertise in all 10 states, so Edwards will have to decide where he has the best shot. Thus far, the campaign plans to focus on New York, Georgia, Ohio, Minnesota and Maryland. But in response to Kerry's assertion that they are "cherry picking," Edwards says he is running a "national campaign."

The states that Edwards sees as ideal stomping grounds are those that have faced a great deal of jobs loss, and Edwards' message on jobs and trade seems to resonate with that segment of the population. He also opposes NAFTA, which is responsible for a lot of the job loss, especially manufacturing jobs. Kerry supported NAFA, and Edwards plans to highlight their differences on this topic in the next two weeks.

Edwards was actually not in the Senate when NAFTA passed, but he did talk about his opposition to it in his 1998 Senate campaign, which may or may not legitimize it enough for him to campaign against it now (note: some people still question whether he campaigned hard against it during his Senate campaign or whether it was just a peripheral issue, but there is proof that it was discussed). As the son of a mill worker who saw what happened when the factory in his town shut down, Edwards uses this issue as both a substantive and emotional plea to the voters. "I could see the vacant look on their faces," he says. "I will wake up every single day and think about you."

Edwards began his Super Tuesday swing in New York City. Addressing a crowd of over 1,000 people at Columbia University, Edwards said, "I'm not A-Rod, but I can close!" He spent the greater part of his speech talking about jobs and the negative effects of many of the current trade agreements. He also criticized the Bush administration's handling of the economy, and offered his own ideas of how to create jobs. The Edwards campaign sees N.Y. as a pivotal state and they plan to be there for five consecutive days this week.

The campaign is now headed to Atlanta where Edwards will hold a town hall meeting. He also plans to hit Ohio, Maryland and Minnesota in the next few days, and he's scheduled to appear at the L.A. Times debate on Jan. 26 (note: the campaign has not released any other schedule information yet).

As of yesterday, the campaign said that it has raised $700,000, through online and fundraising efforts since the polls closed in Wisconsin. The average online contribution was $80.59. Of those contributions, 29% were new donors. Edwards had two private fundraisers Wednesday night in northern New Jersey, and he is headed to Miami this evening for another one. Obviously money is the key to the long-term sustenance of his campaign. And with Kerry opting out of public financing, this could become an issue in the campaign. Kerry could argue that he has a better shot at defeating Bush because he will be able to raise more money then Edwards.

As we move into these critical two weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, all eyes will be focused on the two senators. Edwards has said that he's looking forward to a one-on-one debate with Kerry, but so far there's no inclination if the Kerry camp will be amenable to this. After all, it may be more detrimental to frontrunner Kerry then advantageous, so it is still up in the air what will happen.

Either way the race is surely on for the Southerner and New Englander. This is sure to be a real gentlemen's duel!
--Alison Schwartz


Wed. Feb. 18: Kerry, fresh off his Wisconsin win, came out swinging - against second-place finisher John Edwards and against President Bush.

The trade issue is going to be a big deal in the new two-way contest between Edwards and Kerry, especially in the Super Tuesday - March 2nd - state of Ohio. Edwards will continue to point out he's against NAFTA while stressing that Kerry voted for it. Kerry bristled when asked about the issue in Dayton, Ohio.

"We have the same policy on trade. Exactly the same policy. He voted for the China trade agreement, so did I. And both of us want to have labor agreements and environment agreements as part of a trade agreement. So it's the exact same policy," said Kerry.

When he was pressed about their differences on NAFTA, Kerry shot back, "Well, he wasn't in the Senate back then. I don't know where he registered his vote, but it wasn't in the Senate."

Meantime, Kerry took a jab at the White House, a day after Bush administration officials backed off their projection of the creation of 2.6 million new jobs this year.

"What it says to me is they don't know what they're talking about in their own economic policy," Kerry said. "Today it's one thing and tomorrow it's the next. The biggest 'Say one thing, do another' administration in the history of the country."

Next to Edwards' strong second place finish in Wisconsin, the other big political news of the day was Howard Dean's withdrawal from the race, effectively ending months of harsh attacks from the Vermont governor. Kerry, who on the morning flight from Madison, Wisconsin to Dayton, was in extremely high spirits because of his win and perhaps because of the Dean news, complimented his former rival after the plane landed.

"It's impossible not to express admiration and respect for the campaigning that he's put together and what he's achieved," said Kerry.

Kerry was quite chatty on the morning plane ride talking about future travel - he plans on visiting Georgia, New York, California, Ohio (again), Minnesota and Massachusetts over the next two weeks. However, one state that holds its caucuses on Tuesday, Hawaii, is not on the calendar, to Kerry's dismay.

"I have honestly proven how powerless I am," Kerry lamented, explaining his staff had nixed the idea due to the amount of travel time involved. He added that he could have seen himself "doing a curly on a lip of a wave coming over Waikiki."

Kerry also talked about potential celebrity support including hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and Bette Midler - a long way from original celebrity backers Carole King and Peter Yarrow. When asked about Madonna now that Wesley Clark has endorsed him, all Kerry would offer was: "Clark offered to help me bring some people on board who are supporters of his, so I'm looking forward to that."

Wednesday, Kerry focused on jobs during an event at a UAW hall in Dayton, Ohio and a rally at the Plumbers and Pipefitters hall in Columbus, where over 1,000 turned out.

In Dayton, when one audience member shouted out "Mr. President!" Kerry cautioned: "I've gotta win the nomination first. And I'm counting on Ohio."

Thursday, Kerry is expected to receive the endorsement of the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. before heading to Boston for a day of meetings with advisers.
--Steve Chaggaris


Thurs. Feb. 19: The day after he declared he would no longer seek the Presidency, Howard Dean spent time at his campaign headquarters with staff and volunteers. He signed autographs on hats, photos, and even laptops. He doled out career advice to staffers who were leaving. He offered contact names in different parts of the country.

Dressed in blue jeans and a faded green shirt, Dean seemed relaxed - and grateful to the staff who worked so hard for him.

Staff like Courtney O'Donnell: in her late 20s, O'Donnell first drove up to Burlington, Vt., in December of 2002. Last November, when Howard Dean seemed likely to be the nominee, O'Donnell spoke about when she first found the Dean headquarters. "They said, 'great, how long are you here?'" about her offer to work for the campaign. "And I said, 'well, 'til the end.'"

It turns out, O'Donnell will stay past the end. She began as a campaign volunteer - working for free for six weeks before becoming a paid member of the staff and Deputy Communications Director. With Friday being her last day on the payroll, O'Donnell will once again become an unpaid volunteer for Howard Dean - helping in the office for another six weeks (her lease in Burlington goes until April 1st).

"The middle," O'Donnell says of the bookends that will be two separate volunteer stints, "was the greatest experience of my life."

While many were writing Dean out of the race after his loss in New Hampshire, O'Donnell remained optimistic until the Wisconsin primary. Once the returns began to come in on Tuesday, she knew the end had come. "I've been crying a lot," she said. "It's sad to me that Governor Dean won't be the next President."

Tuesday night O'Donnell and many of her colleagues in Burlington headed to the Vermont Pub and Brewery. It was the scene of many a late night for the Dean staff early in the campaign because the original headquarters was located just upstairs. "It's sort of my first connection with Burlington was through that pub," O'Donnell said chuckling.

Even after a night of preparation, Wednesday was not an easy day. "I think the moment in the speech where he said, you know, I'm no longer actively seeking the Presidency, is where it really - this whole thing became very real," she said with a hint of emotion still in her voice. But as wild as emotions have been this week, O'Donnell remains inspired. "I think the greatest thing is it's not over," she said referring to Dean's plan to continue with a new organization. "I'm taking away hope and inspiration after a loss."

Back in November, O'Donnell cited Dean's February 21st speech to the DNC in Washington, DC where the former Vermont governor sharply criticized his own party, as a real turning point in the campaign.

Today, that speech is still one of O'Donnell's fondest memories. "That really was one of the moments I'll look back to as one of the most exciting and uplifting moments," she said. "We felt like we had a microphone."

Others high points for O'Donnell include her work on the Dean Sleepless Summer Tour and her work with Dean's wife, Judy. "She's just such a wonderful person," O'Donnell said of Dr. Steinberg. As for keepsakes - O'Donnell has campaign clothing, staff credentials, and a particularly treasured jug of maple syrup Dean gave her in the early days of the campaign.

Like so many of the Dean staff, O'Donnell is unsure of just what she'll do when she leaves Burlington. She will vote for and support the nominee of the Democratic Party, but will not work on another Presidential campaign this year. "At this point I can't forsee working for another nominee formally," she said because of her strong attachment to the Dean campaign. But even though she won't sign on as staff with another Presidential candidate, it is also because of her commitment to Howard Dean that O'Donnell will stay in the political fight.

"It was Howard Dean that inspired me to come," she said. "Now he's inspired me to continue."
--Eric Salzman