SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-Conn.
Mon. Feb. 2: End of the rope: another day of ineptitude at the Lieberman campaign. Hours in advance, the press corps asks for filing time and a place to file (with these guys, one must specify both). We get to the Wyndham in Phoenix with time to spare to file before the LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) event. It's already 6:15 p.m. on the East Coast. We escalator up to the business center. It's locked. We look inside the glass door. A bleak picture: two phone lines, two chairs. Good luck.
Press folk are all totally fed up by now. No one can ever file. Or meet their deadlines. And this is not a new thing, and it has nothing to do with a dying campaign that is low on funds. It's been like this the whole time and it has to do with organization, with priority, with realizing that if you don't accommodate the press then it will be hard for them to give you press coverage.
A pro like Joe who ran a successful VP campaign in 2000 should know better.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, U.S. Army (retired)
Mon. Feb. 2: In Sunday's Washington Post, a headline declared Sen. John Kerry, "Strong in all 7 Races on Tuesday." As the frontrunner's endorsements runneth over and his poll numbers continue to hold steady, most political pundits agree Kerry's nomination appears inevitable.
Last week, Wesley Clark continued to defend his decision to forego the Iowa caucus in order to focus his time and money on New Hampshire, where the payoff was a squeaker of a third-place finish. According to polls, it doesn't appear that finish has given Clark the momentum he was looking for in South Carolina. The latest CBS News poll shows Clark is tied for third there with Al Sharpton, behind John Edwards and Kerry.
In his last swing through the Palmetto State, Clark was asked by a local news reporter if S.C. was special to him since he's from the South. Hedging his bets, Clark responded, "It is and I'm a Southerner, but you know I'm also a next-door neighbor in Oklahoma, and I got relatives out in Arizona, and we vacation a lot in Santa Fe and other places in New Mexico. I'm running a national campaign."
But the campaign confirmed Sunday that Clark would not return to S.C. before Tuesday's primary. Instead, he is sticking to a strict schedule of Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico, states where he's polling either first or second. Every day the campaign keeps a full schedule, stopping at least once in all three states in order to maximize local news coverage.
So how much further can Wesley Clark's campaign go? Last week a senior campaign official said the campaign was financially viable at least through the Wisconsin primary on Feb.17. And if Clark wins two of the three states he's currently campaigning in, staffers believe he'll get enough of a boost to continue through March 2, the next major wave of primaries. Another staff member admitted that Clark's chances would greatly improve if Howard Dean won North Dakota, and John Edwards took South Carolina to take away some of Kerry's momentum.
While many supporters who go to hear Clark speak believe he will emerge the nominee, there are some with doubts. "I think he's the best candidate by far," one Oklahoma voter said. "But do I think he'll win? The odds are against him."
Clark's spirits remain high even when he's not shaking hands with voters. "We're going to do well every place we go," he told reporters in South Carolina last week. But no one but the candidate himself knows for sure what he's thinking when the cameras aren't rolling.
SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.
Mon. Feb. 2: "Adam Vinatieri will win this game."
Those were the extremely prescient words of Sen. John Kerry during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII, as the New England Patriots held a 14-10 lead over the Carolina Panthers.
Kerry's staff retooled his schedule so that the senator (and the rest of the Patriots fans traveling with him) could watch the entire game at Playmakers sports bar in zero-degree Fargo, N.D. Kerry sat front and center with local firefighters as his staff and the traveling press watched the Pats defeat the Panthers 32-29 on a last-second field goal by the kicker Vinatieri.
Over beer and buffalo wings, Kerry remained confident throughout the game, even after the Pats fell behind in the 4th quarter, then took the lead again only to have Carolina tie it up with a minute left. "Adam Vinatieri," Kerry repeated as he turned around and pointed at the Patriots fans in attendance. The bar erupted in cheers and Kerry jumped for joy as Vinatieri's 41-yard kick split the uprights with four seconds left.
It was high-fives around the bar for the candidate as, a few states east, another New Englander predicted this would be the end of Kerry's happiness.
"I hope the Patriots win today so John Kerry can have something to cheer about, because he's not going to have a lot to cheer about," an increasingly aggressive (or desperate, depending on your point of view) Howard Dean said on a conference call from Detroit to over 70 Dean house parties.
Dean's comment came hours after he continued his criticism of Kerry's ties to special interests on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning. Kerry shot back saying, "My record responds to that. I have fought powerful special interests every step of the way. Longer and harder than anyone else in this field."
Kerry also responded to Dean's challenge to a debate, a debate that Kerry, when he was the underdog, issued to Dean. "We're in a seven-state primary, I don't have time right now, very simple; and we have another couple of states after that suddenly and I have a schedule." When a Boston Globe reporter pointed out that Kerry is currently scheduled to have Wednesday off, the candidate's first day off since New Year's Day, Kerry said, "I need that. So do you."
Also brewing was a Newsweek story in this week's issue that details Kerry's ties to Johnny Chung, the fund-raiser who was in hot water after the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign. Kerry had received $10,000 from Chung and in turn allegedly got Chung and one of his associates, who wanted one of her companies listed on the U.S. Stock Exchange, a meeting with a Securities and Exchange Commission official.
"This is old news it's been fully vetted," Kerry explained. "It was investigated. And the moment we had learned anything about that contribution, we returned the entire contribution."
Kerry's campaign day began at the Fargo Air Museum where over 1,000 (every Democrat in North Dakota, perhaps?) attended a rally. His 28-minute speech was not without its excitement, as a World War II veteran in the audience collapsed. As Kerry jumped off the stage to the man's aid, it was clear the man was all right; he just became fatigued as he stood during the speech.
Also in attendance was Miss North Dakota 2004, who got to chat with Kerry after the event as he shook hands with the audience.
Endorsement watch: Kerry received the backing of the United Farm Workers, as well as Gov. Gary Locke of delegate-rich Washington. The senator will visit the state on Tuesday, four days before its Feb. 7 primary.
REV. AL SHARPTON
Mon. Feb. 2: Have you ever seen a presidential candidate do a 360? I'm not talking about a flip-flop on the issues, they have all done that. I'm talking about a real-life 360-degree spin in the middle of their stump speech. Perhaps filled with the spirit of the church, or maybe just impassioned with the gifts of a true showman, Al Sharpton spoke at three churches in one day ending up in the hometown of the man who he says helped raise him: the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
In typical Sharpton fashion, he arrived an hour and a half late to the first church. "The reverend might be late but Jesus won't be," he said at the Second Baptist Church in Aiken.
Sharpton stood with James Brown's daughter, Dianna, and disussed the singer's recent arrest on a domestic violence charge. "I don't know what happened," Sharpton said. "But Mr. Brown helped raise me and I'm asking us to pray for him and his wife. Don't get into all of this. We don't know what happened but I know that at every point in my life he was there for me. I'm not going to let people turn me on him or prejudge him. No man has a right to touch a woman but I want you to pray for him and his wife."
At the end of the day there was still a question on some of our minds.
Q: Rev. Sharpton, are you going to James Brown's house to watch the Super Bowl?
A: "Those who know won't say and those who say don't know," Sharpton replied with a wide smile.
Three ambitious reporters, (myself included) with little better to do on a Sunday night in Aiken, S.C., staked out Brown's estate but reaped little reward.
So was the political agitator/preacher eating nachos in front of the big screen with the allegedly abusive Godfather of Soul? As the reverend would say, "That is between (him) and the Lord."
Monday, Sharpton's first stop on his bus trip is the site of the former slave market in Charleston, where he will address the destructive legacy that still permeates the state.
In other news: Sharpton's campaign will be in court to challenge a decision by the Louisiana Democratic Party that may keep him off that state's primary ballot due to a what the campaign calls a technicality.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, D-Conn.
Sun. Feb. 1: Squirrels of the world, unite!
It was the kind of day that you just couldn't make up. One that that began with Lieberman preaching at a church in Delaware and peaked with a poolside view of Twiggy the Water-skiing Squirrel at the Tulsa Boat and Sport Show in Oklahoma.
The church was New Destiny Fellowship Church in Wilmington. Like Stella, Sen. Lieberman got his groove back, speaking to the African-American crowd about the primacy of spirituality in everyday life, of the importance of voting, a right that should not wither, Amen!
Then he hopped on a charter and made his way to Tulsa, Okla., for what his press secretary, Kiki McKlean, called "retail campaigning on speed." Indeed, the 48th Annual Boat, Sport and Travel Show was full of speedboats, funnel cake, fish bait and voters. Many of them were registered Republicans and many more were simply not tuned-in yet to the presidential political scene. However, all were very excited to have a U.S. senator, a presidential candidate, in their midst, especially one who was ready, willing and able to sign autographs and pose for pictures with their kids.
The real show-stopper was not the senator but a smaller, furry, four-footed and quite talented little thing: Twiggy the Water-skiing Squirrel. In a class of her own, and indeed, as was explained to us by her trainer, one of a kind in this world, Twiggy emerged from the warmth of the trainer's bosom (I did not make this up), took her straddled among the water-skis and whooshed around the mounted baby pool several times. Lieberman had to watch, smile and applaud through it all. How could he not? He had poolside seats to this extravaganza.
In a press avail outside the Expo Center, I asked the senator if this was what campaigning was all about: preaching in the morning and seeing a squirrel ski in the afternoon. Lieberman laughed and said that for him, seeing the people is what it's all about, that Twiggy was just a bonus. Then, taking a break from the stump-nature of it all, the senator added, "Y'know, when a day begins I always say I'm always excited about what I'm going to learn and see. And did I ever believe that I would see a water-skiing squirrel? In Oklahoma! Who would've thunk it?"
Oh, Lieberman also picked up three newspaper endorsements today: the Seattle Times, and South Carolina's The State and The Greenville News. And Lieberman's been doing his fair share of urging in the Feb. 3rd states, as well. He has now adopted a pared-down, direct-marketing approach, telling voters, "We really need your help. We need to get this country back on track. And I'm the one who can do it, the centrist Democrat."
Maybe not as catchy as Twiggy the Water-skiing Squirrel, but that's how this candidate is currently trying to attract the crowds.
FORMER VERMONT GOV. HOWARD DEAN
Sun. Feb. 1: "This is a challenge to the Democratic party. Do we stand with special interests and the Washington cozy crowd? Or do we stand for ordinary Americans who we have claimed to represent for all the time we have been in power? Now is the time. Who do you stand with? The ordinary people or the folks inside the beltway in Washington?"
Howard Dean was back in Seattle tonight and the crowd was with him. Seattle has been good to Howard Dean ever since this past summer when between 8,000 to 10,000 turned out to see him speak during the "Sleepless Summer Tour." As Dean arrived to the scheduled town hall meeting on health care, he could see supporters waiting in line around an entire city block just to get in to the overflow section of the hall.
Speaking in Tuscon, AZ earlier in the day, Dean seemed emboldened by a Washington Post report claiming Senator John Kerry had accepted more money from paid lobbyists in the last 15 years than any other US senator. In AZ, Dean referred to Kerry as the "hand maiden of special interests."
In Seattle this evening, Dean carried the issue over to the great catch word of the nominating process: electability.
"I don't think somebody's electable if they've taken more special interest money in the last 15 years than any other senator," Dean said. "I don't think somebody's electable if they introduced 11 health care bills and not one of them passed. I don't think somebody's electable if the only bill they ever introduced to help veterans died in committee. We need action not rhetoric from the United States Senate."
The gloves, it would appear are off. Dean knows Kerry took rounds one and two. He is even prepared for Kerry to take round three. But he is laying the groundwork for round four, five, and as his new campaign CEO would have the world believe, the all important round of Wisconsin.
- Eric Salzman
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
Thurs. Jan. 29: Call it "Whirlwind Wednesday" for Sen. John Edwards: he hit South Carolina in the morning, Oklahoma in the afternoon and Missouri in the evening. The day began in Orangeburg, S.C., where Edwards kicked off his "Bringing It Home" campaign. Then he bopped off to Durant and Tulsa, Okla., where the temperatures where in the mid-40s and the sun was shining. It was Edwards' 13th trip to Oklahoma, and between the warmer weather and huge crowds, it was definitely a bright day for the candidate.
After hitting the Sooner State, the campaign quickly jetted off to the Show Me State. Again, Edwards encountered larger then expected crowds in both Springfield and St. Louis. In Springfield, several voters reminded me it's the home of Attorney General John Ashcroft. They told me they had even elected a dead person: Mel Carnahan. The point is, and as Edwards said in a media avail earlier today, Missouri is a "wildcard" state.
Now, with Dick Gephardt out of the race, Missouri is a key state for the remaining Democratic contenders. Edwards made it a point to begin his Missouri speeches talking about Gephardt and letting the voters of Missouri know how much he respected the congressman. Since the state belonged to Gep before Iowa, and no candidate had focused any attention there, the voters are bound to see an influx of candidates and ads in the next few days. In fact, the Edwards campaign hit the airwaves first thing this morning.
From the whirlwind of South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, and back to South Carolina today, the Edwards camp is using every opportunity to reach out both to crowds of voters and the crowd of media that swarms around him at every event. While Edwards didn't return to his Raleigh, N.C., headquarters to do satellite interviews, like Howard Dean did at his home base in Vermont, he certainly got on the radar of voters in several key Feb. 3rd primary states. And that is exactly what he intends to do for the next several days (he has trips planned to Oklahoma, New Mexico and maybe Missouri for a possible debate).
But, as suspected, the main focus will be South Carolina. This is the "do or die" state for Edwards, and since he chose not give up his Senate seat, you can be sure that this man is not ready to go home unemployed next week.