Campaign Roadblog, 2/20/04

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.


Fri. Feb. 20: It may be where Hollywooders J-Lo and Ben Affleck bought a home together, but this morning, Savannah, Georgia belonged to Senator John Edwards. On a glorious sunny day, Edwards began today's three-state swing (Georgia, Maryland, New York) at Johnson Square (the first square in Savannah). Marching down the street with a big group of supporters, Edwards greeted a crowd of several hundred people. The sun was shining, there was a fresh breeze in the air, and the crowd was energized and enthusiastic. "I wish all my events could be at a setting like this," said Edwards.

Edwards was introduced by two members of the IBEW union that his brother is a member of. In the next several days leading up the Super Tuesday, Edwards plans to focus heavily on trade and jobs. With so many of the March 2nd states suffering from the loss of jobs going overseas, Edwards will offer the voters his vision of how to create and keep jobs in this country.

Edwards and Kerry tend to agree on most substantive issues. Trade happens to be an area where they differ, but more in terms of their voting records then in what they actually want to do for working people. In the Senate, Edwards opposed most pacts with foreign countries (except China which he says was good for the people of North Carolina), while Kerry has supported most of those agreements.

Although Edwards has not campaigned in every primary state so far, he says repeatedly that he is running a national campaign. Of the 10 Super Tuesday states, he plans to focus heavily on Georgia, Ohio and New York. There is nothing that says you have to go to every state to be a national candidate, but with Kerry is in the lead, he's had the opportunity to hit more states then Edwards. On the other hand, one could argue that Kerry left Wisconsin to campaign in Nevada, and had he spent more time in Wisconsin he could have done better there and perhaps eliminated Edwards from the race altogether (and he probably still would have won Nevada). But 20/20 is always hindsight. After all, one could also argue that had Edwards made one more stop to Oklahoma he could have beat Clark there, eliminated Clark from the race, and done better in Virginia and Tennessee. Bottom line - you just never know!

Georgia is the only Southern Super Tuesday state, and Edwards has already held two events there in the past two days. He plans to return to "The Peach State" early next week. New York is also an important state for the campaign; right now they plan to focus on upstate NY where they think their message on jobs will resonate with voters. Besides a rally at Columbia University Thursday morning, they have not said if they intend to return to NYC.

The Edwards campaign may not be swimming in money, but by hitting several states over the next 11 days, they hope to get a ton of media exposure. That could eliminate the need for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads. So far the campaign says that they have not released any ads in any of the 10 Super Tuesday states, but that could change at any day. While heavy advertising was presumably beneficial when Edwards was less known and when the campaign was focusing on one state at a time (Iowa, NH, SC), at this point in the game it may be too difficult and costly to advertise in some of the most expensive media markets in the country. That's why his exposure on the ground seems to be the priority for the campaign.

Finally, Edwards today asked Kerry (in a letter) to join him in four debates. The two candidates have already agreed to appear at the LA Times debate on the 26th, but Edwards asked him to agree to three other debates in locations such as New York and Ohio. "While we are all Democrats , there are very real differences among us and the American people deserve to know who we are, where we're from and where we stand on the issues," said Edwards. There is no word whether Kerry will accept this offer from Edwards.

From sunny Savannah to the Beltway to Brrrrrrr Buffalo, Edwards will culminate his day in New York later this evening. Tomorrow he begins another three-state day (New York, Minnesota, Ohio). Too bad we are flying on a charter and not accruing frequent flyer miles!!
--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