Campaign Roadblog, 2/25/04

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.


Wed. Feb. 25: The way John Kerry and the Republicans are acting, it's as if John Edwards wasn't even running for president.

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, almost acting as if it was a Bush vs. Kerry race, went after Kerry again Wednesday, calling him a flip-flopper while in the Senate. Using NAFTA, taxes and the Patriot Act as examples, Gillespie said, "There were any number of things where Senator Kerry has gone back and forth on issues and raised a credibility question."

Later in the day, the RNC released a letter from six Republican congressman, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, that attacked Kerry's Senate votes on defense issues.

"As Republican veterans, we are proud of our service to our country," the letter read, referring to Kerry's complaint that "Republicans who didn't serve in any war" are criticizing him. "We are glad that you are proud of yours, but that doesn't excuse your history of votes, proposals and statements that would weaken the defense capabilities of the United States of America," the letter continued.

"It's a badge of honor they're attacking me because they don't want to run against me," Kerry told CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

On the campaign trail, Kerry continued his focus on the Bush administration - and avoided any mention of Edwards again Wednesday. At the University of Toledo in Ohio, Kerry blamed the administration for ignoring the middle class.

"Under this administration, America's middle class has been abandoned, its dreams denied, its Main Street interests ignored and its mainstream values scorned by a White House that puts privilege first," Kerry said.

He continued his march toward the March 2 contests, beginning the day by touring a steel factory in Cleveland before jetting off to his Toledo speech where he received the endorsement of former astronaut, senator and 1984 presidential candidate John Glenn.

Later, Kerry spoke to an extremely enthusiastic audience of over 1,500 at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and was joined by another 1984 presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, who endorsed Kerry weeks ago.

During his 30-minute remarks, Kerry tried a pet phrase again, one he unveiled earlier in Toledo, and both times it resulted in a tepid response from the crowd.

In retelling a story about an accounting firm that counsels its clients on how to set up offshore tax havens, Kerry quoted one of the firm's partners saying that the earnings from the havens are "powerful enough that... the patriotism issue needs to take a back seat."

"We're going to put patriotism back in the driver's seat," Kerry said, evoking thoughts of another pet phrase that falls flat most of the time, "We're going to go to the moon right here on earth," which he regularly uses to introduce his energy plan.

In other news, the Kerry campaign unveiled another TV ad in Georgia, featuring former Sen. Max Cleland, who is campaigning for Kerry across the state this week.

"He's been tested on the battlefield, he's been tested in the United States Senate, and now he's ready to be President of the United States," Cleland says in the ad.

Thursday, before participating in a candidates' debate, Kerry will rip a page out of the Edwards playbook and join striking workers on a picket line. At a Vons Supermarket in Santa Monica, Calif., Kerry will "meet with striking grocery workers on the picket line," the campaign announced in a statement. Monday, Edwards met picketers at an Ohio steel mill.
--Steve Chaggaris


Wed. Feb. 25: From Houston to Hollywood, the Edwards campaign headed to California on Wednesday for a two-and-a-half-day swing throughout the state. With 370 delegates up for grabs, Edwards is hoping to bring his message of hope and optimism to the Golden State. Yesterday, he was endorsed by the Fresno Bee and today he was endorsed by the Modesto Bee. With voters in 10 states hitting the polls on Super Tuesday, every endorsement or piece of good news is another "bee in the hive" for the North Carolina senator.

At Pomona College in Claremont, Edwards unveiled a speech about poverty. Being that he tells all audiences "poverty is something that should be talked about everywhere in America," he chose this affluent area to talk about an issue that affects 35 million Americans. He gave the crowd of mostly college students some ideas how he can help people with affordable housing, health care, education, etc. He said that it is "wrong and we have a moral responsibility" to help those people. He also said he would raise the minimum wage by $1.50, bring jobs to poor communities and make healthcare a birthright for every child in America.

While poverty is a topic that sets Edwards apart (because no other candidates talk about it on the stump), an issue that both Edwards and Kerry are being forced to talk about lately is gay marriage. While the president supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Edwards and Kerry both oppose the amendment. But both candidates are against gay marriage and think it's an issue that should be left to the states to decide. At a press avail this afternoon, Edwards was asked several questions about this and why he thinks it should be left to the states. He said he is opposed to it personally, but he's unable to say why civil rights are different than gay rights.

This is definitely a thorny topic and since the campaign is headed to San Francisco later this evening, he may want/need to come up with a better response. There is no right or wrong answer, and no matter what he says he's bound to offend someone, but there may be a middle ground somehow or somewhere.

While Edwards is certainly not a movie star, lately he's been receiving the star treatment. On Monday, 10 Secret Service agents were assigned to the campaign full time, both with the senator and the press corps. The only real time Edwards had to himself was his daily 4-5 mile run, but not anymore. Now, the agents surround him on all sides. Edwards' thinking time is now thinking about how he can keep up with the fast guy in front of the pack!

The Secret Service comprises a big motorcade, armed agents, K-9 dogs (to sweep the baggage before entering the bubble) and is allowed to run red lights. While Edwards is completely entitled to this because he met the eligibility requirements, it seems a little premature for a candidate to have so much protection when he has less then 200 delegates and his candidacy may (or may not) end next week. Perhaps the taxpayers' money, which is paying for the Secret Service, should be spent on helping "the 35 million Americans who are living in poverty every day."

In order to accommodate the influx of Secret Service agents, the campaign had to upgrade to a larger 737. The previous plane was a "flying living room" and the new plane is "business class for all." The plush leather, reclining seats would make George Soros or Donald Trump feel comfortable, and the array of fresh food (fruit, bagels, danish, eggs, French toast) was more then satiating. Perhaps not so great for the figure, but then again, there's always the option to say "no thanks."

At every event Edwards is the star. Tonight he'll end his night when the stars come out,- both in the sky and at Mondrian's Sky Bar in Los Angeles!
--Alison Schwartz