Campaign Roadblog, 2/28/04

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.


Sat. Feb. 28: Tiger Woods may be the king of golf, but this morning Senator Edwards tried to reign over Augusta, Georgia, home of the Masters. On a beautiful sunny morning, Edwards began his day at the Historic Tabernacle Baptist Church, where he addressed the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. With Super Tuesday 72 hours away, Edwards is hoping to defeat Kerry in the one Southern state that votes on March 2nd.

Since electability is such a huge factor, Edwards told the crowd that the latest national polls show that both he and Kerry would beat Bush. Additionally, Edwards said that his campaign is attracting independents, who are voters the Democrats will need to win the general election. Edwards said that in his home state of North Carolina he's beating Bush, while his rival Kerry is losing by double digits. "If we won North Carolina in 2000 Gore would be in the White House," said Edwards. "The 2000 election showed that you don't always win the presidency when you win the popular vote."

If it boils down to a popularity contest, Edwards may not be the coolest kid in the class. After all, Kerry has most of the party's key endorsements, and so far he's won 18 of the 20 primary states. Edwards is hoping that the support of up to 10 Deaniac groups nationwide will help his campaign, especially with their grassroots and get-out-the-vote organization. In fact, today members of N.Y. Deaniacs endorsed Edwards in front of George Washington in Union Square Park in New York City. In a conference call they said that Edwards espouses much of the same charisma as Dean, particularly in his appeal to younger people.

As for an endorsement by Governor Dean, his supporters said, "the governor decides things for himself." Dean is reported to have told his supporters that "the campaign was bigger then him; he was carrier of their message, but the real strength was with the people." Deaniacs for Edwards feel that Edwards clearly is the outsider like Dean, and he's not a career politician like Kerry. Most importantly, they think that Edwards has shown more respect for the grassroots, which fuels the engine of any campaign.

Well, if driving a fast car or playing golf isn't your game, what about basketball? At an afternoon rally in Atlanta, Edwards was introduced by ex-NBA superstar Charles Barkley. Barkley may be known for his moves on the court, but off the court he's showing his support for Edwards. "I'm just like everyone else and he's the guy I want to win," Barkley told me after the event. "A guy asked me if I'd vote for John Kerry and I said probably not; but I'd vote for John Edwards," added Barkley.

Barkley thinks Edwards should be Mr. President, but he doesn't think of him as Mr. Athlete. Despite the fact that Edwards was an excellent college football player, Barkley said, "If Edwards played football he wasn't too good because he's too little – and he's too little for basketball. He'd make a much better president then a football player." Barkley also told me he'd be honored to go to the White House if he's there.

After Atlanta, Edwards headed to Cleveland, Ohio, another critical state in both the primaries and the general election. Then he'll go to New York City to prep for the CBS News/New York Times debate which takes place tomorrow morning. It's the final debate before Super Tuesday, and with the strong possibility that he could lose all 10 states, Edwards' performance is very important. In previous primaries he's seen a surge after debates and in the final days leading up to the primary, so he's hoping for the same sort of good luck again. Unfortunately for him, it may be too little too late. Kerry is leading in all of the March 2 states, and though past polls have been wrong (particularly Wisconsin), there are only so many times Edwards can come in second.

Edwards has been competing on a challenging court and playing on a hilly course. But with the clock ticking there's no time for foul shots or birdies – only three pointers and a hole in one.
--Alison Schwartz


Thurs. Feb. 26: A debate featuring Kerry and John Edwards doing their best to point out their few differences was the focus of Kerry's campaign day (see related Web story).

One interesting moment in the debate at the University of Southern California was when Kerry was asked about his opposition to the death penalty, except for terrorists. When asked whether a person who murders a child should be put to death, Kerry handled the question much more deftly than an unemotional and long-winded Michael Dukakis did when he was asked the now-famous "if your wife were raped and murdered" question in a 1988 debate.

"My instinct is to want to strangle that person with my own hands," Kerry said. "But we have 111 people who have been now released from death row... because of DNA evidence that showed they didn't commit the crime of which they were convicted."

Thursday began with a flight from St. Paul, Minn., to Los Angeles, during which Kerry came back to chat with reporters. These chats, which reporters have requested be on the record, have now pretty much turned into Kerry just shooting the breeze. "No politics. No politics," he repeated as he talked about biking with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (he was just kidding) and recent movies he's seen.

After landing, Kerry visited striking workers at a Vons Supermarket in Santa Monica where he spoke with them about health care.

"Every single one of you are heroes to this country, because you've been out there fighting not just for yourselves but for the right for every single person in this country to have health care," he told the crowd.

Later, after the USC debate, Kerry spoke to a rally at the California African-American Museum, where he was joined by his daughter Alex, actor Billy Baldwin and former Gov. Gray Davis, who wound up endorsing Kerry.

"I'm here to enlist in the Kerry army," Davis said in his 59-second endorsement "speech."

Also on Thursday, Kerry called on President Bush to name former presidential candidate, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., to be a special envoy to deal with the Haiti crisis. About Graham, who's rumored to be endorsing Kerry soon, Kerry said he "knows the situation in Haiti extremely well, and knows the cost that widespread violence will cause not only in Haiti, but on our shores."

Friday, Kerry delivers a speech on terrorism and national security at UCLA before jetting to San Francisco and Oakland for a day of fund-raisers (closed to the press), meetings and a rally.
--Steve Chaggaris