Campaign Roadblog, 3/2/04

Campaign 2004 Bus Election
The field of candidates has narrowed, but the stakes for Campaign 2004 are as high as ever. 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.


Tues. March 2: Bittersweet.

Fifty-year-old John Edwards hoped to be the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, but on a day that was supposed to be a Super Tuesday, it turned out to be a super disappointment. Edwards, who was in many ways an unknown to American voters just six months ago, surprisingly emerged as the main rival to front-runner John Kerry. Tonight, he was cut short of his dream of moving from his home in Raleigh, N.C., to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One thing is for sure - this "tar heel" is certainly not an Achilles heel.

"With age comes wisdom" is an old cliché, but it may have a new meaning for Edwards. He hasn't even finished one full term in Congress, and before running for the Senate, he spent 20 years as one of the most successful trial lawyers in North Carolina. While his background casts him as an outsider, especially compared to Kerry who spent decades inside the Beltway, the Democratic voters have spoken. They want to be sure that they can oust George Bush, and in the uncertain world we live in today, it appears that they want someone with more experience than a one-term senator. From coast to coast, the handsome, charismatic guy from the South made a great impression, but he wasn't able to seal the deal. Now the focus is on the tall, lanky New Englander with the same initials as President John F. Kennedy.

Here's how it played out. After his strong and surprising second-place finish in Wisconsin on Feb. 17, Edwards was hoping to take the momentum and carry it to the Super Tuesday states. The campaign had felt that given the two-week period between Wisconsin and March 2, voters would have the chance to sit back and take a close look at both Edwards and Kerry, and they'd like what they saw in Edwards. Unfortunately, they were wrong. With 10 states up for grabs, it became too hard to wage an all-out nationwide campaign in just 14 days. While Edwards focused mainly on five states - Georgia, Ohio, Minnesota, New York and California - it turned out to be a mountain that was impossible to climb.

Despite the odds, Edwards continued the long and arduous trek. He criss-crossed the country, giving speeches, meeting with reporters and attending fundraisers. But at the end of the day, the fire didn't seem to spread. The crowds in the past few days were mediocre at best, and it almost seemed like Edwards lost the fire in his belly. The once animated Edwards acted slightly more subdued in the past few days, and it was apparent that something was awry. The overall tone from both inside the campaign and the press corps was less optimistic (but, of course, not cynical), and while they were trying to lower our expectations, it was clear that this would be the last days of his campaign.

Now that Kerry's on top, the question that is once again looming is whether Edwards wants to be Kerry's veep - AND whether Kerry wants Edwards to be his veep. Although Edwards steadfastedly maintained throughout his campaign that he was "in this to be the nominee," things have obviously changed. Edwards will not be the presidential nominee, and he also will not be a senator from North Carolina. So where does this leave him? One would assume that Edwards wants the number-two spot, but it seems like Edwards likes to be number one.

Perhaps a Kerry/Edwards ticket would be ideal. However, with the unpredictability of this election, it is certainly too soon to know what will happen. We know that Edwards is a great campaigner, and he's done reasonably well at raising money (especially from trial lawyers). But it may turn out to be a numbers game. If Kerry wants to beat Bush, he needs to pick a running mate who can help him win one or some of the key battleground states (like Ohio and Missouri). The man he chooses could be John Edwards, but it could also be someone else. We anticipate that Kerry will pick a veep sooner rather than later, but any guess-timation would do more harm than good. After all, less than eight weeks ago we all thought that Howard Dean was going to be the nominee, and today he seems like a blast from the past.

For the time being, Edwards plans to make an announcement about his campaign at 4 p.m. in his hometown of Raleigh. It will take place at Broughton High School, where his eldest daughter Cate and son Wade (who died in a car accident in 1996) went to school. In addition, the North Carolina Democratic Party sent out an announcement tonight saying that Edwards "will return home to share a special announcement with their family, friends and supporters." Raleigh residents also received recorded calls this evening from campaign chairman Ed Turlington inviting them to Broughton.

Edwards yearns to be in the driver's seat, But no matter which direction you turn, "the little engine that could" traveled a far distance. He didn't quite cross the finish line, but he certainly went the extra mile. So yes, it's a bittersweet day for the campaign, but it's also the starting point for another long distance marathon, only the roadrunners still haven't told us the time or the place.
--Alison Schwartz


Tues. March 2: Kerry accomplished something that was absolutely unthinkable just six weeks ago: he effectively wrapped up the nomination by Super Tuesday.

His wins in nine out of the 10 contests Tuesday forced John Edwards out, leaving Kerry a clear path to becoming the Democratic nominee. "This is Super Tuesday and Super Tuesday has lived up to its name," Sen. Ted Kennedy said about an hour and a half before Kerry's victory speech. "It's a super night for John Kerry, a super night for the Democratic Party. I think John Kerry will be a super candidate and a super president."

Shortly afterwards, Kerry stopped by the "boiler room" at the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C., where campaign folks ranging from campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill to pollster Mark Mellman gathered to watch the returns. Kerry changed the venue for his election night party from Tampa, Fla., to Washington after deciding to return to Capitol Hill to take part in the Senate debate on guns. Back on the Hill for the first time since November and with Secret Service in tow, Kerry took the floor to go after President Bush on the gun issue.

"Gun owners have a responsibility and so does the president of the United States," said Kerry. "A responsibility to keep his word. A responsibility to do what he says he'll do. A responsibility to protect Americans from danger and provide for the common defense."

Back to the "boiler room," the candidate and his wife Teresa walked in and Kerry immediately began shaking hands and hugging various staffers before greeting Kennedy and his wife Vicky. As he walked through the room, Kerry noticed Edwards giving his speech and shushed the room so he could hear. Listening to Edwards complimentary comments about him, Kerry nodded, smiled and applauded.

Just prior to his stop-by, Kerry received congratulatory phone calls from President Bush and Edwards. "We had a very nice conversation," Kerry said of the president. "He called to congratulate me. I said I hope we have a great debate about the issues before the country."

Edwards phoned Kerry around 7:30 p.m. and the conversation was characterized as "very positive" by Kerry spokesman David Wade. While Edwards didn't explicitly say he was dropping out, it was "implied," according to Wade, as they spoke of how they'll both "work to unify the party."

Just after 9 p.m., Kerry delivered his victory speech and took aim at President Bush and the Republicans, staying consistent with his stump speeches and prior election night speeches. "George Bush, who promised to become a uniter, has become the great divider," Kerry said.

What's next for Kerry? Well, according to his spokesman Wade, he'll "continue to fight for every vote," a clichéd line that Kerry and almost every last staffer has used since Iowa. Kerry's on to Orlando, Fla., Wednesday before taking a down day in Boston on Thursday. He'll then continue on with his campaign through the March 9 states of Louisiana, Texas, more Florida and Mississippi.

Also, the question of whom he'll choose as a running mate will be asked from now until he announces a decision. In three separate interviews with Boston TV stations, he dodged the question three different ways.

"I need to lay out what I'm going to do about the ticket, and I haven't made any decisions or any choices yet. I've really been focused on trying to win the nomination."

"It's too early for me to talk about running mates, but obviously I need to start thinking about how I'm going to do that. That's something that I've given some small thought to, but now I need to be very serious about it."

"I don't think we need to talk about any ticket yet, I'm gonna keep marching on to officially be the nominee, and I will begin a process at some point soon of beginning to think about a ticket. Obviously that's my responsibility."

If all the talk is accurate, that process will begin sooner rather than later.
--Steve Chaggaris