Pryia David on Dick Gephardt
msnbc.com
updated 1/20/2004 9:59:58 AM ET 2004-01-20T14:59:58

Tuesday, Jan. 20

Monday, Jan. 19

Monday, Jan. 5

North Dakota stop
The pace is picking up, says Gephardt. “Well, the turtle’s feeling good.  We’re moving.  Moving a little faster for a turtle. But I feel good about where we are.  I think we’re going to win this in Iowa.  We’ve had good meetings the last days, good crowds, good energy.  So I feel we’re getting a little momentum in the end, that’s what we need to get over the top, so I feel good about it.”  Right before the holidays he also said that even in a marathon, you give it an extra kick in the end. 

I’m definitely experiencing a stepped-up schedule.  Sunday we left Des Moines after the debate to fly to Fargo, N.D., where Gephardt attended an economic forum first then drove to a Teamsters rally in Fargo.  This was the congressman’s second visit to North Dakota.  Monday night, Howard Dean is expected there for the first time since declaring his candidacy. 

Citizens came concerned about trade, particularly the Central American Agreement, which has affected the local sugar beet farmer.  Gephardt spoke longingly about the need to protect the family farm, which he sees as the cornerstone for American culture.  The message resonated with the crowd, as did Gephardt’s passionate tirade against “human exploitation” in many countries we now trade freely with, such as Mexico. 

By the end of the event, the initially quiet crowd was on its feet, cheering and applauding.  On the Central American Agreement, Gephardt told reporters, “So far (it’s) the same as NAFTA.  It has no requirements on these countries to begin realizing standards for labor and environment, so it’s going to be another unlevel playing field, gonna lose more jobs…it is unfair trade and it is not a good policy for the United States.”  The Teamsters rally was a typical event, where Gephardt emphasized his Midwestern roots.  North Dakota is a Feb. 3 state, which Gephardt hopes to win.  He has so far outspent his rivals in terms of time on the ground, and the North Dakotans I spoke with were certainly pleased he was making the time.  Several were still undecided, however, with the prospect of seeing Howard Dean the following night making them hesitate before throwing in their lot with Gephardt for sure.

Monday, Dec. 29

Oklahoma swing
In a quick swing through a Feb. 3 state, Gephardt spent part of Saturday night and most of Sunday introducing himself to Oklahomans. Sunday morning, we stopped in six churches with predominantly, if not completely, African-American congregations.  Campaign deputy press secretary Kim Molstre said that’s because pastors in those churches can be hugely influential with their congregations, and African-American voters are a focus for the Gephardt campaign not just in South Carolina, but in Oklahoma too.

After church, Gephardt stopped in Bristow, just outside Tulsa, to talk with workers who’d been laid off when their company went to China.  Gephardt gave his most comprehensive talk on trade that I’ve seen yet, saying that “we’re in a global economy whether we like it or not.”  The crowd might have been more pleased with him if he’d said he’d slap tariffs on every foreign product and tighten trade policies, but Gephardt actually seemed moderate in this context, not the hard-core protectionist he’s often painted to be.  He argued, as he does in his stump speech, for the need to pull up the environmental and labor standards in other countries to keep from losing more jobs in America.  I’ve noticed a good deal of frustration about immigration in the Midwest, both legal and illegal.  This forum was no exception, and Gephardt field questions on illegal immigration, saying it would never stop until workers in those countries were paid enough to earn a decent wage and want to stay.
 
The final stop in Oklahoma was a Teamster’s Union Hall rally which was typically boisterous and well-attended.  Gephardt criticized Bush and the Republicans, but stayed away from discussing Howard Dean in his stump speech.

Monday, Dec. 22

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Stump speech changes
Gephardt hit the ground in Iowa Sunday, kicking off a 17-county, three-day tour with a slightly modified stump speech. In the past, Gephardt has stayed away from singling out his biggest rival, Howard Dean, on the stump. He’s pointed out differences between them, and been strongly critical of the governor during planned speeches or policy addresses. But until now, that sort of rhetoric has not been a part of his regular campaign pitches. But in silent acknowledgement of how this race is heating up for Gephardt, he’s now incorporating Dean attacks in his speech. He starts with his regular opening — "My name is Dick Gephardt, and I’m going to win the Democratic nomination and beat George Bush in November 2004! Boy, does that need to happen." At this point he usually goes on to discuss how poorly the president has handled the economy. Now, he sidetracks to say that we need a candidate who expresses more than just anger at Bush. We’re all angry at Bush, he says, but we need a candidate who can provide bright, bold, realistic ideas and vision. The "angry candidate" picture of Dean is one that’s been steadily painted over the past months, with both Kerry and Edwards making such comments for a while now but it’s new for Gephardt. Then, near the end of his stump speech, he does it again. "If we’re going to beat George Bush, we’ve gotta have a candidate who can draw a bright line with George Bush," he says, discussing trade and Medicare. He argues that Dean is too much like Bush, having given major corporations like Enron special tax incentives. "You’ve gotta make a case for not only what he’s done wrong, but what we’re gonna do right."

Friday, Dec. 12

South Carolina preps
Representative Clyburn’s endorsement Tuesday was just the tip of the Clyburn-for-Gephardt iceberg.   First, he held a major press conference today and announced six state legislators also offered their endorsements.  Then there's the freshly-released Clyburn ad, supporting Gephardt.  The text says, "I’m Jim Clyburn. I’ve seen Dick Gephardt’s concern and commitment up close. As Democratic Leader, he fought for Clinton’s Economic Plan that helped create twenty two million jobs. Together, we stood up for middle class families against NAFTA and the China Trade Deal. Dick Gephardt will be a president South Carolina can count on."   Now, Clyburn has announced he will join his fellow Congressman on the six-county South Carolina bus tour scheduled this weekend.  “Clyburn’s support will be a huge boost,” says campaign aide Kim Molstre.  “He’s going to make us his priority for the next few months leading up to the primary.”

As for the media accompanying the tour this weekend, we’ve been promised all the barbecue and fried fish we can eat.  Gephardt, a self-proclaimed amateur chef, apparently loves barbecue and I’m expecting to be treated to the same lengthy treatises on the subtleties in barbecue sauces that I’ve heard from him regarding Iowa pie.

TV appearances
And to tee up the South Carolina trip, make use of some time in New York, and grab some airtime away from the other candidates, Dick Gephardt is making the camera rounds Friday.  He kicks off with a visit to ESPN 2 at 7:30 to their new show Cold Pizza, then hits Fox and Friends at 8:10.  A little later in the day he swings by MSNBC for Lester Holt Live and Hardball interviews.

Thursday, Dec. 11

Clyburn endorsement
Wednesday, Gephardt received the endorsement of Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC).  "I’m very pleased to announce today my intentions, starting tomorrow, to work tirelessly on behalf of the candidacy of my longtime friend Dick Gephardt," said Clyburn. "He’s been a longtime friend. I’ve worked with him for 11 years in the House of Representatives and I’ve seen him demonstrate time and time again the qualities I think would make an outstanding Democratic nominee and a great president."
The Clyburn endorsement has been courted by several of the candidates for months now.  Clyburn has been called the most influential black politician in South Carolina, and his endorsement will potentially provide Gephardt with a strong African-American showing at the Feb. 3 primary.   Blacks are expected to cast 40 percent or more of the vote in South Carolina, according to the AP.  Clyburn criticized Gore’s suggestion that Democrats should close in around Dean, however, saying, “This thing of trying to discourage people from running at this point, six weeks before a vote is cast, is beyond me.  There may come a time, but now is not the time."

Gephardt said, "This primary in South Carolina is going to be pivotal and important," said Gephardt. "I believe that with the help that I am getting today and the tremendous respect that people in South Carolina have for Jim Clyburn, we can let people know who I am, where I come from, my life experiences, my experience, and why I care so much about the issues that affect their lives everyday.”  Gephardt was careful to focus his attention to the people of South Carolina, rather than on Clyburn himself, in keeping with his words to reporters in New Hampshire just the night before regarding Gore’s endorsement of Dean, saying, “I don’t think endorsements are that meaningful.  We’d all like to have them.  They’re all fun to get.  But in the end, the people make the decision.”

Campaign finance reform comment
From the press release: "In 2002, I led the fight in the House of Representatives to restore confidence and trust in our democracy by reforming the nation’s campaign finance laws. I knew McCain-Feingold would have political ramifications, but I supported it because it was the right thing to do. The Supreme Court’s decision today to uphold essential provisions of this historic campaign finance reform law vindicates this fight."


Wednesday, Dec. 10

Down on the debate
Gephardt didn’t seem as pleased with the debate tonight as he has after other debates, but not because of his own performance so much as the structure of the event. He said, “I think we need to talk more about what people care about. The process is really not what they’re interested in, they’re interested in what’s going to happen to them … that’s what we tried to talk about tonight, but it didn’t always lend itself to that.” A few nights ago as we returned to D.C. after a day of campaigning in Iowa, he said it was the 26th debate or forum since the process began. He says he keeps mental count in his head. He said they’re all pretty much the same, that he just tries to get his message out. During the debate tonight, he seemed to stress two areas: his experience and a vision of hope for the country, saying things like, “everything I’m talking about comes from my heart and my experience,” and calling this time a “magic moment.”

Tuesday, Dec. 9

The Gore surprise
News of Al Gore’s upcoming endorsement of Dean took the Gephardt campaign staff by surprise. Campaign deputy press secretary Kim Molstre said they learned about it through the media reports. Gephardt communications director Erik Smith said, “Dick Gephardt fought side by side with Al Gore to pass the Clinton economic plan, pass the assault weapons ban and defend against Republican attacks on Medicare and affirmative action. On each of these issues, Howard Dean was on the wrong side.” Campaign leaders say while they’re always disappointed when they don’t win an endorsement, this will not change their strategy. They further say big endorsements like this were bound to happen, and they understand they won’t get every one.

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