Friday, March 5
President Bush as candidate Bush launched his ad campaign this week. Each candidate is desperate to define himself before he other defines an image about him and each side is attempting to pre-empt the other in that regard.
One aide close to Senator Kerry called the use of Sept. 11 pictures in the president’s ad campaign "disgusting."
President Bush’s use of the Sept. 11 pictures is an opportunity for the Kerry campaign to protest (via firefighters) and detract publicly from the president’s message. A protest letter from the General President Harold Schaitberger of the International Association of Fire Fighters to the campaign manager of Bush-Cheney ’04. The letter called for President Bush to pull the "despicable" ads that "try to take advantage of 9-11." The first paragraph reads, "On behalf of the 263,000 professional fire fighters all across this nation…I am appalled that President Bush and his campaign would use images of the 9/11 tragedy in his political ads…" Schaitberger criticizes the president for not funding fire fighter related needs - something John Kerry criticizes as well on the stump.
The International Firefighters Union was the first union to endorse the Senator (in September of last year) and its members are incredibly loyal and visible on the campaign trail. One of John Kerry’s favorite lines is criticizing the Bush administration for "opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in the US." This line gets huge rounds of applause. Senator Kerry also often stand among firefighters - they wear yellow and gold tee-shirts on the trail and IAFF Union president Harold Schaitburger is a frequent campaigner for John Kerry.
Campaign spokesman David Wade says "The Bush-Cheney team is on the defensive running ads to run away from their record, but there’s no excuse for exploiting our nation’s tragedy on Sept. 11 for political gain. It’s bad enough that they’ve dolled out photos from Sept. 11 as fundraising trinkets, reprehensible how Karl Rove foreshadowed GOP attacks on Max Cleland by announcing that national security would become a partisan issue, but now the Bush-Cheney team has sunk to a new low hiring actors to star in their commercials using Sept. 11 as a political football. No wonder America’s firefighters and the families of he 9/11 victims’ families are voicing their outrage."
Campaign Manager Mary Beth Cahill sent out an email to online subscribers soliciting donations that said, "The Bush campaign's massive advertising campaign may be the largest media blitz in political history. But it is still not enough to cover up the trail of broken promises he has left across America. The Bush strategy is clear. Use wedge issues to divide America. Work overtime to distort John Kerry's record. And use his campaign war chest to try to cover up his failed record." This email said that the campaign has raised $2 million online since the polls closed Super Tuesday. That fundraising figure is new -- it had been $1.2 million from the close of polls Super Tuesday to 1:30p on Wednesday.
General election strategy
Senator Kerry is taking visible steps to unify the democratic party, propel his candidacy forward, and take in more money.
DNC and campaign sources tell me that the Kerry campaign is coordinating their efforts with the DNC - that they are figuring out the most efficient way to delegate rolls, utilize funds, and coordinate their strategy. A democratic source tells me that the DNC and the Kerry campaign have been having meetings for several weeks to discuss plans for an organization structure that would compliment the campaign’s organization. I’m told that theses meetings were also held with the Edwards campaign.
McAuliffee versus Kerry?
Sources within both the Kerry campaign as well as the DNC tell me this is simply not true. At one time Senator Kerry distanced himself from Terry McAulifffe’s comments about President Bush going AWOL from his national guard service - but I’m told by a DNC source that this issue has been addressed and that "the AWOL thing is so old." This DNC official added, that the role of McAuliffe changing was never discussed by the DNC and if a change is made - it would have to be sanctioned by DNC members. I’m also told by this DNC offiical that Terry McAuliffe and John Kerry spoke on Tuesday night and they both said they looked forward to working together.
Senior aides also tell me that the Senator will increase their focus on fundraising. I’m told that the campaign has a big finance meeting on Monday. The campaign started February with only $2.1 million dollars of cash on hand. Some money that will help the Senator is a fund that the DNC has called the presidential fund. According to the DNC, this fund has 17.3 million in it and the DNC can spend this money in coordination with the Kerry campaign on ads and campaign costs not associated with travel. I’m told by a DNC source that the Kerry campaign knows this money is available and they could start using it at anytime.
Other political news of note
Capping week of scandal management, Obama says focus remains on jobs
First Read: It hasn’t been a fun week in the West Wing, but President Barack Obama insisted Friday that his focus remains on job creation despite Washington’s tendency to get “distracted” by political battles.
- 2016 notebook: Republicans try to dent Clinton's armor?
- Issa issues subpoena to Benghazi review board leader
- IRS officials testify at House hearing
- Michelle Obama urges grads to be 'an example of excellence'
- Capping week of scandal management, Obama says focus remains on jobs
I’m told by a senior aide that there have been no recent conversations between Al Sharpton and John Kerry and the campaign refuses to answer the question of whether he will speak at the convention. This aide says "everyone and their brother" wants to speak at the convention - the question is - is the campaign relegating Sharpton to everyman and their brother status? This aide tells me that the decision over whether Sharpton will speak will be decided later.
The campaign is also focused on the VP choice. Senior aide says that this process will be separate from the day to day campaign and that it will be as private as possible. I’m told by a senior aide that David McKean, Senator Kerry’s chief of staff from his Senate office is going to be involved in the process as well. Campaign aides tell me that Senator Kerry is not focused on any one type of VP - that who he’s looking for "is his head" and "he’ll keep it very private." He won’t lay out specific criteria but wants the strongest running mate possible - "there’s a lot of good talent out there," I’m told…
What I can tell you about John Kerry that could influence his pick for VP is that he surrounds himself with loyal, long time staffers. He does not like to be overshadowed but at the same time he is extremely competitive and wants the best team possible. These factors lead me to believe that he will focus not only on someone who will bolster his efforts to win in November and someone who can help with fundraising but also someone he deeply respects and has a history of working with.
Thursday, March 4
Senator Kerry spent some time with photographers and reporters looking at various pictures ranging from the war in Liberia to Britney Spears and Lance Armstrong. I asked the Senator if he had seen the Bush ads and he said, "no …I’m not worried about ‘em," he paused and said "Bring It On."
I’m told that as of now the campaign has no plans for ads of their own. Senator Kerry did talk about the president’s ad campaign at his town hall in Orlando saying, "George bush has about 200 million and he will start advertising tomorrow. I am now able to raise money …b/c Howard Dean and I went outside of the system…" Then he plugged his website saying while borrowing from Howard Dean’s take back America platform, "go to johnkerry.com and start sending 10, 20, 50 dollars… if we get a million people to take part of this effort…we can fight back and reclaim our democracy in the USA…" The campaign says they raised $1.1 million online in less than 24 hours… (see more on money below)
The campaign asked Jim Johnson to lead a vice presidential search. Johnson is being tasked with assembling a team that will begin the outreach and vetting process. I’m told by senior aides that John Kerry has been thinking of ways of bringing people like Jim Johnson into the mix. Senior aides say that Johnson is a long time democrat who is "very smart…brings good judgment, experience, …and is very well respected within the democratic party." I’m told that the two are also personal friends.
Senior aides insist that there haven’t been strategic meetings in which a possible Veep has been discussed. The senator has shied away from that for practical and superstitious reasons. One senior aide tells me "there hasn’t been a lot of sitting around the staff office - saying I think this person or that person. We haven’t been sitting around talking about whether John Edwards or Evan Bayh would be a good nominee."
Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter says that the campaign doesn’t know the exact process yet. She pointed out the traditional process - that Senator Kerry and Jim Johnson would develop a list with the party’s involvement and then they would start a very thorough vetting process. This would traditionally mean there is a lawyer and another staffer assigned to investigate each possible candidate - finding out their vulnerabilities, what they can bring to the table and how much money they can raise. She reminds me at the end, "the campaign has started a process - it’s the first step…there is no timeframe."
She ends saying, "All those names out there people leaking their own names."
It’s worth mentioning that John Kerry is very superstitious and evidence keeps popping up on the stump. His campaign used that line (superstitious) when describing why he hasn’t focused much on the VP selection. On Tuesday in Orlando he said when introducing a swift boat crew member from his Vietnam days that he served on the number 44 boat an he was running to be the 44 president. He keeps his Ohio Buckeye with him that he was given in Ohio just after he won Wisconsin, also kept a four leaf clover than an Iowan gave him - said it was responsible for his luck in Iowa. His daughter Vanessa said she’s been going around knocking on wood when people would say her dad would win the nomination.
Money, money, money
Senator Kerry has been telling reporters throughout the last weeks that he will expand and unify the democratic party behind his candidacy. He will be traveling throughout the primary season to the states that are holding contests to pay respect to those states. But he will be changing his schedule in the coming weeks.
Senior aides also tell me that they are increasing their fundraising -- one aide telling me "we are setting up a very aggressive fundraising schedule." There was a meeting in Orlando on Wednesday, in which Senator Kerry talked with about seven potential and prior donors about fundraising. Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me that the campaign has raised $1.1 million on the internet from 8p EST until 3/3 1:30p (17.5 hours). The campaign says they have signed up over 1500 new volunteers in the same period. Cutter pointed out in the email that in Howard Dean’s best 24-hour period he raised about $750,000 (though she couldn’t confirm this figure). The last figure I have is from a week and a half ago - the campaign had raised $9 million since Jan. 1. As of Feb. 1 the campaign had $2.1 million cash on hand and $7.2 million in debts (from FEC report).
Bob Graham endorsed John Kerry at a town hall meeting in Orlando, Florida saying "Today is yesterday’s tomorrow and where did John Kerry go? To Florida. John welcome to florida, you’ve got real friends here…" In addition to Graham’s endorsement, Senator Bill Nelson endorsed him as did the International Union of Police Associations.
Senator Kerry told the crowd in Orlando, "I’m here to change America for the better - both of them (Graham and Nelson) are living testimony to what happens in Florida when you count all of the votes." Senator Kerry emphasized law enforcement off of the top and how he worked "hand in hand" with police prosecutors saying "I have been to murder scenes…I busted up an organized crime organization…I can’t for the life of me understand why George Bush …has been cutting the cops program even as crime is rising…and the need is growing…because governors budgets are being cut…but George Bush thinks its more important to give people making more than $200,000 a year a tax cut." He also talked about how he believes he can win in the south (keep in mind he used to answer questions on how viable he was as a candidate by saying that if only Al Gore had won NH, OH or West Virginia he would be president - you don’t need to win in the south…). He told the crowd "Florida will be a critical battleground - I believe there are other states in the south we can win. I intend to campaign in the south b/c I think everyone cares about fiscal responsibility…not abandoning healthcare…we need to change the way we are thinking…there is nothing conservative or mainstream republican about what George Bush is doing with the deficit of this country…we will reach out and have an answer on basic common sense…"
A republican campaign official told me that Senator Kerry’s view that the Israeli security fence is a barrier to peace (this official said Senator Kerry told an Arab audience this) "…sends a horrible message to Jewish voters." This official said that the Cuban community will find his views unacceptable - specifically that John Kerry says the Cuban embargo is a Florida politics issue. The elderly will not like his vote against the Medicare bill, that he raises taxes and his votes on weapons systems won’t play out well in Florida’s central corridor. This official ended by saying, "He’s way out of step in Florida."
A new stump focus?
Senator Kerry continues to be erratic on the stump. In Orlando he delivered a short stump and took questions instead. He has been emphasizing the idea of change lately - in his speech on Tuesday night he ended with a new day is coming… Also in his first line he usually says "I come here today to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency." In Orlando he told the crowd "I am here to join you to change America for the better."
The Florida Senator flew from Washington DC to Orlando with Senator Kerry and spoke with reporters saying about the Senator’s choice to go to Florida is "significant" because of the last election. He pointed out "there hasn't been much change that would change partisan allegiance in the state." A reporter asked him about being a VP and he said that "I've said it so important that George Bush doesn't have another four years...I would do anything to help Kerry get elected." A reporter asked is that a yes? And he just smiled. Finally he said, "I urged him to take time off to get his batteries recharged - I've suggested Florida would be a good place for that."
Bob Graham pointed out the area that Kerry is most vulnerable in my opinion - voters do not know John Kerry yet and he must quickly and forcefully impose an image and perception of himself on democrats nationwide and swing voters. Graham said that Florida will be competitive state and there is a significant period when the winning person gains enough recognition from people to form an opinion of him - Sen. Kerry does need to spend money on paid advertising and he will have to continue to campaign the way he's been running. As I pointed out in last night’s note - let’s not forget the number 75. Those are the days that Senator Kerry spent in Iowa last year. He cannot take that kind of time anymore to develop a relationship with voters. He rose to win the nomination on momentum and without any of the other democratic candidates truly testing him and attacking him. Now he is about to go against the Bush money and message machine.
A campaign official with the Bush-Cheney campaign tells me that the election campaign will focus on the inconsistencies in his record and on his platform. This aide pointed out how Senator Kerry voted for the Patriot act and now against it, saying, "this is a thread that has run throughout his entire career. When we look at his record on voting on intelligence spending or the cancellation of weapons systems - there’s a lot of stuff out there." This official went on to say that the republicans wouldn’t label him a Massachusetts liberal but "he is the furthest from the center of any democrat in the US senate - when it comes to jobs, cultural issues and national security issues."
Campaign aides tell me they will stick to their message that George Bush is running from his record. The Kerry campaign will continue to attack President Bush on his handling of the economy (three million jobs lost) and on the lack of security Democrats feel at home and abroad. Senator Kerry will seek to define himself before the GOP defines him for voters.
Wednesday, March 3
Two months ago he was considered politically dead and last night he became the nominee. But there’s no rest for the weary.
Campaign aides insists that they will continue to rely on the formula that brought them success in Iowa and New Hampshire but aides say that senator Kerry will also focus on the general election by meeting with democratic leaders and getting his message out. I’m told by aide Michael Meehan that "we have run a very successful winning formula on why George Bush should be defeated…there’s no reason to change gears." Campaign communications director and spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me "strategically we will do what we have been doing." She said that Senator Kerry is hitting the road again immediately - heading to Florida and other March 9 states this weekend but the campaign hasn’t planned travel past the ninth. Also his schedule this weekend looks lighter - just one event a day.
David Wade says that fundraising ‘needs to get bigger" and that "fortunately he’s (John Kerry) out of the caps." He added "I think we have enormous fundraising potential" and there is "huge anxiety out there from people who want change."
Campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill told me she was "extremely happy - it was a great night" and she described the win as "an unprecedented early victor" by a nominee.
Daughter Vanessa tells me that she and her family were eating dinner at home after the speech. She left about 9:30p.
My 2 cents
The dramatic rise of John Kerry and the dramatic fall of Howard Dean and other candidates highlights a fickleness among voters that could hurt John Kerry and could also keep him focused on the primary season and gathering support. He doesn’t have to win votes - but he has to win over people. John Kerry is a complicated man and winning over people is one of his greatest strengths but also one of his biggest weaknesses. To date he has ridden momentum - momentum that was generated from 75 days spent in Iowa last year. The true test will be how he will handle the next nine months. He has the time to get to know the American people - like he got to know Iowans but he benefited from more than his share of luck in and after Iowa. He will be testing his skills when he runs against only one contender - the sitting president who has a high "hang" factor.
Senator Kerry told an AP pool reporter that he received a call from President Bush: "We had a very nice conversation. He called to congratulate me. I said I
hope we have a great debate about the issues before the country." I’m told by a democratic source that Senator Kerry was surprised by the call and it came on his cell phone. In addition to the above, I was told that Senator Kerry told the president "I hope that we can both serve the country as best we can." The call lasted about two minutes.
The other John (Edwards)
Early in the day traveling press secretary David Wade says, "They’re friends. John Kerry enjoys John and Elizabeth Edwards. He respects them and likes them. It’s wildly premature (to focus on a running mate)…John Kerry is Red Sox fan - he knows you don’t pop champagne corks when you’re in the eighth inning." But then hours later - the ninth inning was over.
At 7:50p I got an email from a senior Kerry staffer telling me that Senator Edwards and Kerry had spoken on the phone. I was told later by a democratic source that while Senator Edwards had called - the NC Senator had not told Senator Kerry he was getting out of the race but he had indicated it by telling him that he would work towards getting people together. I’m told by another Kerry aide that the two talked about how they rode out the tough times and this aide said that there is a lot of mutual respect. Senator Edwards told Kerry that he would be helpful but I’m told there was no talk about a Veep position.
Monday, March 1
Up for grabs Tuesday are 1,151 delegates. Even if John Kerry wins every one of them - he will not win enough to secure the nomination, yet even if John Edwards does well - it is highly unlikely to be enough to stop Kerry’s surge.
The campaign is pushing the inevitability theory - simply that it is inevitable that John Kerry will get this nomination. They word it differently of course. Senior advisers stress the mathematics… One aide telling me "there’s a significant reality to this and as you move further on there is a quantifiable answer to this." Another senior aide tells me "…the burden is not on us - if John Edwards doesn’t get 63 percent of the delegates - then he has to get 75 percent of the rest (after Super Tuesday)." This senior aide goes on, "the arithmetic is punishing. …You can’t win by losing. You can’t lose your way to the nomination."
Another senior adviser tells me that the schedule is tentative saying "we don’t really have a schedule yet." I’m told that Wednesday’s schedule is for Florida and then the senator is down in Boston. If senator Edwards stays in the race - then Senator Kerry will continue to campaign.
Senator Kerry spent Monday in Ohio, Maryland and Georgia. A senior aide tells me that these are states that are "important." The senator has spent the most time in Ohio of any Super Tuesday state and has visited all of the major cities in that state. Monday was the first visit to Maryland and the second to Georgia.
The big election
According to Senator Kerry and senior aides, the campaign is focusing on a general election strategy. They always preface that by saying if we win… A senior aide tells me "we are focused on winning the nomination on the one hand and on the other we have been talking about George Bush for over a year now - that’s not a change…" An aide close to the Senator says that they are starting to plan meetings to coordinate strategy and unify the party. I’m told that Senator Kerry’s message will stay largely the same, should he win. The campaign is not nervous about being charged a liberal - one senior adviser tells me "there is a history on this and it doesn’t work that well anymore. It’s been tried over and over again…people understand that they can’t classify themselves and they don’t choose to classify others in those ways… John Kerry knows who he is in terms of his biography and his record - that’s what people will see… they will focus on those elements and not on some label."
In Baltimore he delivered a more or less standard stump - 21 minutes. In Ohio he started out by showing the crowd at Ohio State University a good luck buckeye that a voter had given him when he first arrived in Ohio the day after Wisconsin primary. He told the crowd, "it’s been with me everyday since…it will be with me tomorrow, it will be with me in November and it will go with me to the white House." In a nod to the Oscars (he watched them with his daughter Vanessa) he told the crowd, "Peter Jackson used 25,000 actors in Lord of the Rings. He has created 25,000 more jobs than George Bush has." In Atlanta, John Kerry emphasized civil rights saying, "the south deserves credit that it’s not always given. The journey of civil rights…the south taught this nation how to do things… the march for civil rights is not finished…" He only addresses civil rights this specifically when he is in the south.
Senator Kerry changed his schedule to cast his vote on the gun control immunity legislation on the senate floor on Tuesday. I’m told by a senior aide that Senator Kerry will vote to renew the assault weapons ban and to extend background checks to gun shows but against immunity for gun manufacturers. Senator Kerry incorporates gun control into his stump speech on occasion pointing out that he is a hunter and gun owner but telling voters, "you don’t have to go hunting with an AK-47."
The new travel plans forced the campaign to switch their party plans for Super Tuesday - from Tampa Florida to Washington, DC. Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me that the only reason they changed their party plans was to accommodate the voting.
The campaign organized a conference call for reporters with Ohio Senator John Glenn - as a response to the Bush-Cheney conference call with Ohio Congressman Portman. The most interesting thing about John Glenn’s conference call was when he said he’s supporting John McCain. He quickly corrected himself and said John Kerry. In response to a question of how important partial birth abortion and gay marriage are, Senator Glenn said "the election will depend on jobs and not on wedge issues like partial birth abortion." About whether John Kerry would choose Senator Edwards as his running mate, he told reporters that Senator Kerry hasn’t given thought to who his running mate is - he’s in the middle of trying to secure the nomination.
Sunday, Feb. 29
The music as John Kerry entered the Buffalo Town Hall was from the movie The Natural.
Niagra area Congresswoman Louise Slaughter introduced John Kerry saying, "He’s an extraordinary war hero. Do you think he’s going to take any crap from a man who didn’t show up in Alabama?"
Senator Kerry told the crowd, "We're going to make history here tonight. This is the shortest speech I'm going to give in this campaign." He wasn’t kidding. It lasted less than three minutes and then he said he wanted to have a discussion. "…Together we’re going to have a discussion. We’re going to talk about education, the environment, healthcare, how to create good jobs…" The image was picture perfect - Senator Kerry stood in the middle of about five hundred people with American flags draped around the room and on the ceilings. He conducted a Q&A and incorporated much of his stump in his answers - accomplishing two goals. He conveys a sense of compassion, knowledge and interest in others while delivering his stump’s message in nice sound bites through his answers. I’m told by a senior adviser that this change in delivery was not planned - it was spontaneous on the part of the senator.
The new John Kerry doesn’t say I, he says we. Senator Kerry said in response to a question, "when I roll back - let me correct that - when we roll back" George Bush’s tax cut… This fits into other changes in his stump speech - it’s been more inclusive lately - from saying we instead of I to saying "stand together…"
A reunion of sorts
Senator Kerry announced to the crowd that a Vietnam veteran with whom he had served on a swift boat was at the event. Stephen Hatch is from Niagra and worked for thirty years at GM. I’m told by a campaign aide that Senator Kerry found Hatch for a reunion in early 2003 and spoke with him by phone but they haven’t seen each other in 35 years. Hatch confirms this story with pool reporter after event. Hatch served with John Kerry on PCF-44. Hatch went to shake John Kerry’s hand and Senator Kerry instead hugged him.
Senator Kerry’s daughter Vanessa told the crowd, "It’s incredible as a child to see people turn out on behalf of my father. I believe in him 100 percent. I wouldn’t have taken a year off from medical school otherwise. I hope everybody walks out of here believing in him just as much as I do. This man will bring hope back to the country…"
The senator answered a few questions about the debate on the press plane. In response to "how was the debate?" he replied, "was that a debate?" He told reporters it "seemed like there wasn’t enough time. We didn’t talk about education. We didn’t talk about healthcare. We didn’t talk about the economy." A reporter asked him about what he thought about Senator Edwards asset line and he replied, "we all have different definitions of assets."
On one hand Senator Kerry demonstrated his experience and knowledge on the foreign policy front as well as on politics in general. On the other hand, he also showed his inability to come down on one side of an issue and underscored through his waffling that is an insider Washington politician. On Haiti, the words rolled off his tongue, making him look presidential and showcasing his experience in foreign policy. Also when John Edwards pushed him on the Washington insider issue he responded with an excellent quip that Washington is "where the congress is…and where 16000 Pennsylvania avenue is." But, he was also patronizing and his detailed and defensive explanation of his spending plan pointed to his being the typical Washington insider.
Senator Kerry’s answer was convoluted and confusing. He emphasized his usual position - that he supports civil unions and said that he had been to a gay marriage. Aide David Wade tells me that Senator Kerry had been to his friend Chad Gifford’s sons commitment ceremony. Chad Gifford is from MA - no details yet on when the ceremony was or the gift!
Mario Cuomo, who endorsed the senator on Saturday, talked to reporters in the spin room. The former governor emphasized Senator Kerry’s "gravitas and experience" especially as compared to the lack of experience of Senator Edwards.
Friday, Feb. 27
I thought his first line summed up John Kerry’s hopes for the next few days. "I think John has run a terrific campaign." HAS RUN - as if his campaign is already over. I do believe it was a slip but a telling one at that. Senator Edwards leaned away from Senator Kerry when he answered and Senator Kerry awkwardly looked at the other John during his.
Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said, "I think it was a good debate - Edwards tried to create some differences where differences were minimal or didn’t exist. Kerry handled himself very well, and delivered his positions strongly and clearly."
In talking about gay marriage, John Kerry defended his speech in 1996 when he voted against DOMA, saying it starts out expressing his personal opinion (he does do this at the end of the second paragraph of his delivered words) but he said there was no issue in the country about gay marriage at that time and the reason he voted against DOMA was gay bashing.
He said this during a local news interview post debate: ``I have the same position as the president. I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I don't believe you need to change the constitution of the United States, because for 200 years the states have made that determination by themselves. I believe the pres is using this issue to drive a wedge, to divide the American people. And it's unnecessary. He's playing the constitution of the United States of America for political purposes.. Even conservatives, if you're really a conservative, you wouldn't try to amend the constitution of the united states......"
He answered the death penalty question as the new and improved - John Kerry. Off the bat he gave an emotional and personal answer, telling Larry King that he would want to wring someone’s neck if they killed a five year old.
Foreign policy preview
Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me the speech is about terrorism and the inability of the Bush administration to formulate an effective policy that combats terrorism. Cutter said don’t expect any news but do expect the Republicans to respond - so the he said, she said between Bush-Kerry campaign continues.
A senior aide tells me that Senator Kerry is likely to head to DC Tuesday or Wednesday to cast his vote on the gun control bill currently on the floor. It’s an issue that is important to him and clearly he wants to make a public showing of that commitment. The vote could come down to one or two.
Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter says that the Bush assaults both help and hurt the campaign. On one hand they keep Senator Kerry in the news, which is a plus. On the other hand the campaign and the Senator has to take time to defend himself and his votes.
Campaign communications director and spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me that according to the campaign’s calculations, Senator Kerry has 734 delegates, compared to 217 of John Edwards. She says that while the campaign is hopeful about winning a majority of Super Tuesday states, that they are counting delegates at this point. She also answered my question about what wins they need by telling me that John Edwards says Georgia and New York are a must win for him. What’s the must win for John Kerry I asked. She replied, "we don’t have any must wins. We’ve already proven we’ve won." The campaign is not counting on Edwards dropping out of the race after March 2 as their travel schedule has them traveling to each of the March 9 states but I’m told by a senior aide that no travel plans have been made after that. Cutter tells me that surrogates are campaigning heavily for Senator Kerry in Super Tuesday states - Rep. Lewis and former Senator Cleland and General Clark are in Georgia. The campaign has no worries about the Northeastern states - saying they have operations in Vermont and lots of supporters in Massachusetts. (I’m told that the senator is voting by absentee ballot). Asked which states are important to Senator Kerry, Stephanie Cutter told me "Ohio because it’s a bellweather, New York because of the delegate count and Georgia because it’s a southern state.’ There was no mention of California initially. About Ohio, she told me that Edwards’ favorability ratings are very high and that a week out with great poll numbers doesn’t mean a lot. The Kerry campaign loves to manage expectations.
Off the record?
The senator is still getting used to a world in which he is the frontrunner and likely nominee. His interactions with the press corps range at any one time, from strained to friendly, with the most tension arising over whether he is off the record, on background or on the record. His understanding of the differences is limited as he often says "this is off-off-off the record - on background - off the record." The situation in Iowa was vastly different as each night he would go off the record with a small group of reporters and simply shoot the you-know-what. This campaign is a different animal now and the senator is struggling to find his role.
Walking back to the second America (there are two Americas on the plane) where the press sits, Senator Kerry thought he was off the record and started chatting. Then told he was on the record he said, "OK - no politics - just fun stuff" and started to chat about exercise and his lack of it on the campaign trail. He told the press corps he was eager to start to work out again and ride the bike. He talked about wanting to change the way he is campaigning, telling reporters he’s looking beyond super Tuesday when he wants "to sit around with people" that he "wants you guys (the press) to grill me…like in Iowa." On the plane he said he wants to do events "that aren’t rallies" and "wants people to hear real dialogue." About the future he said, "I hope I'm going to win the nomination somewhere in the next month, that's what I'm trying to do. That's the objective here."
What about The Passion of the Christ I asked, wondering if he had interest in seeing it. In a perfect Kerry moment he said well… he was interested but was concerned about possible anti-semitism in the movie. The last time he saw a movie in the theater? He had to think quite a while and said he thought it was "When We Were Soldiers" with Mel Gibson. Figures it’s a Vietnam flick. He told the group he hasn’t had a family dinner since Christmas and that he’s a good dad to his daughters - giving them advice on boyfriends. Alex is a big liberal and he said they have some political fights.
After the senator left between the staff and the press over whether the session was on background or on the record (nothing he said was newsworthy). It’s always a challenge to find a title for him when he goes on background - some press suggestions, "a source who is exceptionally close to the senator himself, a source with the same soul as the senator, a source with intimate knowledge of the senator."
Thursday, Feb. 26
The race for Ohio
The race might be tighter than you think. Dan Trevas, spokesman for Ohio Democratic Party tells me, "we’re thinking it’s up for grabs at this point…the race is tight (between Edwards and Kerry)." Though he’s quick to point out that Senator Kerry is the frontrunner, he cites anecdotal evidence and time spent with both candidates on the trail as proof that the race is competitive. Trevas tells me that there have been increased calls into his office asking questions about the candidates and huge crowds for both Kerry and Edwards. He does not think that Kerry’s NAFTA vote hurts him, telling me Ohio voters understand that it’s a question on how NAFTA has been implemented, "people aren’t walking around thinking you voted for NAFTA and took away my job." He pointed to labor backing for Kerry as helping him, "Labor will really help Kerry here - they are very well organized and they are ramping up so it’s a real key help to have them." He did add, "but I don’t know if other labor will offer Edwards support. There are other unions here." If schedule is any evidence - Senator Kerry is spending the most time in Ohio - four visits - compared to GA and CA two days and NY - three. In Ohio he is hitting all the major cities - Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
On Wednesday Ohio Senator John Glenn endorsed John Kerry and democratic sources tell me that Florida Senator Bob Graham will endorse Senator Kerry next week.
Sen. John Glenn told the crowd, "today is a new first for me - endorsing in a primary," but he said "these are not normal times." He cited the need for change and said he didn’t come here today to criticize any of the other candidates but to stress that John Kerry was the best candidate. "It’s no surprise that John has won 19 of the 21 races" because he is addressing the concerns of everyday Americans and Bush’s use of "voodoo economics" and that "true prosperity flows up from the people with jobs and never just flows down from the wealthy."
John Kerry went right after George Bush saying, "Monday night President Bush kicked off his reelection campaign by saying that the economy was moving forward. About a month ago he came here to Toledo to say that America’s economy is strong. I don’t know what America George Bush is looking at but I don’t think he knows what’s going on… it’s obvious from his steps yesterday that he doesn’t really want to talk about what’s happening to workers in Ohio and elsewhere in the country… George Bush is the first president to lose jobs since Herbert Hoover…he’s turned the biggest surpluses in the history of our country into the biggest deficits and with a record like that…it’s clear that the one person who deserves to be laid off in America is GWB. This president is a walking contradiction - he promised that his tax cut would create four million jobs - we’ve lost three million…"
On the deficit
The right way to deal with the deficit is to create jobs …and to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and no matter what was said in Washington this morning the wrong way to deal with the deficit is to cut social security benefits…
What's really new from the jobs speech
A conference call with former Clinton Economic Adviser Gene Sperling was added at the last minute - perhaps a sign that the campaign wants to dominate the story line… The call was to talk about the senator’s jobs speech. The only new element was Senator Kerry’s Pink Slip notice - requiring companies to inform workers, the Department of Labor, and state agencies, and local government officials and Senator Kerry will require companies to provide employees with at least three months advance notice.
As evidence that nothing was really new in the speech, Gene Sperling started the call by talking about a speech Senator Kerry gave in August on the economy. At that speech he talked about manufacturing tax credits, which Sperling explained on the call today, saying to reporters, "there is very good reason to be talking about jobs and manufacturing jobs in Ohio. While having gained 720,000 jobs under Clinton is down 264,000 since Bush became president. Since the end of the recession …there have been 157,000 jobs lost in Ohio. Manufacturing jobs have lost 165,000 …a 16 percent decline." While all of that might be true - only the pink slip element of the speech was new.
Nighttime events seem to be better for Sen. Kerry. In front of a crowd of about 2,000 people in St. Paul, Senator Kerry was on fire - focused and sharp. There were lines of people waiting outside who could not fit into the space.
On the way to the airport, Kerry stopped by St. John's Catholic Church, a downtown Cleveland Cathedral, to receive ashes that mark the beginning of lent. As he left the church, a reporter asked Kerry about his
overnight successful trifecta. I'm thrilled. It was great," he said, speaking of wins in Idaho, Utah and Hawaii. "But we've got a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of campaigning to do."
As reported by Bush/Cheney embed Nina Bradley, Ed Gillespie talked about republicans having issues with Senator Kerry’s voting record but not questioning his patriotism. Campaign spokesman David Wade tells me in response, ""These guys are on the run, and when their pals doctor photos of John Kerry that falsely show him with Jane Fonda, when they announce they'll attack his statements from the Vietnam era and question his commitment to the defense of our country, you bet we'll call them out on it. These are the same tactics they used against John McCain and Max Cleland and we're fighting back." I do believe the campaign is nervous about this route of attack. The five-page memo I received under my door highlighting John Kerry’s "real record" versus the Bush administration "distortions" two nights ago attests to this.
Wednesday, Feb. 25
The drive to the closed steel mill was gray and depressing. There were rotted out metal buildings perched beyond gravel covered railroad tracks - Hollywood could not have re-created it better…
John Kerry talked to laid-off steel workers - highlighting what could be a vulnerability for George Bush in a general election. The repeal of steel tariffs has hurt steelworkers in this state as has the outsourcing of jobs and manufacturing jobs losses. Again it’s a visual that shows John Kerry is a leader who will fight for the working people - an image he desperately wants to portray against John Edwards who is the son of a mill worker…
Senator Kerry spoke to about 75 workers at an aluminum plant in Youngstown Ohio. He talked about trade and steel right off the top saying, "four years ago we passed provisions in the trade agreement that allowed the president to take action when dumping takes place or when there’s a surge of products that hurts American products… the president was asked to take action and he said no… everyone knows what happened in this happened with steel - the guts were torn out of it… all across our country workers are struggling with…the most unfair workplace that we’ve had in this country in all the time I’ve been in public life. No president can stand in front of you and promise you that he can stop every single job from going overseas. What a president can do is …guarantee you a fair playing field… so when china…starts manipulating their money so that American products can’t sell in a fair situation… workers deserve a president of the US who will fight for jobs of the US workers (first applause)…
He talked about steel tariffs and then transitioned to healthcare saying, "here’s the choice- you can either be like George Bush and run around the country and defend people making more than 200,000 a year getting a tax cut or you can decide you can invest in healthcare and education… that’s the choice that I intend to give this country… and it’s a real choice."
Cause for concern?
Senator Kerry has not led the kind of campaign as of late that he led in the dark days of Iowa and New Hampshire. Though he continues to emphasize the same message - his audiences are less enthusiastic. There were tepid rounds of applause at his town hall with workers in Youngstown. He is trying to connect - bringing back his Q&A sessions and telling the workers, "I want to take time to really just have a conversation with you - I want to open it up and have a good discussion." But in just over thirty minutes he had answered only eight questions. He is falling back into his old pattern of roaming answers, lack of energy, and lack of focus on the stump.
Twice he mentioned local companies, which were experiencing hiring and health insurance problems, as being from Iowa instead of Ohio. (He did catch himself both times and corrected himself)
He asked a group of union workers in Youngstown how many watched the President’s state of the union (you could read the crowd and know that not many of them were likely to have watched the SOTU) and I saw only two of about 75 people raise their hands. Then he talked about the president’s tax cut plan and said "I think that’s just folly."
During a five-minute response to a question about health insurance he ended up talking about Leave No Child Behind.
A question was asked about defining the cost of product for products at home and abroad. The senator answered by saying that "that has to be negotiated out through WTO" and while that may be true - he missed an opportunity off the bat to convey his message - he missed his opening shot.
It took him until the very end of the event to convey his message - "this fight is about fairness. …someone has to step up and fight…"
A new world
There was an eleven car motorcade on Tuesday - driving from the first event in Youngstown to the second event in Cleveland. Local police blocked intersections and on ramps as the senator’s motorcade drove the hour and a half between cities.
The Bush-Cheney campaign is delivering on their promise to "bracket" Kerry trips and activities. There is an Ed Gillespie conference call on Wednesday at 1:30p and a Norm Coleman conference call on the Senator’s trip to Minnesota as well. Kerry aides tell me that the Senator will continue to fight back and fight early and as he told me the other day - he will bracket them as well.
David Wade says the administration’s campaign activities are "proof that this Administration is afraid to run against John Kerry and they desperately would like to change the outcome of the Democratic nominating process. Americans agree with John Kerry that you can invest in education and raise standards, that you can have trade but enforce the agreements, hold Saddam Hussein accountable but to do it right -- and that's why this Administration is on the run."
The Kerry campaign is trying to play this up as wedge issue concocted by the Bush administration to divide Americans and draw attention away from the president’s record on job loss. David Wade tells me, "It's pretty clear what the President's reelection strategy is, but it's hardly new: attack the patriotism of Democrats and invent wedge issues that divide Americans hoping they'll forget about the 3 million jobs lost on this President's watch. It's standard Republican fare. They always need an enemy, and now they're willing to erase every word Dick Cheney spoke in '00 about not dividing gay Americans against straight Americans."
John Kerry asserts time and again that his position has always been that marriage is between a man and a woman yet he supports civil unions. Problem is that in 1996 he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (only one of 14 senators), which defined marriage on a federal level to be between a man and a woman and said that states did not have to recognize marriage from another state. Had he wanted to define marriage as that between a man and a woman - why would he not have simply voted for the DOMA in 1996. He says because it was "gay bashing" on the senate floor.
The campaign released a new ad on the economy in Ohio and in markets in upstate NY that highlights the jobs lost under President Bush.
Tuesday, Feb. 24
New York, NY- The following statement was issued by John Kerry after President Bush’s speech tonight at the Republican Governor’s Association fundraiser:
"President Bush gave his speech tonight as if the past three and a half years never happened. But the American people haven't forgotten this President's failed record, because they have to live with it everyday. George Bush's credibility is running out with the American people. They want change in America, and I'm running because I am determined to bring that change and put America back on track."
New York rallies
Senator Kerry is fighting for to get his groove back. He was on his game over the weekend but on Monday he took a step backwards. At the first rally in Harlem, there were empty seats and what seemed like only obligatory clapping from the crowd. The senator delivered a very short stump speech - 13 minutes. Off the top he criticized the president’s decision to lay out his vision in his speech to the Republican Governors, telling the crowd (and the cameras) "Tonight George Bush is going to give a speech in Washington to the Republican governors he’s going to stand up and lay out his vision for the country and I …I uh - I think its’ obvious and its interesting - we have George Bush on the run b/c he’s going to get out there and start this campaign tonight before we even have a nominee of the democratic party… I think its extraordinary that tonight we will get his vision… he certainly has to call something a vision b/c he can’t run on his record… 3 million jobs lost, 2 million people losing health insurance… jobs being outsourced overseas at a record rate, trade that is not fair. And a world in which the USA - the leader of the free world is less safe and less secure."
He went on, "So the president will lay out what he calls a vision but I believe what he will do tonight is run away from his own record b/c he doesn’t have a record to run on… the truth is clear - deficits as far as the eye can see… an administration that is unwilling to even meet… with the leadership council on civil rights or the NAACP. A president who is willing to have tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans… …we’re going to hold him accountable… This has been the most arrogant, inept, arrogant foreign policy in the history of our country…"
John Kerry emphasized fundamental fairness (his notion of Edwards’ two Americas idea), the economy and jobs. He stayed away from the war except in his criticism of the president’s speech. Campaign spokesman David Wade tells me that the event was "a jobs message" as there is no place hit harder than Harlem. He said, "everytime we have a republican recession, NY gets a cold but Harlem gets the flu." Wade also said that the senator "wanted to respond to President Bush." This aggression Wade told me "shows how much the administration is on the run." So when John Kerry goes on the offensive is he on the run?
At the second town hall in Jamaica, Queens he was forty-five minutes late and there were more empty seats. This was the first event in which everyone was "wanded" and walked through metal detectors. I asked an agent why today and I was told it was just the first time that secret service had coordinated the event. His stump was short again but he did take Q&A. The events have a distant feel to the days in Iowa and New Hampshire where he was actually fighting for every vote as opposed to only talking about it. In those times, he would not leave a question unanswered and now, while is taking questions again, he leaves many events with voters who still have their hands up.
Is he worried?
The campaign slid a five-page memo under my door highlighting John Kerry’s record of supporting defense and intelligence programs. The memo read, "in a desperate attempt to slow John Kerry’s momentum and distract the public from the Bush Administration’s failure to care for our nation’s troops and veterans, the RNC unleashed yet another distortion of Kerry’s record of supporting national defense." The memo laid out their side of his record saying that he supported "smart cuts to the defense budget without hurting the men and women in the military." The campaign highlighted that he cast votes along with moderate, well known republicans like John McCain, John Chafee and Chuck Grassley.
The Kerry campaign is launching as in Ohio, Georgia and upstate NY, one is starting on Tuesday and the others as early as Wednesday and going through Super Tuesday. The "Del ad" is already cut and will run in all three markets and this ad features Del Sandusky, Senator Kerry’s swift boat crew mate who talks about his leadership and comraderie in glowing terms. There will be two or three new ads (TBD). One will be on the economy in Ohio as I’m told by spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, ‘Ohio is an important state for the primary and the general and Ohio embraces everything wrong with this administration." The other ad or two will feature Max Cleland and John Lewis and will run in Georgia. These testimonial type ads reflect an ongoing strategy of the campaign to have others speak for John Kerry as they are better at conveying his strengths than he himself is. As of now there are no plans to run ads in California. Stephanie Cutter said about the ads running in markets where Edwards also has ads, "it made sense for us to go up in those states. Asked why the campaign is running ads in the same spots as Edwards, Cutter said, "there are only so many states in the Super Tuesday primary."
New York City
The senator had three fundraisers after his two town hall events and will be meeting with the NY Times editorial board on Tuesday morning.
The campaign says
The three fundraisers came with some details. I’m told by the campaign that the first even was at the Sheraton with New Yorkers who formerly supported Wes Clark’s campaign. It was organized by Stan Schuman and Alan Patricof and there were approximately fifty attendees. The second fundraiser was at Jane Rosenthal’s private residence on the Upper West side and was hosted by Ms. Rosenthal, Craig Hatkoff and John Sykes. John Bon Jovi performed. There were roughly 100 people including Harvey Weinstein, Robert DeNiro, Lauren Bacall, and Kevin Bacon. The final event was a dinner for new supporters on the East side hosted by one of the campaign’s NY finance chairs Hassan Namazee. The last time Sen. Kerry hosted a fundraiser it was in NYC after Feb. 3.
Senator Kerry and his surrogates are launching a jobs tour in all super Tuesday states. On Tuesday, Kerry will tour an abandoned steel mill with laid-off steelworkers and meet with workers at a revitalized factory in Struthers, Ohio.
Sunday, Feb. 22
Interview with Kerry
MSNBC: Bush-Cheney is going to launch ads on March 4.
Kerry: "I hear that."
MSNBC: And they are going to bracket you and respond to any attacks from you. Kerry" "Well we’ll bracket them and respond to them. I mean hopefully if I win. I’ve got to winon the 2nd and maybe they’ll change their plans - if I don’t we’ll see what happens."
MSNBC: How are you going to effectively counter that - How are you going to go after them - they have a lot of money - what are you going to do?
Kerry: "Well if I win the nomination I’m going to start organizing the democratic party beyond where it’s already organized and there are a lot of people waiting and ready to mount an effort for a nominee. We will never have the money that they have but we’re going to do as well as we can and I think we’ll surprise people."
MSNBC: You haven’t won the nomination yet but you’re very focused on the stump on George Bush.
Kerry: Well I always have been - Becky - you’ve been with me the whole way. I did that in Iowa and I did that in NH. There is nothing different in the way that I am campaigning today. I’m focused on George Bush and my vision for the future. And if somebody asks me a question about another candidate - I respond. But all through Iowa, all through NH, all through the states that followed, I’ve been focused on my vision for the country and the differences between George Bush and myself in terms of that vision.
MSNBC: Is John Edwards a threat?
Kerry: "I see any candidate potentially - I take nothing for granted. I keep saying that to you folks. I said to you I don’t trust the polls. And I don’t trust polls. I work hard and I will continue to work as hard as I know how every day and if and when I win the nomination then I will completely focus on President Bush but right now my focus is on the ideas and my vision for the country."
The sign that hung above John Kerry as he delivered his stump in Atlanta Georgia read, John Kerry: Protecting America’s Jobs. In Wisconsin it was John Kerry: Fighting for America’s Families. On the stump in Georgia, Sen. Kerry hammered President Bush’s record on jobs and the economy saying, "All over this country this administration has ripped the heart out of the heartland and there are people all over the country that are unemployed. Here in Georgia maybe 110,000 or so. Manufacturing is down, tech is down but worse the separation, the gaps between the haves and the have nots is growing wider and we have still today in 2004 a separate and unequal school system in America and that’s unacceptable. …the anxiety of the nation is growing as the outsourcing of jobs takes place and we refuse to acknowledge that you have to invest in this nation, in people…" Finally he claimed "George Bush’s priority is a tax cut" for the wealthy.
John Kerry is sounding more and more like the other John - John Edwards. Sen. Kerry successfully lifted aspects of Howard Dean’s message into a more acceptable form of Dean-lite. He is doing the same with John Edwards message as you read from the above line of the two America’s idea, "the haves and have nots."
Finding his footing
Senator Kerry had been stumbling as of late - but on Saturday night and Sunday he was back with a sharp stump and focused message. His message in Georgia was mostly jobs. Per usual he didn’t mention Edwards or any other democratic candidate but shot his ammunition at the one target for whom all democrats feel anger - George Bush. He also appears very much the nominee as he fires away at President Bush… On the stump, he’s stopped emphasizing special interest and is focused more on the economy and jobs. He is also starting to conduct question and answer sessions - these were extremely effective in Iowa where he gave voters the sense that they were connecting with him and he was available to them and cared about that as he would stay to answer every last question. He went for about a two-week period with no Q and A and I believe the reinstatement of this reflects his battle with Edwards who is an extremely likeable, personal and "connectable" candidate with voters.
During the Q & A there was a question on free trade. Senator Kerry told the voter, "free trade is different from smart trade. …I believe in trade. …I’m not going to come here and mislead anybody… that any president is just going to…stop outsourcing completely." He explained that he believes in environmental and labor standards and also believes in investing in new jobs.
The two front war
The first front is an increasingly active George Bush who is due to engage more fully in the 2004 campaign. Ed Gillespie last week on a conference call admitted that he was surprised that the Democrats had avoided attacking each other and had attacked the president so forcefully. Perhaps they have been caught off guard.
In any case, Kerry advisers tell me that they are responding to the Bush-Cheney campaign’s increased involvement by fighting back and fighting early. Traveling press secretary David Wade tells me, "we will stand up and fight back. Every time the GOP gang that slandered Max Cleland and John Kerry opens fire on John Kerry, Americans across the country are reminded that some things are worth fighting for and that’s why our campaign is growing - let the republicans bring it on."
In response to a letter from Bush-Cheney 04 campaign chairman Marc Racicot to John Kerry, which criticized the senator’s response to Sen. Saxby Chambliss on Saturday David Wade told me, "The Republicans need to answer to the American people for their craven tactics that degrade our democracy and question the patriotism of those who stand up and ask questions about the direction in our country. If Marc Racicot hasn’t read reports of the Bush-Cheney campaign’s intent to launch a negative ad campaign and smear campaign against John Kerry called "Operation Carpetbomb," then he better get up to speed. The GOP has unleashed the same partisans they used to smear John McCain and Max Cleland in an orchestrated attack against John Kerry, and we’re going to fight back with the truth. John Kerry takes a backseat to no one when it comes to maintaining the strongest military on the face of the earth and keeping our promises to America’s veterans, and across this country citizens are responding to his call for change."
I’m told by communications director and campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, the Kerry campaign has staff in every super Tuesday state and their strategy is to "run a national campaign and win as many votes as we can. Campaign aides say they expect a lot of help from the unions in Ohio. Cutter says union members "understand that John Kerry is the right person to run against Bush" and they will do all they can to help get out the vote. Union leader Steelworkers President Leo Gerard is joining the campaign for events in Youngstown, Ohio.
A senior aide tells me that on Tuesday the campaign is kicking of a jobs tour in all Super Tuesday states. Senator Kerry will travel through Ohio and Minnesota and surrogates will hit all other Super Tuesday states. The purpose, I’m told, is to highlight "the reckless economic policies of the Bush Administration" and to showcase John Kerry’s "common sense policies that help all Americans."
Show me the money
Despite the fact that the Kerry campaign spent $3 million more in January than it raised and despite beginning February with just over $2 million in the bank and $7.2 million in debt, Senior adviser Michael Meehan tells me, "We have had the finance to compete and win in 16 of 18 contests so far and feel that we have what we need." In response to a question on whether Sen. Kerry will take out another personal loan, Meehan told me, "(John) Kerry has not ruled in or ruled out any other options about further investments in his own campaign."
According to FEC reports for January - the campaign raised $4.1 million from donors and spent $7.1 million. In addition to the money raised, the FEC report shows Kerry lending his campaign $3.5 million of the $6.4 million loan he took out in December. Michael Meehan points out that the campaign raised $9 million so far this year - five million of that in February. Through January the senator’s campaign raised $33 million - $6.4 of that from the loan. His campaign has spent $30.8.
According to the Tony Welch, DNC Spokesman, the DNC has a fund set aside that will have approximately $15 million for the nominee to use right away.
At an event in an Atlanta baptist church, Senator Kerry told reporters about Nader, "I’m going to appeal to everyone in the race, so that it will make it unnecessary to go to an alternative candidate."
David Wade, traveling press secretary tells me, ""Ralph Nader is entitled to make his own decision and voters will make their choice -- which is why it's important hat Americans know that Ralph Nader and John Kerry share a long history of fighting for the progressive causes of our country from consumers rights to the environment. We believe that to defeat George Bush, end the era of Ashcroft, protect the environment from special interest plunder, and restore a fair workplace, everyone needs to unite around the Democratic nominee and fight back against George Bush's $100 million campaign booty from the special interests."
Friday, Feb. 20
AFL-CIO: A man of the people
Senator Kerry walked on stage to the sounds of Streetfighting Man by the Rolling Stones and Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen. Showing that a picture is worth a thousand words, he stood on stage with at least 50 people, many of whom were looking every bit the working man, wearing hard hats as well as their uniforms. This is an image and a message the Kerry campaign wants to portray - Senator Kerry as the working man’s leader who will fight for their rights. The endorsement of the nation’s biggest and most influential labor organization beefs up Senator Kerry’s labor credentials. Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter says that the AFL-CIO will offer "footsoldiers" and that the organization is "the heart and soul of working America" whose members want to "…kick George Bush out of the White House." She says these footsoldiers will help on the campaign trail by getting out the vote and making calls. She said that "this wasn’t a choice between Edwards and Kerry," instead this was a choice for John Kerry to beat George Bush. She also insisted on the campaign’s new line, telling me that "as far as I can tell John Kerry and John Edwards have the same trade policy… no real difference in trade philosophy between the two." She pointed out that she could not find any Edwards opposition to NAFTA.
The campaign’s first Super Tuesday related stop was in Ohio on Wednesday. Next up is Georgia on Sunday and from there to New York. Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me that no decision on ads has been made yet and she doesn’t expect a decision until Sunday or Monday. She said, "we have to be strategic about it." While I’m told Senator Kerry’s message won’t change, a speechwriter tells me that they are often adding new lines to the stump to keep it fresh. The campaign is counting on surrogates and field staff for Idaho, Hawaii and Utah.
The LA Times ran a story that a defense contractor illegally donated money to Senator Kerry.
Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter says, "At the time of the contributions, we had no knowledge of anything illegal, and once the wrongdoing was brought to light, we fully cooperated with the investigation. Kerry has made a career of going to bat for Massachusetts companies, and any bottlenecks they might have with the federal government."
Thursday, Feb. 19
Senator Kerry is due to get the AFL-CIO endorsement on Thursday at noon. It reflects a growing coalescing of democratic forces around John Kerry and contributes to the sense that he will get the nomination. It highlights John Kerry's commitment (perceived) to labor and in doing so it could strike a blow to John Edwards surge among voters with jobs as their number one concern. It certainly shows that although the Senator supported NAFTA - he's got the support of teh biggest union out there - underscoring more than anything the strength of the electability ingredient in John Kerry's mix...
Super Tuesday strategy
Senior campaign aides tell me that the senator plans to win as many Super Tuesday states as he can and visit as many as possible and that his message will be largely the same. But on the flight to Ohio Senator Kerry told reporters that he would be introducing some new ideas and themes in the weeks ahead. When asked to explain he said, "memories are short-lived and voters have to be reintroduced" to certain themes in speeches and events. He explained that what he told people in Iowa might not have been heard by voters in Ohio or California. Crowds are still big at Kerry events - over 1000 at his last town hall in Ohio; however, his performance on the stump is erratic. While his message is largely the same, he is introducing new elements into his stump speech - focusing more on the economy and job loss and he at times stumbles over his lines.
His main focus in the next two weeks will be on Ohio, Georgia, NY, Minnesota and California. On the campaign plane, the senator said that the campaign was also working on a rally in Boston. Senator Kerry is taking two days off on Friday and Saturday but was quick to tell reporters that they weren’t actually down days, "there are no down days," he said, "only no travel days." He said that he will be spending those days making fundraising and administrative calls. About fundraising he said some LA celebrities will be helping him - like Russell Simmons and Bette Midler. He also said General Clark offered to help him with the Hollywood crowd.
About his schedule looking ahead, he was asked about the possibility of fighting for every vote in Hawaii. He smiled and replied, "I’ve been proving how powerless I am - I’ve been pushing for Hawaii…" but he says his campaign staff won’t agree on a trip there. He said he didn’t know if he would be visiting all ten Super Tuesday states. A senior aide tells me that it’s impossible to visit all ten states in the time left.
Despite insisting that there would be no changes to the upcoming schedule, the campaign in fact, changed the schedule. The senator was due to be down Friday and Saturday but changed that by adding two evening events, one in upstate New York and one in Georgia on Saturday.
What two-man race?
Asked about the two man race, campaign aides say, not so fast. One aide asks me, "how can we look at the race as a two man race when Dennis Kucinich came in ahead of John Edwards in two states?" Bewilderment aside, I sought out an another aide close to the senator who gave me essentially the same line - that Kucinich had beaten Edwards a few times and he could do well in his home state of Ohio. The Kerry spin machine has lost all bounds of reasonableness.
Dean, Dean, Dean
Kerry was in a noticeably good mood this morning. I think it's either because he loves the challenge of a good fight and that's where he finds himself or it's because the one time political thorn in his side has been dislodged.
Senator Kerry was gracious in his comments about Dean saying, "I talked to him last night. He called me and he was very generous again in his comments. I’m very grateful to him for that. I understand he has a news conference scheduled for 1p. I don’t know precisely what he’s going to do - I’ve heard some rumors about it. Under any circumstances, let me say this - he has done an extraordinary job of invigorating a whole group of people who were divorced from the political process and bringing them in and being innovative and creative in the way that he’s done it. I have great respect for that. I don’t know whether he will continue to be an opponent in these races in the coming days or not but whatever happens it’s impossible not to express admiration and respect for the campaign he’s put together."
Senior aides in the campaign say they have heard nothing about a possible Dean endorsement of John Edwards.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
John Kerry has been emphasizing job loss in recent days on the stump - not surprising as he’s been in Wisconsin and Ohio -- areas hard hit by manufacturing job loss. In Columbus, Ohio he told a crowd of over 1,000, "all over this state, you’re living it, you feel it… the economic policy of this administration has cut the heart out of the heartland of America." He continued to emphasize his "mainstream" theme saying, "you look around this country…what I intend to do is to talk to Ohio about common sense, mainstream values…this president thinks the measurement (of success) is when the stock market goes up. I think the measurement is when you get people back to work."
Ed Gillespie held a conference call to talk about John Kerry’s Ohio trip. He told reporters, "I feel it’s important to go in and set the record straight" about George Bush’s record on jobs and the economy. Gillespie said "he’s (Kerry) right about the need to create jobs here at home but wrong about his policies… " and emphasized Kerry’s call to end the tax cuts as one of the policies that is wrong for America. Gillespie said that while the call was about John Kerry that "I don’t believe that the democratic race is over. I don’t believe its wide open anymore. Today Senator Kerry is in Ohio and we’re responding to him. This is going to be a close contest. We’re going to be behind at times… at the point in which the nominee is clear the president would engage. Gillespie also expressed some surprise that the democrats were going after George Bush as much as they had and not at each other.
Senator Kerry’s support for NAFTA could be the biggest thorn in his side among voters in states like Wisconsin and Ohio whose communities have experienced high job loss due to outsourcing. The campaign was pressing the idea on Wednesday that despite John Edwards claims that he opposed NAFTA, definitive proof of that can not be pinpointed. John Kerry told reporters during a press availability that "we have the same policy on trade - exactly the same policy on trade. He voted for the china trade agreement - so did I and both of us want to have labor and environmental agreements as part of a trade agreement. So it’s the exact same policy." A reporter interrupted, "But he was against NAFTA." The senator replied, "Well he wasn’t in the senate then. I don’t know where he registered his vote but it wasn’t in the senate."
Senior campaign aides support this message. One aide tells me about Edwards and NAFTA "…(I) haven’t seen anything anywhere saying he hasn’t supported NAFTA."
Thursday, Feb. 12
General Wesley Clark will endorse Senator John Kerry tomorrow. Clark is scheduled to appear with Kerry at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin at 10:30 am CT. A source close to Clark says the General spoke with Kerry on Tuesday night, but did not make the decision to endorse anyone until Wednesday.
Wednesday, Feb. 11
By winning both Virginia and Tennessee, Senator Kerry has proven his credibility as a national candidate with appeal in the south. Perhaps as beneficial to his campaign as his wins is the horse race between General Clark and John Edwards in Tennessee. The more candidates that stay in the race and dilute the field of contenders, the better off Senator Kerry is. Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told me that she expected Edwards to stay in the race and that even if Senator Kerry "took a nosedive, those two (Clark and Edwards) won’t pick up the pieces." She also says that Senator Kerry will probably participate in the upcoming Wisconsin debate.
Spokesman David Wade tells me, "Americans care about beliefs, not birthplaces or boundaries. We want the same kind of change for our country." A senior campaign official tells me that the secret of Kerry’s success is a "combination of things that produced this explosion." This official stressed the importance of leadership in his message and that his favorability ratings were always there - "people always liked him." The media team spent time developing themes of leadership, connectivity with the people, and the belief that he could go toe to toe with George Bush.
A senior campaign aide told me that the Senator did not prepare a concession speech tonight and I heard him describe the win as "groundhog day." The campaign’s internal polling led another senior aide - the campaign spokeswoman not anticipate the victory. Stephanie Cutter said that their internal polling showed Kerry with support among all democratic groups including African Americans, seniors and veterans.
I overheard the Senator taking a call from General Clark at 9:28p. A campaign aide says that Eli Segal had called Mary Beth Cahill and then the two candidates got on line with each other. I heard the Senator ask, "…are you heading out to Wisconsin?" "Wes…stay in touch…would like to chat with you…we’ll stay in touch my friend." The pool reporter heard "I know what they’re gonna do. These guys are scary. …stay in touch, you’re generous to call."
According to the AP, an official close to Kerry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kerry plans to tap into a $15 million fund the Democratic National Committee has set aside to help the nominee get off to a quick start.
Kerry plans to use the money to run television commercials in an attempt to counter ads the Bush re-election campaign is expected to run, this official said. Republicans are expected to begin running ads when the Democratic race is settled.
My sources say "can’t confirm" this and whoever let this cat out of the bag "got way ahead of themselves."
Bush National Guard
In the morning, Senator Kerry told reporters outside a polling station in Memphis TN that he hadn’t seen any of the news reports about the White House providing documents that showed President Bush showed up for his national guard duty.
About four hours later the Senator told reporters in a press avail, "I don’t have any comments on it. …It’s not an issue I’ve chosen to create. …It’s not my record they’re examining and I don’t have any questions on it."
But on Sunday he raised questions about it saying,
"The issue here is, as I have heard it raised, is was he present and active in Alabama at the time he was supposed to be, …I don't have the answer to that question and just because you get an honorable discharge does not in fact answer that question."
Also, on Jan. 30 in South Carolina, Max Cleland speaking at Kerry event said, "we need someone who has felt the sting of battle, not someone who didn’t complete his tour stateside with the guard." Senator Kerry later told reporters that he did not know Senator Cleland would say this.
It seems to me -- Senator Kerry is playing this issue as safe as he can -- not wanting to criticize the president directly but leaving the door open for others to do so.
Senator Kerry is using the bully pulpit that he now has to blast George Bush’s leadership - implicitly questioning his judgment - the same way he did with Howard Dean over a month ago. At a press availability on Tuesday the Senator approached the microphones and cutting off a reporters question he said he has a statement. The statement was a reiteration of virtually the same statement he gave the day before - pegged to the news of the day before, the administration’s job report. On Tuesday he emphasized outsourcing of jobs saying, "they say it’s a good thing for the economy that we outsourced all the jobs…that over one million people lost jobs…when I’m president I will scour the tax codes and take away rewards to companies that take jobs overseas…"
A senior campaign official told me that the Teamsters Union had voted to endorse John Kerry. A source within the Teamsters union said that the union will make an announcement on Wednesday with the Alliance for Economic Justice and this aide confirmed that the AEJ is expected to announce their endorsement for John Kerry. I’m told by campaign and union officials that the endorsement will be on paper. Bret Caldwell, spokesman for the Teamsters Union told me that the endorsement is significant as "we are a big chunk of the AFL-CIO." The AEJ represents 18 unions and several million people. Caldwell says that Jimmy Hoffa and other union leaders met with John Kerry on Thursday and John Edwards last Tuesday. I’m told by another democratic source that AFSCME is likely to endorse John Kerry but "they’re not in any rush" but that Sen. Kerry will probably get it "within the next seven to ten days." The AEJ had endorsed Dick Gephardt and deputy campaign manager and former Gephardt senior aide Steve Elmendorf told me that the day before Dick Gephardt endorsed John Kerry he spoke to AEJ leadership and "urged them to endorse" John Kerry. He also said that if John Kerry gets AFSCME, he’s "getting pretty close" to getting the full AFL-CIO endorsement.
I’m told by a democratic source that on March 8 the AFL-CIO meets and they will likely endorse Sen. Kerry, the "assumption is that Dean will be out of the race."
Senator Kerry received the endorsements of three WI lawmakers - US Senator Herb Kohl and Rep.s Rob Kind and David Obey. In addition, Kerry got the endorsement of the Building & Trades Department - an independent affiliated organization of the AFL-CIO representing over three million men and women in 1 international unions.
David Wade, Senator Kerry’s campaign spokesman flatly denied any connection between the campaign and the Americans for Jobs and Healthcare. He said,"Kerry's campaign doesn't accept PAC contributions" in response to reports that Toriccelli’s PAC donated to Kerry’s campaign. In addition Wade said, "The Dean campaign continues to strike a sadly negative tone. As we've made clear all along, our campaign had absolutely no connection to that group."
As for Robert Gibbs working with the campaign in some way, I spoke with him when these ads came out and he flatly denied any connection with the campaign. In addition an aide close to Senator Kerry said of any possible Gibbs connection, "if John Kerry were burning alive, Robert Gibbs wouldn’t piss on him to save his life." No love lost there I guess.
Senator Kerry spoke French with French TV - in a session that was on background. A source on the plane said French TV commented that his French was one of the best she’s heard from Americans!
A senior campaign official said that the Senator will spend his down days on Wednesday and Thursday making calls - fundraising and other. This official said the Senator is working on getting more endorsements from labor organizations and when asked whether there would be an endorsement by the Union of ? Alliance the official said sometime in the next days.
About the debate in Wisconsin, this campaign official said the Senator had no idea about any upcoming debates.
This campaign official also said that if the senator gets the nomination that the senator will be raising a lot of money.
Va. and Tenn.
What a winning both states means:
David Wade says that wins "would continue the strong message being sent that he’s the candidate of change and democrats in every region recognize that." Wade added, managing expectations, "it doesn’t take a victory to show that - it takes a strong showing."
An aide close to Senator Kerry sent me an unprompted email showing the amount spent on ads in Tennessee by the Clark, Edwards and Kerry campaigns:
Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade sent me an unprompted email that "no matter what happens in VA and TN," he wanted to "throw out a little context." It was all about managing those expectations…
He said that a month ago in Tennessee John Kerry was at four percent - in fifth place and in Virginia the last poll before Iowa had Kerry at seven percent in fourth place. He made no mention of the latest Zogby/MSNBC polls which show Sen. Kerry in a commanding lead.
Show me the money
The campaign is always sending out various fundraising emails but the one I received (you get them if you sign up on johnkerry.com) on Tuesday was the first that had "Wisconsin fight" as the subject. The solicitation was from campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill and said that the Wisconsin primary "is getting a lot of attention" because "some candidates (are) focusing virtually all of their resources on the state." The email went on to emphasize that John Kerry is the only candidate who has won delegates in every state and "by competing everywhere, we’re laying the groundwork for a national race against George W. Bush…" Ms. Cahill wrote in the email "we need to raise funds quickly" and laid out the goal of $800,000 by Monday night, saying that would pay to "mobilize staff, ensure a strong media presence…and get out the vote." According to the email, the campaign is opening five new offices in Wisconsin.
Tuesday, Feb. 10
Eyes on the prize
I haven’t heard Senator Kerry mention one of his democratic rivals on the stump or in speeches / press conferences in days; however, he goes after George Bush every opportunity possible. He is focusing his southern strategy not just on those "mainstream values" he talks about but also on attacking George Bush - the target that is universal NOT geographic to democrats whether north or south of the Mason Dixon line. I asked the senator about his increase in attacks and his use of new words like craven and selfish, lack of common sense, and radical in describing the Bush Administration and whether this reflects a new strategy. He said no but continued to use the new thematic words, "radical" and "extreme."
VA, TN rallies
At an outdoor rally in Roanoke Virginia, Senator Kerry criticized the president’s economic report saying, "I heard before I came in here that the president released a new report and they are going to create 2.5 million jobs… I have a feeling this report is being prepared by the same people who brought us the intelligence on Iraq… this president has the worst job record of the last 11 presidents combined… …we don’t need a new report on jobs… we need a new president… amen …yes indeed."
Senator Kerry continued his pattern of emphasizing what he calls the "fundamental unfairness" of the Bush administration saying, "George Bush has presented America with a bunch of tough choices…" He played up the military theme in Virginia saying, the "VA has no money but there is a tax cut for those who earn more than $200,000 a year…"
About education he said, "how many times have you seen politicians, come to school for a photo opportunity, read a book - maybe - and leave knowing that there aren’t enough teachers in the schools …that the schools are under funded… …we have a problem in America because we have a separate and unequal school system in the US… we need to end the shame…" He went further "I’d like to see Dick Cheney or George Bush last half an hour in a classroom in America…"
Color from the South
Congressman Harold Ford introduced Senator Kerry in a Memphis TN rally saying, there is "so much talk in recent days about whether John Kerry and his campaign can resonate in every corner in this country. There’s been talk that this tall lanky fellow that understands (jobs, healthcare and education) …that his message wouldn’t resonate in Georgia. Tennessee and Virginia. Senator you should know we here in the south like jobs, like education, healthcare… "
He went on, "I want to introduce you to someone who knows a little more about clam chowder than barbeque…. I want to bring you someone who knows more about lobster than fried chicken…"
Senator Kerry continues to criticize President Bush’s proposed budget. On Monday he put out the following statement:
"This past week George Bush put out his budget for the year. This document isn't just about dollars and decimal points. Our national budget is about who we are and what we believe in. And what George Bush revealed is not just that our budget is out of balance, but that with him in the White House, our government's values are completely out of step with the values of the American people."
Bush's economic report
"How can we trust President Bush to create 2.6 million jobs when he has the worst record since Herbert Hoover when it comes to the nation's economy? Since President Bush took office, the nation has lost 3 million jobs, the worst of the last 11 Presidents combined. The President’s answer to the staggering economy is more tax cuts for the rich and an ‘on your own’ message for average American families. Last year, the Bush Administration promised Americans they would create 5.5 million jobs by the end of 2004. With their rate of return, this administration would be considered a bad investment.
"Photo-op after photo-op, the President continues to claim that the economy is improving. But, Mr. President, who is the economy improving for? It's more empty promises and false hope for middle class families."
W. Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller endorsed Sen. Kerry on Monday, bringing to nine the number of US Senators endorsing John Kerry. Congresswoman Nita Lowey endorsed as well. The Amalgamated Transit Union also endorsed JK on Monday. They are the eight national union with 180,000 members. They had endorsed Dick Gephardt.
Despite attempts by his campaign to avoid being labeled the frontrunner, more and more signs on the ground point to the opposite. Senator Kerry has not only changed elements of his stump speech reflecting his likely upcoming battle against George Bush, but his advance team functions a bit like secret service, keeping the candidate from the press and the people. The candidate always enters and exits events along a barricade. While people lean over it to greet him and he at times jumps over it, the barricade is always there.
Sunday, Feb. 8
Kerry kept insisting in his fifteen-minute press conference that he wasn’t making an issue out of President Bush’s choice to join the national guard during the Vietnam War; however, his choice of words and the time he spent answering questions on the issue contradicts that.
He answered a question about the President’s choice using these words, "I’ve always honored anyone who serves anywhere. …it was not an issue to me if someone chose to go to Canada, go to jail or serves in the guard…" To put those choices in the same sentence highlights the message he’s trying to convey without being held accountable for it - that the president’s choice was not as honorable as his. He would never admit that of course.
A senior aide close to the Senator wrote me an unprompted email telling me that "when the White House tries to knock John Kerry and promote this fiction that John Kerry is knocking the Vietnam era Guard as a way of 'avoiding' service, everyone needs to see what Bush himself said -- very similar to what Kerry said re the 'choices' people made re what to do if they weren't going to Vietnam" This aide sent a quote from the Houston Chronicle 5/8/94 Bush: "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." I asked the aide about the contradiction between John Kerry’s insistence that it wasn’t an issue while using language that conveys its an issue and the aide said, "because of the murkiness of the Bush records, it's hard to answer a question at all -- it'd be a lot easier of they put the questions to rest -- have you seen the Globe story?" The Globe reported that Bush’s records leave the question open of whether he reported to Alabama for guard duty.
Statement regarding Bush's comments on MTP
"This morning on ‘Meet the Press,’ President Bush said his decision to go to war with Iraq when he did was because Saddam Hussein had ‘the ability to make weapons.’ This is a far cry from what he and his Administration told the American people in 2002. Back then, President Bush repeatedly told the American people that Saddam Hussein ‘has got chemical weapons.’ And it was on that basis that he sent America's sons and daughters marching off to war.
"The problem is not just that President Bush is changing his story now-it is that it appears he was telling the American people stories in 2002. President Bush told America that Iraq had chemical weapons two months after his own Defense Intelligence Agency told him that there was-quote-‘no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons.’ And, as President Bush backpedaled from the imminent threat in Iraq, he needs to remember that his rush to war in Iraq moved us away from capturing Osama bin Laden, starting at Tora Bora.
"George Bush needs to take responsibility for his actions and set the record straight. That's the very least that Americans should be able to expect from the President of the United States. Either he believed Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons-or he didn't. Americans need to be able to trust their President-and they deserve the truth.
"I hope that-in light of this new information today-President Bush will not only immediately agree to testify before his Intelligence Commission, but will clearly and precisely tell the American people what he knew when he launched the Iraq War and why what he is saying today is so very different."
South of the Mason-Dixon line, Senator Kerry infused his speeches and comments in the south with talk of "mainstream" values and ideals that highlight universal NOT geographic sentiments. He’s talking more about fiscal responsibility, civil rights, job loss (bush) and job creation (kerry), as well as staple democratic ideals of education, healthcare and civil rights. The people in the south that introduce him or endorse him mention his national appeal and his fiscal responsibility - showing he is not a MA liberal. In this vein, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner pointed to the Senator’s support of Gramm-Rudmann. In a church service in Richmond, the Senator addressed members of the parish telling them "…as I think about what happens in DC and what’s happening in this country and what’s not happening. It’s clear that so many people who confess faith… seem to be absent when it comes to doing the work that makes the difference in the lives of our fellow citizens. …we have a separate and unequal school system… health system… I think it’s time to have a president who doesn’t drive a wedge b/w people… but rather finds a way to bring people together." He compared to his presidential fight to "the david taking on goliath…"
Coopting the message
Senator Kerry’s stump speech could be called "the best of." It’s a combination of the best of John Edwards, the best of Howard Dean and of course the best of John Kerry. In Sunday’s stump in Virginia he talked about the "two Americas" (thanks John Edwards). His usual stump includes Dean-like lines such as "taking back our democracy."
The campaign sent out an email with their latest facts, figures and spin. John Kerry leads with 431 delegates and 115 super delegates. The campaign points out that Kerry has more than two times the delegates of his closest rival and more than all of his opponents combined. They say "he is the only candidate running a national campaign and is the only candidate to win delegates in every state."
Saturday, Feb. 7
David Wade tells me, "John Kerry earned the support of many AFSCME locals in the states that have voted already, he has great appreciation for what they've helped him accomplish, and every vote of working people in the United States will be needed to beat George Bush."
The official response: David Wade says, "winning the Washington caucuses is an enormous boost to John Kerry's campaign. He's won in the heartland of America. He's won in the northeast and in the southwest, and now he's taken the Pacific Northwest by storm. Voters are heading to the polls nationwide to reject the loss of 3 million jobs, the rising costs of healthcare, and a foreign policy that hasn't delivered the security Americans deserve -- and those voters across the country believe John Kerry can put America on the right course."
John Kerry is always talking about how he doesn’t predict winners or react to polls but I beg to differ. I received a copy of the senator’s speech at approximately 3:10 p.m. to be delivered that evening - hours before the polls closed in WA and MI. The lead was, "a message is being sent (tonight) and it’s the same message that was sent in Iowa and New Hampshire…," assuming he would win. Reporters asked him about it at a press conference at 4 p.m. and he said, "Whoever released that is jumping the gun and I think that's... that's a pre-release. I know I won Mexico, Paris France and Ireland. The Democrats abroad, that's all I know. It's up to the voters here, I'm here to campaign. I'm going to be campaigning the next few days as hard as I can and I'm going to do exactly what I did in all those other states. Ask for every vote go out and campaign until they shut the polls." Also, just a few hours before his campaign distributed the remarks, he told a local reporter in Nashville Tennesse who asked about predictions in TN and VA, "I don't make predictions,'' Kerry said. ``I respect the voters too much and the process too much.''
Saluting the JJ dinner attendees as he walked behind the podium, John Kerry unveiled a new theme - underscoring his transition to undisputed frontrunner. His statements - both on the stump as well as in speeches reflect his focus on the upcoming general election. He is striking out at Bush, in my opinion, to create an aura of invincibility that he will win the nomination while also showing the country and the Republicans that he will not allow himself to be run over like Michael Dukakis - the Governor for whom he served as Lt. Governor. The last time I witnessed a transition in theme like this was in mid-November at the Iowa JJ, the start of "Bring It On."
The JJ speech contrasted what the campaign is calling George Bush’s extremism versus John Kerry’s mainstream ideals and values. In VA, Senator Kerry told the crowd, "…this week George Bush and the Republican smear machine has begun to trot out the same old tired lines of attack that they’ve used before to divide this nation... …Well I have news for George Bush, Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and the rest of their gang: I am one Democrat who knows how to fight back, and I've only just begun to fight." He went on to say that while Bush "speaks of strength," he "has actually made America weaker" economically and militarily, as well as in education and health care. He asked, "…will we stand with the mainstream values that have defined the USA - or will we continue on the extreme path of the Bush Administration - a path fundamentally at odds with our history and our hopes?"
David Wade said of the speech, "it runs right at republicans. They want to divide us. They’re the ones that are radical." He also said "he’s (Kerry) making it clear that we democrats represent the mainstream values of our country while this administration has caved into the right wing radical Republican ideology. And he’s making it clear he will lead a democratic party that knows how to fight back."
The campaign continues to say that they are not focusing on a general election strategy saying "the best way to earn the nomination to fight against George Bush is by taking George Bush on directly." Their new direction and the Senator’s new elements in his stump speech imply differently.
A real southern man
He was introduced by Memphis' Congressman Harold Ford Jr. as "this tall guy here form another part of the country" who some say "doesn’t understand" the South. Cong. Ford went on to say that "…someone who hunts, who has three purple hearts… understands the needs of the south." Those needs said Cong. Ford are jobs, healthcare, security… Ford said, "I don’t care what part of the country he’s from…" and introduced the crowd of about 500 to "the next president of the United States."
John Kerry hit the southern issue head on and said, "I’ve heard of Southern hospitality all of my life but you didn’t have to make it snow to make me feel at home." (It was snowing heavily in Nashville)
He took the first of many stabs at President Bush saying, "being so close to the Grand Ole Opry" he was motivated to write a song "about a guy who’s losing all of his friends, the future is looking bleak…," he told the crowd, "it’s the ballad of George W."
I'm no MA liberal
In a bid to prove he is no Massachusetts liberal, Senator Kerry emphasized "what brings us together… shared commonality… same hopes, same dreams…" Sen. Kerry told the crowd he was "tired of people trying to drive wedges… that have nothing to do with healthcare, the environment, jobs…"
He said, "This administration is busy trying to paint everybody else as out of touch, out of sync, somehow out of the mainstream. But let me tell you something, I am not afraid of coming down south and talking to people about jobs, schools, healthcare and the environment. I think (it’s the president) who ought to worry about coming down here."
He slammed the Bush administration saying, "this is the worst nonsense, lack of common sense, sel-fish, self-involved group of people I’ve ever seen." He went on to describe, "craven, shortsighted…leadership." Finally he said, "Just because we have the biggest house on the block doesn’t mean we can’t be a good neighbor" and slammed the president’s policies on North Korea, AIDS and the Middle East.
A made for TV moment
Sen. Kerry told the crowd that the President is going to appear on Meet the Press on Sunday and that people will say, he looks presidential, is articulate, is knowledgeable about foreign policy. But he said, "people are talking about Tim Russert."
In 1961 at the age of 17 John Kerry played bass in a boarding school band called the Electras. In a newspaper article at the time, he was described as the band member who was "the producer of a pulsating rhythm that lends tremendous force to all the members."
Forty-four years later one of the 500 albums the band made is now on sale on Ebay with the bid starting at $500 and currently at $2,326.00 with ten bids. The bidding ends on Feb. 9 -- good for buyers because if he should win the two primaries on Feb. 10 and then again on Feb. 17 -- the value could shoot up even more.
According to an article featured on the Ebay website from that time, the band of seven members were "drawn together by a common love of rock and roll and a common desire to play it." Campaign spokesman David Wade confirms that the Senator’s band played at school dances. Interestingly, the article describes John Kerry as a resident of Oslo, Norway. The Washington Post reported on the band about a week ago and quoted the founder as having said that the band’s "whole idea was to meet babes."
Songs include Guitar Boogie Shuffle, Summertime Blues and Electra. Spokesman David Wade says, "the electras may have been a one hit wonder, but in seven states so far have proven that John Kerry keeps topping the charts."
Other Ebay items featuring the senator trying for president include a signed letter from Congress for $9.99 and a signed copy of the latest Newsweek cover for $38.65.
Friday, Feb. 6
Dick Gephardt will endorse John Kerry at an event in Warren Michigan on Friday and will spend the day campaigning with him.
Dick Gephardt’s endorsement, while expected, certainly took the campaign’s traveling staff by surprise. Just two hours before the news broke deputy campaign manager (and former senior adviser to Gephardt) told a small group of traveling press on board a flight that Cong. Gephardt had not yet decided to endorse. He said, "we’re still working on it." Once we landed, the news broke and traveling press secretary David Wade called campaign headquarters to verify. After about five minutes, including having been placed on hold by communications director David Moorehouse, Wade finally confirmed the news.
Wade said that "it’s an enormous statement about John Kerry’s commitment to the pocketbook issues of working Dick Gephardt’s enormously respected as the gold standard for bread and butter democrats who care about jobs, healthcare and education." Wade also said that Cong. Gephardt will "help across the board" but doesn’t know exactly what he will be doing for the senator.
About those labor ties
The real question about Gephardt’s endorsement is the impact of the labor vote. David Wade said that Senator Kerry is "actively courting all of labor." A senior aide close to Senator Kerry told me that Dick Gephardt "called labor people saying he made his decision." Will it affect the labor endorsements? I’m told by this aide that "he’s widely respected with labor and some Gephardt’s unions have signaled hey are leaning to Kerry.
The Teamsters, Steelworkers, machinists supported Gephardt. The UAW has remained neutral.
Other endorsements: Maine’s Governor John Baldacci, both of Michigan’s senators and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
Wednesday, Feb. 4
Feb. 3 wins
Senator Kerry did a round robbin of five network interviews just before he spoke. He emphasized the same themes in each one: 1) managing expectations: overall he’s thrilled but is going to keep fighting 2) more managing expectations: he hasn’t visited OK or SC that much and John Edwards outspent him in SC five to one. 3) he has a broad message that appeals to voters nationally and his win across the country shows that he has support among mainstream America and he’s not a northeastern liberal who can’t win 4) he’s emphasizing a likely general election theme - that George Bush hasn’t made America safer or richer. He emphasized the president’s budget proposal as "a fraud" in at least two of the interviews - saying that it didn’t even include Medicare costs and the cost of Iraq.
Traveling press secretary David Wade told me about Oklahoma, "we’ve only visited it once and came from three percent in the polls. We proved we can compete anywhere." He said "we on our way to the nomination and we’re going to keep fighting." About the night overall Wade said Senator Kerry is "coming away with the strongest night so far… and that is proof that he was the only candidate to compete in all seven states."
About Senator Kerry’s win in five states, spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said, "we’re pleased to have won the votes from every demographic tonight. We'll continue to run a national campaign and we won't take anything for granted."
Senator Kerry's spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said about John Edwards: "He's a regional candidate" who has only won in the South. "He hasn't won anywhere else." Cutter said, "kerry has "outdelegated" him three to one."
Cutter also said that the campaign is "doing well in Michigan and our internals show us doing well in Washington." She tells me that the campaign decided not to run ads in those states because they are "expensive" and they don’t feel they need to as no one else is on the air there - namely Howard Dean.
Earlier… When the campaign plane landed in Seattle, Senator Kerry walked back to the press area as the plane taxied toward its stop.
On Winning Missouri: "I think its fabulous. I'll take fifty percent anywhere, anytime. We'll see what happens with the others."
On South Carolina: "We expected it. I haven't been down there as much and I haven't spent as much...coming in second is given where I've been is enormous."
I’m told by communications director David Moorehouse that there are no plans to change Senator Kerry’s message and there are no strategic plans to change the stump. He told me that the stump hadn’t changed yet, which is simply not the case.
In addition to emphasizing special interests and incorporating some new lines about the "fundamental unfairness" of the economy, Senator Kerry used to draw implicit distinctions between himself and Howard Dean various times throughout his stump. Namely at the end when he talked about "we are (a nation) at war." From there he would say it’s not the time for on the job training and he would stress the importance of electing a candidate who could go "head to head, face to face, toe to toe and eye to eye" with George Bush. Now he emphasizes the need for a president who will work with the international community and who will make our world "safer and more secure."
Moorehouse replied after I insisted that there were some changes that "some adjustments" have always been made. He said, "what worked for us was that we focused on Iowa, took one step at a time." The campaign, he said, is "putting one foot in front of the other." Then he told me "it’s far too early to look at the general election."
David Wade says, "John Kerry will continue to run like an underdog and run on the issues that matter to the American people, fighting special interests and making America safe. He'll continue to prove why he's the Democrat who can beat George Bush."
Just an aside
Senator Kerry has been using Dick Gephardt’s line - "like father - like son, one term and he’s done." I asked David Wade about it and he smiled and said, "it’s a great line."
Something to watch
Democratic sources have told Campbell Brown that the DNC and the Kerry campaign are talking about coordinating some of their efforts. Tony Welch, the DNC spokesman told me, "from the beginning we’ve been in contact with all of the campaigns (and) the party has been neutral. We’ll let the process play out." He also assured me that "there has not been any coordination between Terry McAuliffe’s comments and Senator Kerry’s comments." A senior Kerry campaign aide told me that "there’s talking going on" but this aide "doesn’t know that strategy is going on." The aide acknowledged that the DNC and the Kerry campaign are talking more than they used to. The aide pointed out that the DNC speaks with every campaign and that there is an open line of communication with the DNC. This aide said that the campaign "learned about what McAuliffe said in the press and that "he doesn’t set our message one bit." I’m told that the DNC and the Kerry campaign will not formally coordinate their efforts, "…until there is a nominee…"
Wednesday is the first day off Senator Kerry has had since New Year’s. He told reporters on the plane that he’s taking Wednesday off as an administrative day. He will be making phone calls and doing paper work. He also said that looking ahead he wants to build in more rest time and that everyone that has run for president has told him that.
Kerry will be endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers on Wednesday when their board meets in Florida. This union has 1.3 million members and is the fifth largest union within the AFL-CIO. Of course campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told me, "it’s a big deal." The reason that I think it’s noteworthy is not only its size, but also because it softens the criticism of Dean and others that Senator Kerry voted for No Child Left Behind.
Tuesday, Feb. 3
At a rally in front of about 300 people NY Attorney General endorsed John Kerry.
Spokesman David Wade said, "There’s are few more powerful leaders in the fight against special interests in the national model and the battle against corporate corruption. The fact that he will stand with John Kerry" signifies Kerry’s commitment and longstanding reputation of fighting special interests.
Spitzer highlighted Kerry’s work in the BCCI case. "this is someone who knows how to stand up for you and me, how to push back special interests… it’s not just Wall Street, it’s the environment… JK understands what matters."
"You've seen the testaments… the people that have come out of the woodwork… who told the story of heroism. …this man is a hero"
Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter says that Elliot Spitzer let the campaign know he would endorse Senator Kerry and wanted to announce before Feb. 3. She said about the timing vis-à-vis special interests, "it helps."
The latino vote in Arizona is approximately 25 percent. At the LULAC conference, Senator Kerry talked about the contribution of Latinos in Vietnam - how they, along with African Americans served in higher percentages. Senator Kerry said, ‘there is red lining… all across America. We need a president who fights for civil liberties…" Senator Kerry talked about his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, saying, "this is a person who has taught me everyday you wake up thankful for the blessings of democracy. …that this is a country of immigrants." At the end of Kerry’s Q and A, a small group chanted, "Beat George Bush, Beat George Bush, Beat George Bush…"
Lining up endorsements
Senator Kerry has received four state, ten local and seven international unions have endorsed John Kerry. The seven international endorsements are all AFL-CIO. Most of these endorsements have come in the last two weeks - since Iowa. Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me that the union endorsements are "a big deal" as they are "the ground troops."
A senior aide close to Senator Kerry told me "it’s a guess" but if the race came down to John Kerry and Howard Dean, that this aide believes the AFL-CIO would likely endorse John Kerry. The aide clarified comments a bit later saying, there is internal talk from Andy Stern that if Dean doesn’t win any states on Tuesday, perhaps he should pull out - in that event an endorsement of Kerry would seem likely.
The Sheet Metal Workers Union endorsed - it’s a 150,000 member union. The National Treasury Employees Union endorsed - it’s a 150,000 member union. The retail, wholesale and department store union endorsed Sen. Kerry as well on Monday. This is a 100,000 member union with members in New York, the Mid West and New England.
Congressman Mark Udall of Colorado became the 34 member of Congress to endorse John Kerry for President. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) also announced her support for Sen. Kerry. This follows the endorsement of Washington State’s governor on Sunday.
Feb. 3. strategy
Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me "we want to win as many states as possible and clearly John Kerry is ahead in five states and is competitive in two others." She said, "this momentum will carry us through the next round." Asked about what the campaign could win she said, "winning five states will be enormous," and added, "it’s all about the delegate count." I asked her when the campaign thinks other candidates would drop out. She replied, "when people realize they can’t catch up with us. After Wisconsin it will become clear."
Cutter tells me that "John Kerry respects Dick Gephardt and to get Dick Gephardt’s state and win his supporters has a whole different meaning." She added, "it’s also the biggest delegate count."
Feb. 3. state visits
Senator Kerry visited Iowa 73 days in this presidential campaign. Compare that to seventeen visits to three Feb. 3 states before the six-day blitz. There are four Feb. 3 states he hadn’t visited at all. He leads in polls in five of the seven states. Momentum is real.
Saturday, Jan. 31
Is he a Northeastern liberal?
Pundits say that a major question that voters will answer on Tuesday is whether this "northeastern liberal" can win in more conservative states like Oklahoma and Arizona. John Kerry’s record is socially liberal. He opposes abortion, is for gun control and opposes the death penalty (except for Osama). As a member of congress, he has balanced the budget under Bill Clinton. He insists that his message will resonate in the south as he will speak "mainstream American" to the people. The issues he says are the same in the south as they are anywhere else in the country, namely jobs, healthcare and the economy. What I know is that voters with whom I talk at events outside of New Hampshire and Iowa are voting on anyone but Bush and right now Kerry appears to have the most momentum in this area coming off of his recent wins.When I asked the press secretary if Senator Kerry could win South Carolina, I was told, "we’re not in the game of making predictions."
In response to Dean's comments
David Wade sent out this statement, "Apparently this newest of the new anger-powered Howards is a master of desperate distortions. From fighting for opportunity for young people to stopping the drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, John Kerry has spent a lifetime keeping his word and fighting the fights that need fighting. There is a choice between talkers and doers in this presidential campaign. George Bush says one thing and does another. John Kerry fights to put police on the beat, George Bush takes them off the street. John Kerry fights for veterans health care, George Bush lays a wreath at Arlington Cemetery and then tries to cut the V.A. That’s the choice in this race, and we can’t wait for that fight."
The campaign listed 12 legislative accomplishments to prove their point.
But truth be told ...
John Kerry’s actual record of passing legislation is weak. While he is known for leading investigations, he is not known for leading legislation through congress.
The campaign says they have raised $1.1 million in the week after Iowa and they say they have raised $500,000 since the win in New Hampshire.
Veterans, veterans, veterans
The campaign says that 500 veterans are in South Carolina from around the country - part of the "Veterans Brigade" that is helping identify and court veteran votes for John Kerry. This is part of the same effort the campaign made in Iowa and New Hampshire. In addition to the get out the vote effort, Senator Kerry’s veterans events reinforce his connection to the military.
Going after Bush
A Kerry surrogate directed a big barb at George Bush. Former Georgia Governor Max Cleland told the crowd at a veterans town hall in Columbia, SC, ""we need someone who has felt the sting of battle, not someone who didn’t complete his tour stateside with the guard." It’s interesting in light of the RNC attacks against Kerry. David Wade tells me that the veterans effort is important not only in terms of getting out the vote but, "Every bit as importantly, I think Karl Rove turns on the news, sees that veterans are fighting to put a veterans' veteran in the White House, and they know we're watching the beginning of the end of the Bush presidency."
Friday, Jan. 30
Kerry asserted his ability to win in the south off the top. Other than that he continued to play the credibility card by looking as presidential as possible. He also continued to emphasize his theme of fighting special interests.
His weakest moment was when he responded to Dean’s challenge that he passed no legislation (which is true) and looked down to read off his notes about the legislation (or lack thereof) that he helped pass.
The senator did not go to the spin room - it’s "unpresidential" and instead when to Connolly’s Irish Pub where he gave a five minute speech to the 150 people packed inside drinking and eating. One sign said it all, "Kerry or Edwards or Dean or Bubba - just anybody but Bush." I spoke to a few patrons and I heard the same basic message - "of all the democratic candidates - Kerry is the one that can beat Bush."
Can he win down South?
James Clyburn thinks so. The congressman from South Carolina formally endorsed John Kerry on Thursday. Clyburn introduced the Massachusetts senator saying "I’m here today to say to my friends and relatives and constituents and neighbors in state of south Carolina… John Kerry is the man that we ought to nominate to carry the democratic banner…"
He told the camera crews and journalists present, "South Carolina is looking for same thing as other people in the nation …I believe that when you look at jobs, healthcare, homeland, personal security, all of our democrats…are pretty much on the same page. But when you look at the future - who has the resume, who has the experience to bring us back together. Who has the experience to say that when I talk about veterans and veterans benefits …when he speaks to these issues he brings credibility that none of the other candidates bring."
Clyburn says he will try to convince the 26 to 30 percent of African Americans who have not made up their minds yet to vote for Kerry.
A seemingly emotional John Kerry hugged Jim Clyburn and in a hoarse voice said, "if I am your president I am going to …march hand in hand in order to keep the promises of this country that are long overdue. We will fight against special interests that seem to be walking away with the store in Washington… rolling back unaffordable tax cuts and investing in health care and education."
Sen. Kerry talked about the need to create "fundamental fairness" and that he can "prove that we are one America, one dream, one possibility…"
In the Q&A Clyburn talked about how "Dick Gephardt was always number one in my heart…" but after Iowa he turned elsewhere. Kerry told the crowd he’s enjoyed visiting Clyburn, saying, "I’ve learned how to dance late at night." Clyburn cutting in, "I wouldn’t call that dancing." Kerry quipped, "I thought for a white guy I showed some rhythm."
Kerry added some background on the endorsement, telling the crowd that he called clyburn and told him that he made "the right decision for himself" when he endorsed Gephardt and told him, "if things don’t work out I hope you’ll keep me in mind."
About the South, Kerry said: "It is not possible for me and my strategy to not campaign in the south and not win some states in the south and I intend to. I started my campaign for the presidenicy of the US in Charleston SC. …I’ve been to AL, to TN, to AK, to FL, to GE, to SC. I will continue to campaign in the south. I intend to wage a vigorous campaign in the south."
On RNC attacks
"It’s the greatest form of flattery - bring it on. Let’s have this debate. I have voted for the largest defense budgets in the history of this country. I have voted for all the biggest weapons systems. Unfortunately these people haven’t met a weapons systems they don’t like. I have. …that’s the debate I want to have. That’s precisely the strength I bring. I don’t think they are doing the best job of making America safe.
I want them to know that I’m a fighter - I’m someone who says what I mean and means what I say. I have a 35-year record of standing up and fighting against special interests in this country…"
Senator Kerry won the endorsements of local papers in Detroit and Santa Fe. The campaign presented it as "building on the momentum of his Iowa and New Hampshire victories." The Detroit Free Press endorsed the senator and is according to the campaign, the most circulated newspaper in Michigan. The Sante Fe New Mexican also endorsed the senator.
The Kerry campaign is continuing to target voters as part of their strategy. The senator and fellow veterans will be hosting a discussion with South Carolina vets on Friday. Fritz Hollings, Max Cleleand and a former crewmember of the senator’s David Alston will join him at the event. The campaign calls its veterans outreach the "veterans brigade" and this group is in South Carolina to gather veterans support for Sen. Kerry. The campaign has said that it’s more effective when veterans call other veterans rather than civilians.
Now Kerry has an ad out in Spanish, targeting Latino voters in Arizona and New Mexico. It's a 30-second spot highlighting healthcare.
Thursday, Jan. 29
He has the mo - so what stands in his way other than the other candidates and then Karl Rove? Kerry himself could be the answer. He has transformed himself from a candidate who delivered stump speeches up to 40 minutes long to now delivering a sharp, focused message in less than five. But can he keep up his ability to target voters with his new focused message? Now that the race has turned from a grass roots campaign to a tarmac race - it’s imperative that he reach as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. It seems that the candidate himself is his biggest challenge should old habits die hard… But he’s got media (ads) and he’s got momentum - two key ingredients. The question is does he have the money and the message to win the nomination.
The campaign, not surprisingly thinks differently. David Wade tells me, "everyone of them (the other candidates) and Karl Rove (are the biggest challenge). They will all have daggers out." He went on, "They will distort his record in everyway they can." In line with managing expectations he said, "I don’t think you know what will happen when you hit the ground. It’s a short time and it will fly by." The Senator will, according to Wade, make "every attempt to preserve his one on one connection with voters. His greatest asset is his ability to connect with voters on the issues."
At a St. Louis rally of 800 people, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsak and his wife Christie Vilsak made the opening statements at Senator Kerry’s Missouri rally. Next Jean Carnahan and Tom Eagleton spoke.
Senator Kerry said at the top, "This is the show me state and we’re here to show George Bush the door." In his speech he emphasized jobs and the economy. Kim Molste, Senator Kerry’s Missouri press secretary says, Senator Kerry "has the overwhelming amount of endorsements from key leaders - these are people who actually produce votes. All of these guys have grassroots organizations that know how to get out the vote here Feb. 3. About strategy in Missouri she said, "I think the strategy changes b/c of he nature of the campaign and Feb. 3. You can’t do the kind of grass roots politics that you were doing in Iowa and NH. You have to hit 1000 people at a time."
Campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said that Senator Kerry slept in later than usual this morning and then made some phone calls - calling supporters in New Hampshire and also making calls consistent with forward planning. Before boarding the plane that was taking him and the traveling press corps which now numbers sixty (a far cry from the five who were following him before New Year’s) to Missouri he playfully picked up and packed some snow but refrained from starting a snowball war with an enlarged press corps. He chatted briefly with two airport workers and then a police officer before answering questions from the press and boarding the flight.
About an hour and a half into the flight the senator was spotted in his first class section tossing a football with staffers -- a perfect photo op for this regular man of the people turned frontrunner in football season. He briefly chatted with the press saying that he was "pleased by the margin" of last night’s win and that he wasn’t surprised given that he has "the best polling operation around. They were on the money in Iowa and New Hampshire." He told reporters about Feb. 3 states, "we’re going in strong. We’re going in -- in pretty decent shape - call it competitive. It’s the best way to put it. I’m going in a competitive position. …I’m focused. Last night I was focused on NH. Now I’m focused on Missouri and the other six states." He went on, "there will be fights. You gotta fight." The senator has been promising the press corps and threatening the staff by saying that he is going to the Superbowl. When told by a reporter that the schedule said he was going to a superbowl party he looked at David Wade and said, "we’re not going to the superbowl?" A new reality is hitting the Kerry campaign.
Jim Clyburn announced that he will endorse Sen. Kerry in Colombia South Carolina on Thursday morning at 10a. I’m told by an aide close to Senator Kerry that Congressman Clyburn called the Senator to tell him on Wednesday morning. And according this aide, Senator Kerry has known Clyburn for a while and they’ve had several conversations since Dick Gephardt dropped out of the race. David Wade, Senator Kerry’s traveling press secretary told me that "Jim Clyburn is one of the most respected workers in the country. …we think it’s testimony to the fact that John Kerry is running a national campaign and is running in every state." He refused to say whether this endorsement would have an impact on the race in South Carolina - saying that "the reason John Kerry is doing well is because he hasn’t focused on polls." Clyburn brings an organization in South Carolina to the Kerry campaign and I’m told by Wade that, "we’ll take anything he can give us." The campaign has increased its staffing in South Carolina in recent days but the Senator has not visited South Carolina since Sept. 12 - something a senior democratic party operative told me could hurt him in that state.
Priya David told me that according to a Gephardt campaign internal poll in Dec - 65 percent of those polled say they would be inclined to lean the way Clyburn leaned - he is loved w/in African American community. Nu Wexler, the chairman of the SC Dem. Party says, "it’s important (the endorsement) he’s well respected among democrats and all the candidates have courted him. He has a loyal network of grassroots supporters around the state." But a senior democratic party very active in South Carolina tells me that "the effect of a second endorsement is greatly diminished. …The time of the endorsement is six days out."
On Wednesday, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsak endorsed Sen. Kerry as did former Missouri Senator Jeanne Carnahan and former Senator Tom Eagleton as well as the mayor of St. Louis, Francis G. Slay. Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm is expected to endorse John Kerry as well.
Wednesday, Jan. 28
Kerry told me early Tuesday on the way to a polling station that he was "holding his breadth." You could practically hear him exhale after the win in New Hampshire - but it’s only a temporary sigh of relief as there is a race ahead and the campaign is quick to point out that they take nothing for granted. Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells me Kerry "didn’t’ take anything for granted. We might be ahead right now but we’re not taking anything for granted." She pointed to a surprise visit to a polling station at 6:30 p.m. and then five local interviews that the Senator did just before the trip to the polling station.
It’s the first time that I have heard senior aides talk about winning the nomination. David Wade told me "the win puts John Kerry on the road to the nomination." And a senior adviser to the senator responded to my question of "can he win the nomination?" by saying, "I don’t think that’s a question anymore." This adviser tells me that he won in New Hampshire for the same reasons he won in Iowa and the same reasons he will win down the road -- "people are looking for someone with judgment, who can beat George Bush and who can take on special interests." This aide told me "we’re going everywhere. It’s a race for delegates (and) there’s no one state that we have to win."
Cutter tells me "we’re not targeting must wins. It’s now a delegate race." She also confirms that the campaign has dispatched organizers and staff to all Feb. 3 states. They are working on obtaining endorsements in these states and will send surrogates to campaign as well.
Speaking on a stage with about 100 people, including his daughters, two stepsons, wife, brother, sisters and fellow veterans, Kerry said "I have only just begun to fight." He yelled to the crowd, "if I am president" and the crowd chanted back, "When When When When…"
Looking ahead to Missouri
Missouri Democratic party chairwoman May Scheede told me that the state is "wide open." She said that other than Edwards and Kerry coming out to Missouri that she is "not seeing too much other activity." Voters in Missouri "are for the most part undecided." She tells me that she knows this by talking to people and because "people have called saying what do we do now and where do we go from here? People are calling and asking questions about all of them (the candidates)."
The top issues in Missouri according to Scheede are jobs. She said, "so many jobs have been lost under bush - that is number one. Healthcare and education are big as well. Everyone is very wanting to replace George Bush." Scheede was quick to point out that the party is holding a debate on Monday in Missouri and she said, "it’s crucial for the senator to participate in the debate on Monday - it would give him the chance to talk to the people of Missouri who are undecided." Scheede says that so far they have talked to all the campaigns but haven’t heard back from most. The debate will be Monday night.
She also tells me that Dick Gephardt is "out before the 3rd -- won’t endorse before then."
The day before the night
Kerry stopped by a local polling station early in the morning - talking to voters and telling reporters that he "rejects presumptions" and "hates labels" (about being labeled the frontrunner). From there he made GOTV calls from his campaign headquarters and we were told he would be "holding" in his room making calls. But… at 3:30 p.m. I got a call from David Wade, the traveling press secretary telling me that "John Kerry said he didn’t feel like sitting around a hotel - he’s going to go out at 4 p.m. talking to voters to make the final push." He said that he’s a candidate who doesn’t want to sit around the hotel." So Senator Kerry went to a local Manchester polling station and told reporters that a win in New Hampshire "would be the biggest turnaround in American politics in sometime."
Campaign Cutter was quick to point out that his trip to the polling station showed that Kerry "didn’t take anything for granted." She pointed to the fact that Sen. Kerry visited the polling station at 6:30 and that he did five local interviews prior to the time polls closed.
The campaign is launching an ad blitz in all seven of the Feb. 3 states - showing that they are running a national campaign. The ads will go up on Wednesday. I’m told by a senior aide that ads in that market cost approximately $1.5 million.
David Wade, Senator Kerry’s traveling press secretary confirms that the campaign has raised over $1 million on the Internet since Iowa. A veteran democratic fundraiser in Florida - Chris Korge - tells me that Iowa "breathed a tremendous amount of life in …fundraising in Florida" for John Kerry. He said that "the only two people you can raise money for right now is Kerry and Edwards." He told me that there is a feeling among people that aren’t novice in this is that Kerry has established himself as a candidate who can beat Bush. About Dean, Korge said, he "really shook the confidence of institutional democrats - they weren’t committed to him but were starting to warm up to him."
He said that the Kerry organization is calling and asking people to raise $10,000 for Kerry and that people are taking a wait and let’s see attitude - waiting for New Hampshire. Korge says that Kerry needs money and "the amount of money that will be needed by Kerry will be so substantial - he’s going to need money badly - he will need it week by week even if he is the frontrunner."
Wednesday, Jan. 21
It's a 'Beautiful Day'
Senator Kerry’s newest entrance song is "Beautiful Day" by U2. He started his day before sunrise at Manchester airport at a rally in front of about 400 people. He told the crowd, "One week from tonight - new Hampshire can set the country on the course of beating George Bush. One year from today a new president will raise his hand take the oath as president, one week, one year, one chance to change America. In the next seven days here in NH we together can start an American comeback." At a chili event with about 400 people he said, "I can’t tell you how great it is to come back to NH as the comeback Kerry."
Press secretary David Wade says, there was a "validation from people of the street." He said the campaign’s strategy in New Hampshire will not differ from Iowa. "The strength of his candidacy is the same. They (Iowa and NH) care about the same thing." He rambled on about Sen. Kerry’s leadership, his 35-year career in domestic and foreign policy and his ability to beat George Bush in the general election.
A senior campaign aide tells me about Iowa strategy versus New Hampshire and says they are basically following the same recipe for success. This aide says, While, "there is small nuance differences, the issues are the same - jobs, healthcare and education." The aide went on, "the strategy is keep doing what we were doing in Iowa - he’s (Kerry) been extremely successful at communicating and he will continue to put one foot in front of the other and fight for every vote."
Stressing the message
Senator Kerry found his voice in Iowa - figuratively and literally. The numbers speak for themselves - his support among caucus goers ranged from the young vote to women to those who opposed the war. In a more figurative sense, Senator Kerry found the message that works for his campaign for president. As I’ve said before, his new message is Dean-lite more than he is Bush-lite. He has found his stride and his message, which combines optimism, determination, activism, and a touch of anger and frustration.
His response to the president’s State of the Union perfectly captures his new message - "there are two Americas. …two different worlds here - the world that the president talks about and the world that Americans are living in. …lobbyists got what they wanted tonight." Senator Kerry also emphasized that President Bush spent the first 25 minutes of the SOTU on foreign affairs as proof that the president intends to run his re-election campaign on national security.
Tuesday, Jan. 20
‘The comeback Kerry’
In a personal moment just after the race had been called, the campaign beckoned the small group of “embedded” reporters up to Sen. Kerry’s private suite for a personal conversation with the Senator. I asked Senator Kerry how he was feeling and he said, “I’m the comeback Kerry.” That’s the lead – he came from behind to win Iowa. It was organization. It was message. And it was timing.
Sen. Kerry sat with Teresa Heinz and his two daughters – at times holding his wife’s hand for the interview. There were about 30 people in the room and I’m told there was some wine and food. Kerry told the small group of reporters that Iowans gave America a lesson in democracy. He said that he had talked to Dick Gephardt, Howard Dean and John Edwards. He called Dick Gephardt. John Edwards called him. Howard Dean called him. He congratulated Edwards -- he told us, “he achieved a lot.” He said that he and Dean exchanged pleasantries.
Ted Kennedy called it an “extraordinary upset.” Mary Beth Cahill told the reporters she’s “feeling great.”
Kerry was teary eyed when he took the stage at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. He, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry, Teddy and Vicky Kennedy, former U.S. senator Max Cleland, as well as about fifty firefighters stood on stage for the speech. Not surprisingly the crowd of about 400 was jubilant, shouting “J.K., all the way” over and over. He started his speech with “Iowa, I love you.” He then said, “Last night the New England patriots won. Tonight this New Englander won and you set me on the way to the superbowl.” He went on, “Thank you Iowa for making me the comeback Kerry.” He held up a four leaf clover that a woman had given him a few days ago when he started to surge in the polls and he told the crowd, “this worked!”
I need to count the times he says fight or fighter – it’s a lot. That’s the theme – John Kerry is a fighter.
He told the crowd, “I have only just begun to fight.” His fight is very populist in message. He has done a brilliant job of co-opting Dean’s message and he in my opinion is Dean-lite. He attacks special interests on the stump and said in his speech, “we’re coming, you’re going and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
That’s the question -– can John Kerry take this momentum and turn it into what he needs to put himself on the road to the White House. Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told me about New Hampshire, “we’re already moving ahead in New Hampshire.” She pointed out the latest ARG polls that show Kerry cutting into Dean’s lead. She said John Kerry will benefit from “a big bounce.” Sen. Kerry’s internal pollster Mark Mellman told me he expects a five to fifteen point bounce. A senior aide told me, “General Clark realizes he’s going to be playing with the big boys now.”
Cutter told me that this win in Iowa will translate into a bounce in fundraising. I asked about Feb. 3rd states and Cutter said, “the race through Iowa and New Hampshire is different from Feb. 3 – then it becomes a tarmac race.”
Kerry's got a friend
Kerry introduced Carole King who sang for approximately 1,900 Kerry supporters in a Cedar Rapids theater. Carole King rallied the crowd for Kerry, telling them that Kerry is "Karl Rove’s worst nightmare." She sang nine songs, The crowds favorite was "Natural Woman." She asked everyone to sing along. Kerry was sitting in the third row and said it was the most relaxing night he’s had in while as he all he had to do was sit back and relax.
Friday, Jan. 9
The Dean tapes
It was easy to sense the glee of the Kerry campaign. David Wade told me, "They’re as damaging as they are disappointing. Not only have the most damaging statements to Howard Dean come from Dean himself, but its deeply insulting to democracy at its best, which is the Iowa caucus." He added in an e-mail: "What does it tell you that seniors have to go to Canada to buy prescription drugs, and NBC has to go to Canada to find tapes of the real Howard Dean?"
Tuesday, Jan. 6
Not surprisingly, the Kerry campaign downplays any significance that Bill Bradley’s endorsement has on the Kerry campaign. A senior aide to Kerry said that they are "not concerned at all" about the endorsement and that Bradley has "no money and no organization." This aide went on to say that the only place the endorsement makes a difference is in New Hampshire. I asked about the impact of the endorsement on Dean’s momentum in New Hampshire and I was told, "The question is can anyone keep up with Dean’s momentum anywhere?" Moreover I was told, "The more the spotlight is on Dean, the more he mis-speaks."
Kerry told reporters that he knew about Bradley’s endorsement "for months" through close friends.
Sunday, Dec. 14
Iowa campaign swing
David Wade says, "Iowa will have big impact on New Hampshire - we’re moving in both states. It’s not a number as much as it is a sense of energy." The campaign is launching more Iowa initiatives than initiatives I see in New Hampshire or any other state. The campaign is increasing its staffing and its field offices, Kerry is hosting a live town hall meeting on Sunday, surrogates - including the Senator’s wife and their children - are campaigning, and there is an increased presence in the Hawkeye state.
Friday, Dec. 12
Kerry turns 60
I was told by an aide close the Kerry that at a birthday fundraiser on Thursday, Kerry was introduced by his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who said, "Earlier today I gave John the perfect gift---we wheeled in a cake and 3 uncommitted Iowa caucus members jumped out."
The JohnKerry.com website sent out a birthday greeting asking recipients to “wish John Kerry a happy birthday” by sending a $60 dollar donation to his campaign. The solicitation said, “let’s nominate the democrat with the best chance to defeat Bush.”
Obsessed with Dean
They won’t admit but they are. In an email that traveling press secretary David Wade sent out to the traveling press corps, he pointed to an ARG New Hampshire poll that showed a Dean/Bush matchup versus a Bush/generic Dem matchup: “Check out the massive falloff,” was how Wade pitched it. Bush wins by 17 in generic, by 27 against Dean as named candidate
9 points of Dems jump ship to Bush 21 points of Indies jump ship to Bush compared to generic Dem matchup margin of error +/- 4%.
Another example of anti-Deanism: On Capital Report, Senator Kerry went after Dean saying that he has “not been candid with the American people” about his position on using force in Iraq. Senator Kerry said, “"I think the American people don't know that Howard Dean took the same position that all of us took to hold Saddam Hussein accountable." These comments follow other statements about Dean’s position on the war made on Wednesday in New Hampshire when many members of the mainstream press were present including the AP, the Washington Post, CNN, local Boston and NH media and the usual traveling press corps.
Tuesday, Dec. 9
The Gore factor
Kerry had this to say about the news that Al Gore would endorse Dean: “I respect Al Gore. I worked with him in the Senate, and I endorsed him early in his hard fought campaign for the presidency four years ago. But this election is about the future, not about the past. I have the experience and the vision to reverse George Bush’s radical agenda and put America back on track on my first day in office. This election will be decided by voters, across the country, beginning with voters in Iowa.”
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