Video: What's ahead for Kerry?

updated 3/3/2004 8:41:41 AM ET 2004-03-03T13:41:41

Tim Russert, NBC Washington bureau chief and moderator of ‘Meet the Press,’ discusses the results of Tuesday's Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

MSNBC:  Tim, no one was talking about John Kerry six weeks ago, except for saying he’s going nowhere.  Then, suddenly, he’s put together one of the most impressive Democratic wins ever.

Russert:  He started this race as the front-runner. Then his campaign all but collapsed and Howard Dean began to surge.  A week before Iowa he was saying, “You watch, I’m going to be the upset kid.”  Yeah, right!

Then suddenly, bingo! -- Iowa, New Hampshire. He’s parlayed Super Tuesday into a very impressive victory.  No matter what happens in the remaining states, it is over.  And he did it.  And he did it east, west, north and south, as he would say.

Now comes the very next -– and large -- hurdle.  How do you frame the debate against George W. Bush?

The wonderful thing is, both candidates are framing it the same way.  It is about Iraq, it is about social Security, it is about tax cuts. This is a big deal.

Looking at the exit polls from Tuesday, 24 percent of the people who voted in Ohio are independents.  They decided to vote in the Democratic primary. And of those independents, 78 percent said they are angry or dissatisfied with George W. Bush. That’s a big deal.

MSNBC:  So, exit polls show the public isn’t just voting with their minds, but emotions are running high as well? There’s that much anger out there?

Russert: Absolutely. They are passionate for the Democrats in the blue states and for the Republicans in the red states. It's so striking to me about black turnout as well in these states.  Blacks have a very strong interest in this race.

They believe that in 2000, for whatever reason, fairly or unfairly, their votes were discounted and not added up in Florida. I think we're going to see an enormous minority turnout in the fall elections, which can be helpful to the Democrat candidate.

MSNBC:  Among that anger, how much of an issue will gay marriage be?

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Russert:  When the president proposed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, Orrin Hatch, Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee said, “Not so fast.” John McCain, Republican of Arizona; Tom DeLay, Republican Leader in the House; David Dreier, chairman of the rules committee -- all Republicans. It was dead on arrival. It's not going to pass the Congress this year.

It’s the economy and the war on Iraq.

For example, I’ll use Ohio, because it's such a central, important state.  We asked people what issues are most important to you and 41 percent said the economy; Iraq, 10 percent.

Now that can change on a dime. A disaster, a catastrophe and people could become very much concerned about Iraq and what it means for American lives. But as we speak on this March day, the economy is so central to people's lives, particularly in a state like Ohio, where they've lost 250,000 jobs, it's one the president has to get his arms around, because it's an issue that doesn't cut his way as of tonight.

MSNBC: How does John Kerry deal with the four months between now and the nominating convention? And there’s eight months until the November election. How do you positively position a candidate who’s up against a president and his ability to make news, his ability to use the bully pulpit, his ability to raise money. How can Kerry compete financially just on that level with the president?

Russert:  With a series of thematic speeches; travel around the country, travel around the world. And, do you remember a fellow named Harold Ickes? He used to work in the Clinton White House.  He's raised about $60 million in contributions, which is going to be used by the Democrats to define the Bush presidency. So this is going to be an air war of unlimited proportions.

MSNBC:  Do you think there's a chance that by the time June comes, Kerry will think it's worth to name himself a running mate, just to create some excitement in a fellow campaigner for the two or three months before the convention?

Russert:  It could happen. Maybe even name the whole cabinet. You need a team out there to sustain this kind of momentum. But, my guess is John Kerry is going to hold off to the last minute to decide who can help me carry a state or two. He’s got to get elected before he can become president.

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