Following Tuesday's primary vote in New Hampshire, Tim Russert, NBC Washington bureau chief and moderator of , discussed the outcome and its ramifications.
MSNBC: Tim, why such a big win for Sen. John Kerry in New Hampshire?
Tim Russert: Electability is the mantra for voters this year. They said they wanted someone to beat George W. Bush and those people voted to support John Kerry. Also, the war in Iraq, which Howard Dean had made a big issue in his campaign, did not measure alongside of the economy and healthcare — two other issues that John Kerry was thought to have been quite articulate about.
In fact, 36 percent of people in our poll — this was a Democratic primary — said Howard Dean did not have the temperament to be president. I think that was a huge issue.
MSNBC: NBC polls showed New Hampshire voters are angry, generally, about George W. Bush in the White House.
Russert: Democrats and independents, 15 percent of them Tuesday said they were angry. That's the word they used. Eighty percent said repeal part or all the tax cuts and 85 percent said they are worried about the economy. In this state, which George W. Bush only carried by 7,000 votes in 2000, there’s a lot of anxiety now about his policies.
MSNBC: Howard Dean went right after John Kerry on the issue of Iraq, but it looks like Iraq didn’t cut very deeply with New Hampshire Democrats.
Russert: Economy and healthcare were much more important. And because of that, Kerry has now won Iowa and New Hampshire.
MSNBC: Gov. Dean, Thursday night, in talking to NBC’s Tom Brokaw about his second place finish, appeared to indicate he’s going to try to skip ahead a little bit and get to Michigan and Wisconsin — some of those downstream states. Why?
Russert: The Dean campaign is saying, "There are only 27 delegates in New Hampshire. We're going to Michigan, and Tennessee and Virginia." Suddenly the strategy of win Iowa, win New Hampshire, that's gone. The race is no longer a sprint. It's a marathon. There’s every indication from Howard's Dean's interview, he is in it for a long time.
John Kerry, however, after these two wins, will also raise money. It looks like these guys are going to slug it out for at least several more weeks.
MSNBC: John Kerry, in all his post-primary comments, seems a man ready for the fight.
Russert: Winning Iowa and then in New Hampshire, back to back, is very impressive. Howard Dean had said if he won Iowa and New Hampshire back to back, he was going to sweep this nomination quickly.
Governor Dean now has a much different attitude. He's going to eight states over the next five days. He put out an e-mail saying there's only 57 delegates in Iowa and 27 in New Hampshire and wants to go to Feb. 3 with 335 delegates; Feb. 7, 247 delegates; Feb. 10, 181 delegates. He's now battling delegate for delegate.
The sense was that Sen. Kerry, winning these primaries would have the momentum and the party would galvanize around him. Howard Dean is saying, “Not just yet.” But it's clear that Kerry has an enormous amount of momentum coming out of New Hampshire now.
MSNBC: Democratic insiders had been saying they all felt Kerry was well-equipped to be president — war hero, state official in Massachusetts, prosecutor, congressman, senator — but they said he wasn't having any fun out there; he didn't seem to be enjoying the process and he was engaged only in Washington-speak. He really seems to have undergone a metamorphosis in the last three weeks or so.
Russert: That’s the great thing about the process of Iowa and New Hampshire. You can't get up and speak at people. You've got to listen to them. You’ve got to respond to them. You have to interact with them, one on one.
Sen. Kerry, according to his own staff, used to act like he was on the Senate floor. But no more. He's in the living rooms and the diners and he's hearing real pain, real questions, real issues and now responding in kind.
This is going to be a great campaign for the Democratic Party. One Democrat said to me, “You know, the party looks better now than it did three weeks ago.” Now it may not look that way in November, but right now, there are a lot of Democrats out there who are saying, “You know what? We have a chance of beating George Bush. That was the key issue — they chose John Kerry because they said he was more electable.
MSNBC: What about the other survivors? Does John Edwards get out here?
Russert: John Edwards is going to South Carolina, where he was born. He must win there. His campaign acknowledges that. Wesley Clark says he's going down South. He needs to raise some more money to keep his race going.
MSNBC: Gen. Wesley Clark made an enormous investment in New Hampshire but appears in a dead tie with John Edwards, who came in here late and didn't make much of an investment. One has to wonder about the future of Wesley Clark even with the South coming up.
Russert: He gave a speech Tuesday night where he said he's going South and West. He has the money to do that, but by next week, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic chairman, said, if you haven't won one of the nine primaries up to date, then you should reassess your candidacy. So too with John Edwards. He's running fourth in New Hampshire or at least a distant third. He must win South Carolina to stay viable. If Clark and Edwards don't start winning, then it becomes Kerry vs. Dean and we'll see how many weeks that plays out.
MSNBC: We keep talking about the importance of money and what happens is the benefactors quit picking up the phone and stop writing the checks unless you finish strongly. How does this factor in after New Hampshire?
Russert: Money dries up ... but for Sen. Kerry there are a lot of post-dated checks from Sunday that are going to arrive tomorrow — “I've been there from day one, Sen. Kerry.”
But the campaign now changes. It's no longer the kind of retail politics up here. It's landing at airports, having press conferences, trying to scrape together a few bucks, throw some ads on the air and win on momentum — a totally different campaign after Iowa and New Hampshire.