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Campaign Roadblog, 2/23/04

With the primary season in full swing, CBS News reporters are out on the road covering the candidates' every move. In our daily Roadblog, they share their campaign trail observations, impressions and anecdotes.


Mon. Feb. 23: The big news Monday was the Kerry campaign's response to John Edwards' TV advertising: beginning Tuesday, Kerry will air ads in New York State, Georgia and Ohio - the three states Edwards is advertising in. However, Kerry's ad buy, described as "pretty significant" by the campaign, is assumed to be much larger than the ad budget for Edwards.

In New York, they'll trot out the old Kerry standard "Del," featuring his Vietnam crewmate Del Sandusky.

"The decisions that he made saved our lives. He had unfailing instinct and unchallengeable leadership," Sandusky says in the ad that will air in a few upstate New York markets as well as statewide in Georgia and Ohio.

Later in the week, the campaign will add a new spot in Georgia featuring former Sen. Max Cleland and Rep. John Lewis and a new ad in Ohio focusing on economic issues.

Kerry began Monday in Harlem, speaking to a not-completely-full room of around 200 and receiving the endorsements of several New York members of Congress and other local officials. Right off the bat, Kerry ripped President Bush hours before he was to give a major campaign speech to the Republican Governors Association.

"He's going to stand up and lay out his vision to the country," Kerry said, chuckling. "It's interesting. We have George Bush on the run. He's going to go out there and start this campaign officially tonight before we even have a nominee of the Democratic Party."

Interestingly, following the event, while Kerry shook hands with attendees, one of the campaign's standard songs, "Clocks" by Coldplay, was cut off shortly after it began in favor of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" - perhaps as a nod to Harlem. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louie Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are all mentioned in the song and were all part of the era known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Later, during a news conference after a town hall meeting at York College in Queens, Kerry strongly defended himself against Republican charges that he voted against several defense-related bills during his time in the Senate.

He accused the Republicans of painting him with a broad brush in their attacks on his defense record. "That's the game they play," he said. "I'm not going to let them nickel and dime us on one (weapons) system or another that was an individual vote."

"I don't know what it is that these Republicans ... those who never fought in a war think they have a leg up on us Democrats who did because they're somehow stronger on defense because they embraced every system ever proposed," said Kerry.

He was also asked about Edwards' focus on domestic issues, not foreign policy, and Kerry continued avoiding any direct comments about his competitor. In response, Kerry dragged out an old line he used a lot in Iowa and New Hampshire as an oblique reference to Howard Dean: "In order to beat George Bush, the Democrats need to have a nominee who can go toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye with the president on the subject of national security."

The campaign reports (because reporters were not allowed in) that Kerry spent Monday night raising much-needed cash in New York City at three fund-raisers - one of them featuring a taste of Tinseltown. At the private residence of producer Jane Rosenthal on the Upper West Side, Robert DeNiro, Lauren Bacall, Kevin Bacon, Harvey Weinstein and Kyra Sedgewick were among the 100 attendees to mingle with Kerry and listen to Jon Bon Jovi perform. At another event, he met with about 50 former supporters of Wesley Clark, and then wrapped up the evening at an East Side event hosted by Hassan Namazee, one of Kerry's New York finance chairmen.

Tuesday, Kerry begins a two-day swing in Ohio, holding events on "Jobs and the Economy" in Youngstown and Cleveland.

Quote of the day: In an interview Monday with New York's WABC-TV, Kerry responded to the question that he's aloof. "If you ask my kids, they'll tell you I also know how to be a complete goof-off, hack around, embarrass the hell out of them and be a normal dad," he said.
--Steve Chaggaris



While Cleveland Cavaliers' rookie sensation LeBron James just signed a contract to endorse Bubblicious chewing gum, the Edwards campaign is popping its own kind of bubble. This morning, 10 Secret Service agents were assigned to the campaign; some will cover Edwards, some will cover the events and some will cover the traveling press. Everyone is required to stay in the "bubble," and anyone who leaves the bubble is required to be "reswept."

And sweeping is what this election is boiling down to. After winning only one of 17 primary states so far, the Edwards campaign is hoping to do well on Super Tuesday. There are 10 states that go to the polls on March 2, and scoring a victory in one, some or all is the main goal of the campaign. In fact, in the past three days the campaign has hit Georgia, Minnesota, Ohio, Maryland and New York; and they plan to travel to California and Texas (which is not a Super Tuesday state) in the next few days. The charter plane has become a virtual home away from home, and ascending and descending in the sky (sometimes bumpier then expected!) has become as familiar as standing up and sitting down.

But downtime is certainly not familiar to Edwards. He runs from one event to the next, giving the stump, doing Q and A's with local reporters, national media avails, fundraising, etc. The one-term senator has yearned for a two-man race. And last week he got his wish. Now, he has to show the American people why he has a better shot of beating George Bush then his rival John Kerry. At rallies, Edwards talks about his roots and how he can relate to people's problems. In fact, at a town hall this morning in New York City, Edwards mentioned his brother and mother who were both members of unions. By making his campaign personal, Edwards is hoping that voters will lean towards him because they think he is one of them (and therefore will fight for them).

Edwards outwardly distinguishes himself from President Bush, who he says "has no idea what is going on in people's lives." And while he does not directly mention Kerry by name, the inference seems to be that his elitist rival also does not come from the same place as them (the voters) and therefore won't fight as hard for them. It should be noted that Edwards amassed millions of dollars as a trial lawyer in North Carolina and currently owns three different homes. So while he comes from the same working-class background as many of the people he is trying to reach out to, he is definitely on a different playing field now. His argument, however, is that he'll never forget where he came from and his passion comes from within (he points to his heart).

Furthermore, in anticipation of Bush's speech tonight on "Security and Uncertainty," the Edwards campaign released a statement saying, "the American people want this campaign to be about the future, not the past. It's not about my past, John Kerry's past or the president's past, it's about the future and the new ideas we have." Edwards added at a stop in Albany, Ga., this afternoon that "people are hungry for new ideas to solve old problems."

The crowds in recent days have been huge, and the question is whether huge crowds translate into votes. The answer is it's difficult to tell. After all, the crowds in South Carolina and Wisconsin were pretty small, and Edwards did extremely well in both those states. On the other hand, the crowds in New Hampshire were fairly large, and he didn't do that well there. Recently, particularly in Ohio and Minnesota, many of Dean's former supporters attended Edwards rallies - adding both volume and excitement to the events. It is unclear whether they are definitely going to support him, but their presence definitely adds an element of energy. And Edwards seems to feed off the energy, so it definitely helps him as a candidate (and makes for a better picture on television).

And TV is where it's at. Between TV ads and interviews with media, Edwards hopes to be in front of people's faces as much as possible. Because most of the Super Tuesday states are among the most expensive media markets in the country, the campaign can't afford to go up everywhere. So far, they have announced ads in Ohio, Georgia and New York. As we all know, buying ads means spending $$$. In practically every city we go to, Edwards holds private fundraisers (the campaign is not very open about this). He's also hoping to make thousands of dollars online from former Dean supporters. In recent days, Edwards has received the support of, Disabled for Dean and some Generation Dean groups at various New York universities. The campaign said in a statement released today that "they are pleased to have so many Dean supporters, but they are not done reaching out to them." Edwards has made it clear that he is working hard to get the endorsement of Dean.

The Edwards campaign is riding high – with both caution and confidence. The mere fact that they are still in this race is a sweet sensation. The hope now is that their bubble won't burst, and Edwards will sweep some of the Super Tuesday states.
--Alison Schwartz

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