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2004-01-20

Kerry Wins Iowa, Edwards Second, Dean Places A Distant Third

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In what’s being called "one of the biggest turnabouts in modern electoral history" Senator John Kerry wins Iowa Caucus. Edwards catapults to second. Dean falls from front-runner to third. Richard Gephardt drops out after finishing fourth. We go to Iowa and New Hampshire. [includes transcript]

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry won the Iowa caucus Senator John Edwards came in a strong second in a night that shook up the race for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Kerry received 38 percent of the Iowa delegates, Edwards received 31 percent. Coming in third was former Vermont Governor Howard Dean with 18 percent. Up until this week Dean was widely viewed as the race’s frontrunner. Congressman Richard Gephardt received 11 percent and Congressman Dennis Kucinich received one percent.

Less than a month and a half ago, Zogby released a poll that Howard Dean winning Iowa with more than 26 percent of the vote. Gephardt polled a close second. Neither Kerry nor Edwards broke 10 percent.

But over the past two weeks the campaigns of Kerry and Edwards soared while Dean and Gephardt’s faltered. The Christian Science Monitor described it as "one of the biggest turnabouts in modern electoral history."

Writing in the Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz , writes that "just about everything you heard and read about the Iowa caucuses in November and December was wrong. The press would have done better if all the reporters had taken a long vacation."

In a victory speech, Kerry stood side by side with Senator Ted Kennedy and dubbed himself "Comeback Kerry." He said: "I have a special message for the special interests that have a home in the Bush White House: We’re coming, you’re going and don’t let the door hit you on the way out."

Like Kerry Senator Edwards popularity in Iowa soared in recent weeks. A jubilant candidate spoke with backers last night.

Dean, who was hoping to capitalize on his anti-war views and his grassroots organizing effort, vowed to fight on. He told his supporters that his campaign is ready to fight a 50-state race to win the presidency. Dean lost even though he had spent over $8 million in Iowa and had won the much coveted endorsements of former Vice President Al Gore, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and former Senator Bill Bradley. On Saturday Dean left Iowa for a short trip to Georgia where he met with former president Jimmy Carter.

Gephardt, who won the Iowa caucus in 1988 and had the biggest union backing, is expected to officially announce today in his home state of Missouri the end of his 33-year career in politics. He spoke last night to supporters. The focus now turns to New Hampshire.

Senator Joseph Lieberman and General Wesley Clark opted to skip the Iowa caucus to focus on New Hampshire. Lieberman’s campaign received the endorsement Monday of the state’s only statewide newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader.

Tape:

  • Sen. John Kerry
  • Sen. John Edwards
  • Rep. Richard Gephardt
  • Howard Dean

Guests:

  • Hugh Winebrenner, professor emeritus at Drake University and author of "The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: The Making of a Media Event."
  • Patrick Healy, Boston Globe reporter covering the John Kerry campaign. He is speaking to us in New Hampshire where he arrived early this morning from Iowa.
  • John Nichols, the Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine and the editor of the editorial page of Madison, Wisconsin’s Capital Times. He has been reporting from Iowa recently on the state’s caucus which will be held on Monday. He the author of two books: "It’s the Media, Stupid" and "Jews for Buchanan."
  • Rep. Wayne Ford, Iowa State representative (D-Des Moines) and co-chair of the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum, a non-partisan minority issues organization.
  • Bill Shaheen, New Hampshire campaign manager for John Kerry.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Patrick Healy, Boston Globe reporter, covering the John Kerry campaign, speaking to us in New Hampshire, where he has just arrived. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Patrick Healy.

PATRICK HEALY: Hi. Thanks for having me on.

AMY GOODMAN: Where are you?

PATRICK HEALY: We are at the Manchester, New Hampshire airport, where we just landed a little while ago, and John Kerry had a kickoff rally, and now he’s heading over to an auto body shop to talk to voters.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, can you tell us about last night and tell us a little about who John Kerry is, the Massachusetts senator. But first, what was it like last night at his headquarters?

PATRICK HEALY: Well, even some of John Kerry’s closest supporters were surprised and somewhat stunned by his victory in the Iowa caucuses. For months now, polls have him running third or so to Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt. In literally, I would say, the last week-and-a-half or so, he really began to pick up momentum and to start to surge. Basically capitalizing on missteps that Howard Dean is making, statements that were either turning off voters or confusing voters, and, you know, Kerry started working 18-hour days and holding rallies, drawing, two, three, 400 people. The numbers started growing. You know, his energy started growing, and the poll numbers started going up. No polls predicted as big a victory as Kerry had last night, but it was one that, you know, thrilled his supporters, you know, that sort of emboldened him, coming back into New Hampshire now with the primaries a week away, and there’s a lot of talk by him about, you know, this being a "comeback Kerry moment."

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Patrick Healy of the "Boston Globe," who has been following the John Kerry campaign. His headline in this morning’s "Boston Globe," "Senator’s Message Hits Home." Do you think that it is a message also in contrast to Dean’s, which was "Opposing the war?"–Senator Kerry voting to support George Bush in the invasion of Iraq?

PATRICK HEALY: That’s an interesting question. He supported authorizing military force, but he’s always made the distinction that that was not a war — a go-to-war resolution. He has been fairly strident in his criticism of President Bush’s execution of the war, of its aftermath, of what he sees as the lack of a plan to win the peace. He is not quite in the camp certainly that Howard Dean is in. He just votes for the resolution, but he’s also not quite as — in a way, I guess — flatly supportive of the war as, say, Joe Lieberman has been. So, he has sort of been trying to walk this very delicate line, but some voters say, you know, his nuance and the way that they think, and some voters find, you know, really turns them off, and they just don’t know where he stands.

AMY GOODMAN: How much did John Kerry spend in Iowa? Howard Dean spent some $8 million.

PATRICK HEALY: We’re still trying to get final numbers on that. John Kerry spent less money than Dean, it’s believed, certainly on television advertising. Howard Dean helped build his lead in Iowa by going up on the air back in July. Kerry didn’t go up for many weeks after that, which is part of his problem when he started campaigning seriously in Iowa. He was just very far behind in the polls. But it’s safe to say, certainly several million dollars. Kerry brought in people from South Carolina, from Washington, from states that are, you know, important to his future prospects in primaries coming up on February 3rd.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kerry’s endorsements. What do you think were the most important, among the last ones were the man he saved in Vietnam, is that right? The one who got in touch with him out of the blue. He hadn’t seen him in some decades, and he just showed up in Iowa.

PATRICK HEALY: That’s right. He was a fellow named Jim Rassmann, and it created a really kind of magical moment around the campaign, as it certainly found its footing. It gained momentum. It sort of crystallized some story lines for John Kerry that the campaign was thrilled to see out there. It was a great — it evoked his record — his decorated war record in Vietnam, having this fellow whom John Kerry pulled out from a muddy river in Vietnam in 1969 under a hail of gunfire. So, it reinforced that. This man, Jim Rassmann is a former deputy sheriff in L.A. County and a registered Republican. And Kerry basically had Rassmann come around to all of his rallies after the reunion and basically say, you know, "I’m a Republican, and I love John Kerry." I think his character and his courage is unquestionable. Jim Rassmann even took a shot at Wesley Clark, who is now in a tight race with Kerry and Dean in New Hampshire. Rassmann said, "I and other crew members of John Kerry will always vote for this man because we know his character," unlike another former soldier in the race whose character has been questioned by General Shelton and others, which is a direct slam at Wes Clark.

AMY GOODMAN: He also got a last minute endorsement by former Georgia senator, Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam.

PATRICK HEALY: Well, it wasn’t so much last minute as Max Cleland came out and campaigned aggressively for Kerry. Cleland was on board fairly early on. They were close friends in the Senate, and Cleland’s experiences, failing to be re-elected in 2002, became sort of an object lesson that Kerry talked about on the stump in Iowa. Basically, Cleland didn’t respond aggressively to television ads and mailings that Republicans put out, questioning Cleland’s patriotism, his stand on national security. There was one ad that ran that had Cleland’s image with Osama Bin Laden’s and Saddam Hussein’s. And Kerry in Iowa basically said, "Look, I’m not going to be pushed around by Republicans." "I’m going to fight back." "I’m a fighter." "I’m going to be tough on national security." "I’m not the only one in the party who has that experience in Vietnam, and on the foreign affairs committee in the senate to go toe to toe." So, it is interesting, and Kerry really put to good use, it seems, his support from veterans in Iowa.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for joining us, Patrick Healy, "Boston Globe" reporter, covering the John Kerry campaign. He has just landed in New Hampshire. We’re also joined on the line by state legislator of Iowa, Wayne Ford, who is a co-chair of the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum. Where did you spend last night, Representative Wayne Ford?

WAYNE FORD: Thank you, Amy. What I did was, I went to a lot of my precincts. I have about 16 precincts in my district. I went to all of them to try to get — most of them, excuse me — to try to get a flavor about the increases in numbers. How many minorities were participating and what kind of energy that was portrayed. There was a lot of energy, I saw a lot of increases, and I’m just happy, and I have always said, "This is one of the most purest forms of the political process in America."

AMY GOODMAN: Did you endorse anyone?

WAYNE FORD: Yes. I waited. As being the co-chair of the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, I would never endorse anyone before my event on January 11th. After January 11th, I took a couple of days off, spent a lot of time with myself, and came back, and, as Representative Wayne Ford, I endorsed John Edwards.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of his second place finish, and what is it that appeals to you about Senator Edwards?

WAYNE FORD: What appeals to me is many things, but, being originally from North Carolina, during the Christmas holidays, I had a chance to go back home to visit some kin folks, and I just began just asking questions. I had done research on the other candidates, just to get an idea that whatever I endorse, I make sure not only is this person portraying good efforts in Iowa, but this person has portrayed good efforts in their home state. I traveled to small towns in rural North Carolina, and I went to larger communities like Charlotte and Winston-Salem, and I was just surprised that, across the board, many North Carolinians thought about this person, who rose from a mill worker — his father was a mill worker, who was always challenged saying that you can’t be a lawyer because your father was a mill worker... A lot of people from the underdog really supported this man and, really, his kind of rise to greatness is kind of legendary in North Carolina. Even Ted Kennedy, who was a strong supporter of Kerry, said these words in his book — I mean, in John Edward’s book — called Four Trials. He said he always admired how John Edwards would fight for the underdog. So, with that in mind, I would was just really impressed and came back and waited until after the forum, but still researching everyone else, and made a decision that I think this is the best man to bring this country together.

And, Amy, let me piggyback off of that. He talks about a new America, a new beginning. I have always said the number one problem in America is race. I know that we said that the terrorist movement and economics rates pretty high. But I have always said that until we have a president who is going to say that one of the top problems in this country is race, and I’m willing to risk and deal with this problem to bring all Americans together. Right now, we are fighting a war right now. No one cares what color you are when you look to your left or right and say, "Who’s going to help me.? But it seems like every time we come back to America, race is an issue. Ask Rush Limbaugh. Ask Trent Lott. So we need to deal with the number one problem in America which is race. And I think John Edwards understands that. He is from the south. He stood up for equality. And I believe that John Edwards, as he goes to New Hampshire, will have a very, very strong showing.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by John Nichols, who is the Washington correspondent for "The Nation" magazine, editor of the editorial page of Madison, Wisconsin’s "Capital Times." He has been reporting from Iowa during the state’s caucus. John Nichols, what kind of message do you think is sent by the surprise victory of John Kerry, Howard Dean placing a distant third, followed by Gephardt, who will announce the end of his 33-year political career. Gephardt had the support of some two dozen unions. And, of course, Howard Dean, with a very strong anti-war message. What happened?

JOHN NICHOLS: I think a lot of things happened. I think the important thing to remember, Amy, is that, just as Howard Kurtz said before the caucuses, the reporters did a bad job of analyzing. I can guarantee you, that after, there will be a lot of bad analysis, as well. I’ll give you a good example. I traveled with Kerry and with Edwards a lot in the final days, and one of the things that is notable is that while they both voted for the war resolution on Iraq in 2002, each of them was delivering what could only be described as anti-war speeches, and they took an immense amount of Howard Dean’s message and grafted it onto theirs. You’ll notice that in the clips you were playing, John Edwards was saying "We created a movement here, and we’re going to take back our country." Well, those are lines from Howard Dean. And John Kerry was bombastically critical of George W. Bush, especially in his final speeches, and very focused on the fact that — Kerry told, in every one of his stump speeches, about his own experience as a Vietnam vet who came home and opposed the Vietnam War.

And so, I will give you a good example also of something that I think will probably be missed as regards to what really went on. I spent last night at a caucus in Dubuque, Iowa. The caucus gave all of its votes — when things were settled out — to John Kerry and John Edwards. The other candidates folded their support into the Kerry and Edward’s camp, and, yet, at the end of the caucus, they passed resolutions. That caucus passed a unanimous resolution calling for the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and for turning over all power and all oil and everything to the Iraqi people. And so, that may seem dichotomous, because Dean was supposed to be the anti-war candidate, but I’ll give you one more tidbit from there. The Kucinich backers, who didn’t have enough support to win delegates from that local precinct caucus, folded into the Edwards camp, and they did so because the Kucinich campaign had, Monday afternoon, via email, instructed their backers, saying, "If you don’t have enough support, go with Edwards." The reason they did so is partially because Kucinich and Edwards get along and also because in the final days of the campaign, Edwards was delivering a very populist, anti-corporate message which paralleled with a lot of Kucinich’s domestic economics.

So the end result is not a rejection at all of an anti-war stance or anti-corporate stance. But more it is a fact that getting out front early on, Dean, especially, sort of set a tone for the race, and Kerry and Edwards, being smart politicians, adapted to that tone sufficiently, and then without making some of the mistakes and missteps that Dean did make, started to make themselves look acceptable to the Iowa voters, who are actually quite anti-war, and yes, quite anti-corporate.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Hugh Winebrenner, author of "The Iowa Precinct Caucuses — The Making Of A Media Event," how do these caucuses work? John Nichols was just describing how Kucinich and Edwards had made an agreement that if either of them didn’t hit the 15%, they would tell their supporters to go to the other. Explain what that is, and then talk about the significance of Iowa. Iowa state representative Wayne Ford talked about the issue of race, Iowa being one of the whitest states in this country — interesting that the Iowa caucus was held on the federal holiday that is Martin Luther King’s birthday.

HUGH WINEBRENNER: The caucuses are a process that the Democrats have used in Iowa since Iowa became a state with one exception. It’s a complicated process that was never designed to produce results for the media. It was designed to select delegates to the next level, which is the county convention. And the Democrats get together. It used to be that they met in private homes around the state. Now, they meet largely in public buildings. I think there were something like 70 caucuses out of 2,000 that did meet in other than public buildings. And after the initial count, to determine how many people are there, they divide into preference groups. That is, the candidate that people who support Kerry were assigned to go to the dining room or to a section of the building, the school, wherever, and so forth. And they determined who is viable. And this is crucial. You must have at least 15% of the people in attendance to be viable. If you are not viable, you cannot receive any delegates. Your choice is to realign. You may go to the uncommitted group, or you may rejoin or join one of the other candidates’ groups. So, there’s a lot of politicking that takes place to attempt to draw in people who are from non-viable groups.

That also explains somewhat Gephardt’s drop in the numbers. He was not viable in many districts. Had they just — had they simply counted heads, he would have done much better than 11%. But without being viable, he had very few delegates. I’d like also to make a quick comment about some of the errors that were made beforehand and the press’s focus, perhaps, on Dean. There’s so much dependence on polls, and polls are notoriously poor in a caucus state. The reason is quite simple. Less than 100,000 people, or about 100,000 people out of roughly 600,000 Democrats, turned up on caucus night. That’s about 17%. The pollster has to try to determine who indeed is going to attend a caucus. And if you are asking for the opinions of people who are not going to attend, which often happens in a bad poll, you come up with distorted results. So, placing so much emphasis on polls and the inaccuracy of the polls in the caucus state, leads to miscalculations by many people in the press.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on that note, I want to thank you all very much for being with us. Kerry, the big winner; followed by Edwards; Howard Dean, distant third; Gephardt is dropping out of politics altogether; polls, a big loser in Iowa. That was Hugh Winebrenner, professor emeritus at Drake University. We have also been joined by Iowa state representative Wayne Ford, Patrick Healy of the "Boston Globe," John Nichols of "The Nation, "— Hugh Winebrenner’s book is "The Iowa Precinct Caucuses."

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