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John Kerry Under the Microscope; Moving the Goal Post? The Dean Campaign

Aired February 5, 2004 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: The big dig into John Kerry's record. What does Kerry say about a report that the Bush camp is pouncing on?

Wisconsin or bust? Howard Dean lays down a New marker for keeping his campaign alive.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America did the right thing in Iraq.

ANNOUNCER: The President and Iraq politics. What's the Bush team's message as the WMD intelligence questions keep coming?

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: I can tell you with certainty that the President of the United States gets his intelligence from one person and one community, me. And he's never wanted the facts shaded.



JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST: Thank you for joining us.

It is the dead of winter. But at times it feels a bit like fall on the campaign trail, given the way Republicans and Democrats have their political knives out for one another, with an eye toward a possible Bush-Kerry showdown. Today, John Kerry is getting another early taste of the scrutiny that he will get in spades if he becomes the Democrats' presidential nominee.

CNN's Kelly Wallace traveled with Kerry to Maine.


KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After taking a day off to rest and work the phones, John Kerry headed here to Portland, Maine, where he and his aides face questions about two controversial issues. The first, yesterday's unprecedented court ruling in Massachusetts recognizing gay marriage. The Senator told reporters that he opposes gay marriage, believes it is an issue for states to decide. But he also believes that gay couples should get equal protections under the law.

Senator Kerry was one of only 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which banned states from recognizing marriage between gay couples. He said he did that to prevent gay bashing in the United States. Republicans have indicated they plan to make Kerry's positions an election year issue. The Senator said he is not worried at all.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people are tired of games, and tired of labeling, and I have the same position that Vice President Dick Cheney has. The same position Dick Cheney has. They ought to talk to Dick Cheney, their own vice President, before they start playing games with this.

WOODRUFF: Kerry, who has made fighting special interests a campaign issue, also had to answer questions about another story involving his past political donations. The Associated Press reports that Kerry intervened back in 2000 on a measure connected to Boston's big dig construction project.

The measure would have closed a loophole which was benefiting an insurance company, a company that went on to pay for Kerry to travel to Vermont to deliver a speech, and also contributed at least $30,000 to a political action committee Kerry founded to help Democratic candidates. Kerry said that he, and the rest of the congressional delegation in Massachusetts, were fighting to stop the amendment.

KERRY: The entire congressional delegation, every single member of our delegation, fought to hold on to $150 million for the big dig, which is the most important single project in the -- in Massachusetts and New England. And it had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the industry.

WALLACE: Kerry also said that he has voted and worked against the insurance group in question on other issues.

From here, Kerry travels to New York to meet with his National Finance Committee. Aides say that since his win in Iowa, he has raised $4.5 million. One half of that in online donations. The other half in traditional fund-raising.

Kelly Wallace, CNN, reporting from Portland, Maine.


WOODRUFF: And Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt will join us a little bit later to weigh in on not only what the president's been up to, but also on John Kerry's record. And to respond to activities out on the campaign trail.

And now to Howard Dean's campaign which seems to be moving the goal post in its so far failed quest for a primary season victory.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you want a little change or do you want a lot of change? If you want a lot of change, you've got to go out and vote for Howard Dean on Saturday in the Michigan caucuses. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: But in Michigan today, Dean did not say he had to win there. Instead, the campaign now is portraying Wisconsin as the make or break state, even though a new poll out today shows Dean's unfavorable rating has jumped 14 points in Wisconsin since December.

CNN's Joe Johns is covering the Dean campaign. He's on the telephone now with us from Detroit.

What is this, Joe, about the Dean campaign's sudden, it seems to be, complete focus on the state of Wisconsin?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, to underscore that, Judy, the campaign announced just a little while ago that they were picking up stakes and moving the road show from Detroit to Wisconsin. It was a rather sudden move. Dean was expected to appear at a forum here in Detroit tonight, but the campaign manager says they are essentially putting their schedule where their mouth is, and now moving to Wisconsin.

Of course, as you may know, they put out an e-mail last night, early this morning. That e-mail said in part the entire race has come down to this, we have to win Wisconsin. The purpose of the e-mail was to raise $700,000 to put up advertising in Wisconsin. It said anything less will put us out of this race.

Of course, this appeared to be a change, because they're lowering the expectations, going essentially from we have to win in Washington State to we must win in Wisconsin. The campaign essentially says they're not moving the goal post, even though it may appear that way. Whatever you say about this, they have basically raised a lot of money, $340,000, they say, since that e-mail went out. They've broken their own hourly record.

The other thing important to mention here is that that may create the inference that Dean says he's getting out of the race if he doesn't win Wisconsin. But the campaign says they're not saying that.

They say they still plan to fight on. But the effective -- the things that will happen effectively is that he could be out of the race for delegates, a spokeswoman said. The point is to lay down a marker that the Dean campaign needs to put a win on the board, and that's the bottom line -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: It sounds a little bit like a mixed message there, Joe. But what about today? Dean is campaigning in Michigan. Of course he's been in Washington State. He's even been talking about Maine. So he has been at least talking about these other states.

JOHNS: Certainly, that's very true. He's talking about the other states. But, what's clear now is that this campaign is getting ready to focus on Wisconsin, with all its -- with all its power.

And the problem, of course, is that there are some folks here, for example, in Michigan, who were planning to see him in a forum, and they're not going to see him tonight. The mayor of this city, Detroit, has made it very clear that candidates who don't come may well not get his support.

So he was not expected to win Michigan, of course. The race is for second place between Dean and Edwards. And what is going to happen here in the Michigan primary on Saturday remains obviously to be seen.

WOODRUFF: This is the point in the campaign when those really, really tough decisions have to get made. All right. Joe Johns, thank you very much, reporting on the Dean campaign.

Well, even as the Dean camp puts its all into Wisconsin, John Edwards begins airing ads in that state today. Edwards, meantime, is campaigning again in the two states that hold primaries next Tuesday, Tennessee and Virginia. In Nashville this hour, Edwards talks about his plan to create jobs.

Wesley Clark also continues to stump in Tennessee, where he offered rare personal comments about his personal opposition to abortion.


WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm against abortion. But, there is a law in the land that comes from the Supreme Court, and that law is -- it's called Roe v. Wade. And I support the Supreme Court; I have to support the law. But I think that abortion should be, well, legal, safe and rare.


WOODRUFF: Clark's comments yesterday were consistent with his support for abortion rights, but they suggest, perhaps, a shift in emphasis while he's campaigning in the Bible Belt. At least a shift in terms of his -- what he he chooses to stress.

Well, President Bush today delivered another impassioned defense of his decision to invade Iraq, while acknowledging no weapons of mass destruction have been found there. We'll have more on the politics of Mr. Bush's speech in South Carolina ahead. His remarks came on the same day that CIA director George Tenet delivered a defense of his agency's handling of Iraq intelligence.

Here now, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Was there an intelligence failure? That's the big issue in Washington. Last week, the former chief weapons inspector said there was.

DAVID KAY, FMR. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Certainly, the intelligence service believed that there were WMD. It turns out we were all wrong.

SCHNEIDER: Nonsense, CIA director George Tenet said today.

GEORGE TENET, CIA DIRECTOR: Analysts differed on several important aspects of these programs. And those debates were spelled out in the estimate. They never said there was an imminent threat.

SCHNEIDER: The real issue is whether the Bush administration deliberately misrepresented the evidence.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: What this administration did at every level is take the absolute worst possible case scenario given to it by the CIA, and any other intelligence agency, and stated it as if it were fact. That there was no alternative.

SCHNEIDER: Here's what the CIA director says his intelligence analysts told the administration.

TENET: They painted an objective assessment for owe policymakers of a brutal dictator who was continuing his efforts to deceive and build programs that might constantly surprise us, and threaten our interests.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats say the administration did portray Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat, precisely what Director Tenet denied. In fact, President Bush portrayed Iraq as a "grave and gathering threat," which is more in line with what Tenet said.

BUSH: America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

SCHNEIDER: That distinction is the real issue.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Was such a threat imminent, or was it grave and growing? Critical to this debate during the summer and fall of 2002 was the immediacy of the threat which supported the argument that we needed to attack quickly. Could not wait to bring traditional allies aboard.

SCHNEIDER: We know what President Bush's answer in the upcoming campaign will be: 9/11.

BUSH: One of the important lessons of September the 11th, 2001, is that our country must deal with gathering threats before they materialize, before they come back to haunt us. And that's what we did in Iraq.


SCHNEIDER: Somehow, the debate has gotten sidetracked to the quality of intelligence. That is not the main issue. The main issue is, should the U.S. be fighting preemptive wars -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And that is something that George Tenet is not going to be weighing in on.

SCHNEIDER: That's not what his subject was. WOODRUFF: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

We're going to talk more about the Bush camp's election-year strategy with campaign spokesman Terry Holt just ahead. How long can the president insist that he's not focused on the race?

Plus, Dean meet-ups, one year later. Can the Internet phenomenon turn ex-front-runner still draw crowds?

And later, John Edwards joins the top ten as the latest politician to joke around with David Letterman.


WOODRUFF: In his stump speech, Senator John Kerry likes to say that he has not yet begun to fight. Well, that also goes for the Bush-Cheney '04 team which has been holding back a little, waiting for an obvious opponent to emerge.

Joining me now is Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt. Thank you for being with us this time.

TERRY HOLT, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Thank you, Judy. It's good to be here.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. Let me ask you first about President Bush today.

HOLT: Sure.

WOODRUFF: South Carolina. For the second week in a row, he's showing up in a state where the Democrats had a primary. Does this mean he's trying to correct something that he heard or to change the subject? What's going on?

HOLT: Well, there has been a lot of angry rhetoric in New Hampshire and South Carolina. These folks have been barraged by attacks. The president continues his dialogue with the American people on economic security, as he talked about tax relief and jobs in New Hampshire last week. He was in South Carolina for homeland security this week. I think he can set the record straight and refocus back on the issues that matter most to the American people.

WOODRUFF: How much are you, Terry Holt, and the others at the campaign concerned about these polls that right now, as of now, show that John Kerry not only was beating President Bush, but show the president's approval rating below 50 percent?

HOLT: Well, Senator Kerry's had the stage to himself for a few weeks now. He's had a lot of very positive news coverage.

The campaign is going to begin here. I think we're in a transition to a two-man race. And typically, over the last four presidential cycles, the incumbent has taken it on the chin a bit during the primary process. But once it settles into a two-man race, I think we'll see it even out. We still expect a very close election. It should be fun to watch.

WOODRUFF: Yes. We think it's going to be very fun to watch.

What about -- let's talk about John Kerry. There was an article in "The New York Times" today quoting some folks in your campaign, perhaps at the White House, saying that the main line of attack against John Kerry is "Massachusetts" liberal. But at the same time, the Kerry people are saying, hey, in essence, bring it on. If that's what you're going to try to suggest about John Kerry, you'll find out we're going to fight.

HOLT: I'm not so sure. Massachusetts, a lot of people may not know this, but has a Republican governor. We're not going to say anything about Massachusetts per se. But there is a pattern of hypocrisy. And, you know, the AIG story, the story about his taking money...

WOODRUFF: The insurance company.

HOLT: ... from the insurance company, this is an example of where he has said he would show the lobbyists the door. That door may be a revolving door. There's a bit of hypocrisy in John Kerry's message. And I think that's really very important.

WOODRUFF: But when John Kerry himself, as he did today in Maine, comes back and says, well I was just doing what the rest of the Massachusetts delegation was doing, I was supporting this very important project to the economy of my state?

HOLT: Well, and to the extent that the big dig and all of the billions that the American people put into it is important to Massachusetts, he has the point that he is supposed to fight for them. But is it right for him to necessarily have his travel paid for and have tens of thousands of dollars funneled into his soft money accounts? There's hypocrisy there between what he's saying on the campaign trail and what his record demonstrates.

WOODRUFF: Let me go back to this whole question of President Bush and the National Guard comments. The reason I'm raising this is because yesterday I interviewed Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the DNC. Let me just read you a small portion of what he said about the president's service in the National Guard.

He said, "He didn't show up. Let him answer that. The commander this week reiterated the entire time he was supposed to show up in the Alabama National Guard he wasn't there. He said he made it up later, but you don't have that option. When you're supposed to serve our country, you're supposed to be there."

What do you say?

HOLT: I say very simply, the National Guard solved this 30 years ago. The president was honorably discharged.

What is dishonorable, frankly, is the Democratic Party's re- dredging of this story, and saying things that really impugn the reputation of the half a million people that are in the National Guard. John Kerry the other day said that he wasn't going to judge people who dodged the draft or went to Canada or served in the National Guard, as if dodging the draft was equivalent to the National Guard. That's not fair. It's impugning the character of the commander in chief and impugning the character of people who serve in the National Guard.

WOODRUFF: Is it a problem, though, for President Bush, as a candidate up for re-election this year, that there are no records that prove that he showed up for service for approximately a year?

HOLT: The record is crystal clear. The National Guard gave him an honorable discharge.

WOODRUFF: But in terms of records that he showed up for his weekend or monthly obligations?

HOLT: Well, according to the National Guard, he made up service during a period that was appropriate, and well within the guidelines that allowed him to have an honorary discharge from the military.

WOODRUFF: So as far as you and the campaign is concerned, that's the end of it?

HOLT: Old story, dead story. Move on to the issues that matter to the American people.

WOODRUFF: All right. Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush campaign. We appreciate your talking with us, and we hope we're going to be seeing a lot of you in the coming campaign.

HOLT: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

WOODRUFF: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

HOLT: You're welcome.

Question: could Wisconsin be another turning point in Howard Dean's political fortunes, or the site of his last stand? Coming up, Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile take issue on the Dean campaign and more.


WOODRUFF: With us now, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile, and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

All right, Bay, let's turn to you, first. Howard Dean focusing now -- everything is on Wisconsin. Is this smart strategy or the only thing he really has left?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: You know, it's over. It's already over. You know, he may be the only one that doesn't realize that.

I mean, no one's gone to his events it looks like. Money's drying up. He can't pay his staff.

So I believe what he's trying to do is give himself two weeks to get some of those contributors to give money to help pay down the debt and then give himself a graceful exit. But at that stage he should call for a special prosecutor and try to figure out what happened to the $40 million. Donna and I still trying to figure that one out.

WOODRUFF: Does he have a real shot at Wisconsin, Donna?

DONNA BRAZILE, FMR. GORE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, I think it's going to be tough. Look, he's looking for a "Hail Mary" type pass right now. And by overlooking Michigan, Washington, Maine, D.C., Nevada, et cetera, over the next two weeks, Howard Dean is basically saying he believes that he can get back in the game by winning in Wisconsin.

I don't believe he can get back in the game by just winning one state. He needs to pick up delegates over the next two weeks, and about six or seven states.

WOODRUFF: So if that's the case, what's the point of staying in?

BUCHANAN: I believe it is because I think he has a huge debt. Anyone who can't make their payroll, that's a trouble sign. You always pay the payroll first in a campaign so that no one realizes how bad you are. So I think he's trying to encourage people out there to give money to this campaign so he can help raise that money, which he can then match and help pay down the debt.

BRAZILE: Dean has a tremendous following. He's paying off his debts. I don't believe he has a lot of debts.

His staff will continue to get its payroll. I checked, because I have a lot of friends working in that campaign. The truth of the matter is, I think he's hanging in to see if he can get a second win, to see if he can come back and be the last person standing to take on John Kerry before Super Tuesday.

WOODRUFF: So, in other words, you think that there's a legitimate goal here? I mean, he truly thinks that he can win?

BUCHANAN: Its called denial, Judy.


BRAZILE: It's called "Hail Mary."

WOODRUFF: All right. Let's talk about something very different, and that is today's speech by CIA director George Tenet.

On the one hand, saying that he doesn't believe there was an imminent threat on the part of the Iraqis toward the United States at the time U.S. went to war. On the other hand, he said we never colored the intelligence or shaded the intelligence. Is this helping the president or is this helping the president's critics, Bay? BUCHANAN: Well, you know, at this stage, I think what George Tenet's trying to do is lay it all out there as honestly as possible. We're looking at an investigation here, and I think it's only right that he presents exactly what took place from his perspective.

And I thought it was very strong. I read it very carefully. And I think what he is saying is, listen, we took it from three different sources, put the information together, presented it all, made certain everybody had all the different arguments. In some areas we all agreed, some areas we disagreed.

But on one thing everybody concluded, Judy. And we're talking France and England and Germany and America, "New York Times," "Washington Post," agreed that more than likely Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That's what the report led you to believe.

BRAZILE: And that's why we should have allowed the U.N. to finish up its job and find out if the weapons program was ongoing or had been disbanded. I think he put the White House today on the defense.

The White House is now under pressure to explain how it handled that intelligence that George Tenet gave them, and to see how they use it. Because I believe they hyped it. And I believe they misled the American people. And that's what we will find out soon when Congress completes its investigation.

WOODRUFF: The word "imminent" was used by -- I believe by the vice president, and perhaps others in the administration. We heard just a little minute ago with Bill Schneider's report heard the president call it a "gathering and grave threat." Is this going to come down to an argument over semantics here?

BUCHANAN: Well, I think what it comes down to -- there's no question they used imminent threat. I was very much involved in that debate, and they presented Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat to the United States.

But I think what George Tenet said is listen, we didn't say it was an imminent threat. We didn't say it wasn't. We said here's what we know, and here's where we come to this conclusion that they do probably have it.

And it was for the decision of the policymakers to then decide does this suggest to us that it's an imminent threat or not. And the president of the United States felt it was.

BRAZILE: The buck stops at the president's desk.

BUCHANAN: Absolutely.

BRAZILE: And at some point someone needs to lose their job, get fired or resign over all these intelligence blunders and failures. And to allow things to just continue as if nothing happened, we're spending hundreds of billions of dollars in restoring Iraq. We've lost hundreds lives. Thousands of men have been wounded. Someone needs to be fired.

BUCHANAN: But you say blunder. I don't know that there's been a blunder.

WOODRUFF: Well, it looks at this point as if somebody's going to lose his job. It's not going to be George Tenet. At least not right now.

BUCHANAN: It doesn't look like it would George Bush, either.

WOODRUFF: Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile, thank you both. We'll see you both soon.

First Lady Laura Bush usually doesn't get political, but coming up an exception. Stay with us for some of the first lady's thoughts on the upcoming campaign.

Also ahead, a look at Tennessee, one of next week's battlegrounds on the way to the Democratic nomination.



ANNOUNCER: John Edwards won South Carolina but is the Palmetto state Bush country?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm so honored to have been invited to one of America's great cities. Charleston, South Carolina.

ANNOUNCER: The general advances through Tennessee. But why is Wesley Clark's staff giving up a week's pay? Does he have a campaign cash problem?

They're a signature part of the Dean campaign. An online grassroots effort that helped make a long shot the front-runner. But what are meet-up members saying now that their candidate's on the ropes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a little discouraging what happens



WOODRUFF: Welcome back. South Carolina Republicans got a taste today of what local Democrats have been seeing for days. A candidate's surprise stop at a local cafe. The formal speech, the cheering crowd. This time, President Bush was the main attraction, with the '04 Democrats having cleared out after Tuesday's primary. Still the White House calls it a presidential visit and not a campaign swing. But, our White House correspondent Dana Bash reports politics clearly was at play.


DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is the second time the president has come to a state just two days after Democrats had their primary that was preceded by months of beating up on Mr. Bush all over the airwaves. But unlike last week at New Hampshire, where the president just barely won in 2000, Republicans call South Carolina Bush country. Not only did the president stop John McCain here four years ago during the Republican primaries, he handily beat Al Gore during the general election.

As a matter of fact, no Democrat has won here in nearly three decades, since Jimmy Carter won in 1976. But friendly territory is exactly what the White House was looking for as he gave his most detailed defense of the war in Iraq since David Kay came out last week and said that no weapons are likely to be found in that country.

BUSH: When you're the commander in chief you have to be willing to make the tough calls, and to see your decisions through. America's safer when our commitments are clear.


WOODRUFF: We're interrupting that report by Dana Bash on the president to take you to Sarasota, Florida, where sheriff's officials are talking to reporters about the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl. Let's listen in.


WOODRUFF: Well the entire Bush family appears to be moving into campaign mode. First lady Laura Bush offered some rare comments on the campaign in an interview with our own senior White House correspondent John King.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We're 270 days to the election, beginning to emerge a Democratic candidate. When we chatted the other day, you said you and the president do talk about this a little bit. Is it his assumption Senator Kerry will be the candidate in the fall?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: I don't know exactly what his assumption is. But it does look like that to everyone I think right now. Although you know, other people won two of the primaries yesterday, so you just can't tell.

Does he express any firm opinion about who he would like to run against or how he sees the campaign shaping up?

L. BUSH: Not that I would tell you.

KING: Not that you would tell me. OK. That was a good try.

It is getting rough already to a degree. L. BUSH: It is getting very rough. I mean it's actually been very rough for President Bush the whole time because of all the money the Democrats have spent on television, and campaigning around, and it seems to me they've mainly campaigned against him.


WOODRUFF: Mrs. Bush also suggested that her twin daughters might campaign for their father in this election, knowing that it would be his last run for office. You can hear more of the interview on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Well John Kerry told Maine Democrats today that he never runs away from a fight, especially when he's up against President Bush. Even as Kerry stomped for support in Maine's caucuses on Sunday, the Democratic front runner was picking up key enforcements in Michigan which holds its contest this Saturday. Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow both threw their support behind Kerry.

Wesley Clark's campaign says the money is pouring in since the retired general apparently won the Oklahoma primary. The Clark camp says it has raised $400,000 since Tuesday, shattering its previous fund raising records for a similar time period.

Clark campaigning today in Tennessee, CNN's Dan Lothian is there.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dan Lothian with the Clark campaign. Retired General Wesley Clark continues to play up his Southern roots as he stumps in Tennessee. The campaign is betting big on the Volunteer State. Clark today saying that he will win here, and he plans to make it to Super Tuesday.

The question is, do they have the money? On Wednesday CNN learned 250 mostly senior staffers, quote, "voluntarily surrendered their salaries for one week to infuse the campaign with $250,000." Money to pay for television ads in Tennessee.

The day after a stop in Lebanon, Tennessee, where he attended high school for one year, Clark told reporters his campaign is not in financial trouble.

WESLEY CLARK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the last 24 hours, $250,000 has come in on the Internet to this campaign because people want to see me in this race. They want me to be on Super Tuesday and win Super Tuesday.

LOTHIAN: Clark also has continued to go after John Kerry and John Edwards today, saying that they are, quote, "good men, but Washington insiders." Back to you.


WOODRUFF: John Edwards also is in Tennessee this hour, talking about jobs and how to protect them. Edwards again portrayed himself as the son of a mill worker, hoping that the same recipe that propelled him to a win in South Carolina will lead him to victory from the Tennessee and Virginia primaries next Tuesday.

Howard Dean started the day in Michigan but headed for Wisconsin just a short time ago. The Dean campaign sent an e-mail to supporters this morning asking for money and describing Wisconsin as a state has Dean has to win. But aides insist Dean won't get out of the race even if he loses Wisconsin.

Last night Dean attended a one-year anniversary meetup. Monthly meetup gatherings organized over the Internet helped to spawn Dean' rapid rise last year from relative unknown to temporary Democratic front runner.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): Outside Madison's Majestic Theater, it's another cold Wisconsin night. But inside the crowd is on fire. Howard Dean is in the house, celebrating the one-year anniversary of his famed meetups. The house is packed. The people are pumped and the doctor's on a roll.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On Tuesday, February 17 we have the power to take back the Democratic Party, so it finds its spine and stands up to the policies of George Bush.

WOODRUFF: Far from the flash about 40 Dean supporters meetup in Ben's Chili Bowl here in Washington. Their tone notably more subdued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For better or worse we're still in it, we're still going strong.

WOODRUFF: These are the loyal ones, the faithful. Folks who were with Dean at his peek and remain behind him now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a true believer, and proud of it.

WOODRUFF: Most of them have been coming to meetups for months, catching on through the Dean For America Web site, finding community with their neighbors and reaching out to voters in far flung states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Writing postcards to Virginia and Wisconsin residents, encouraging them to vote for Dean in the primaries.

WOODRUFF: They rally in public.

So many people haven't voted. Only ten percent of the delegates for the nation have been chosen so far. You guys can't let the media tell you this is over.

WOODRUFF: One on one a little melancholy creeps in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean it is a little discouraging, but I think it's good to remember that like anything can happen can happen at this point. WOODRUFF: But hope is alive. More people showed up at Ben's last night than did a month ago when Dean was still soaring. Web designer and Dean fan Reed Redower (ph) says that means something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If our candidate is done, then why would anyone come to these meetings? The Dean people are not as disillusioned as many people would think that they are.

WOODRUFF: And so it goes with the meeteruppers hoping that next month it's the same place, same time.


WOODRUFF: Well Tennessee, along with Virginia holds its Democratic primary next Tuesday. John Edwards and Wesley Clark are putting a special emphasis on Tennessee. But John Kerry led in a recent opinion poll.

Joining us now from Nashville is the state Democratic Party Chairman Randy Button. Randy Button, good to see you. Thanks very much for joining me.


WOODRUFF: What about this poll? What is your sense of where Tennessee stands right now?

BUTTON: Well John Edwards got an early start here in Tennessee, but Wesley Clark started to campaign and running media six weeks ago.

But John Kerry got a really good bump out of Iowa and New Hampshire. And I think that's catapulted him up to a three-man race in Tennessee.

WOODRUFF: So think it really is the three of them fighting. I mean could we be looking at Oklahoma-type situation?

BUTTON: I think it's Oklahoma with twice the number of delegates. Tennessee is the first Southern, targeted, battleground state. So that means a lot. I'm calling it the Tennessee Thunderdome. Three's coming in but only one's going to be left standing.

WOODRUFF: Now what about -- let me ask you about John Edwards. He is a son of the South, as he says. We know he was born in South Carolina. He practiced law in Tennessee early in his career. What about his campaign effort there?

BUTTON: Well, he was one of the first candidates to actually start a campaign staff open a campaign office here. He's made more stops in Tennessee than any of the other presidential campaigns up to this week. I think he's practiced law for three years in Nashville, so people know him. He has the Southern values that Tennesseans can relate with.

WOODRUFF: And what about Wesley Clark? You pointed out that he's come in and making an effort.

BUTTON: Yes, Wesley Clark started six weeks ago running TV. He has 18 folks on the staff starting out here. He's done mail, he's been here a lot. I think that Wesley Clark's going to do very well.

It's going to be a three-man race.

WOODRUFF: But John Kerry, you're saying, benefits from the momentum?

BUTTON: I think he has. And you know, everyone likes to be with a winner. And some people are starting to perceive him as being a winner.

So that's really got the interest of Tennesseans. And we're seeing all these candidates this week. They're all running TV, they're all here in our state. It's really been good for Tennessee.

WOODRUFF: You're not mentioning Howard Dean, and yet one of your famous Democratic politicians from Tennessee, Al Gore, very much behind Howard Dean. Does that sway anybody's thinking you think?

BUTTON: Well, Judy, I've always said that endorsements don't always resonate into votes. I think that you have a lot of high- profile people here in Tennessee endorsing candidates. You've got Harold Ford who is the national co-chair for John Kerry. You have a lot of the congressmen and legislators, they've been working for Edwards. And Clark just rolled out 150 last week endorsements.

WOODRUFF: Right. So I hear you saying that the Al Gore endorsement doesn't necessarily matter this time. Well, we shall see.

BUTTON: It doesn't turn into votes, yes.

WOODRUFF: Randy Button, who is the chairman of the Democratic Party in the Volunteer State. Thanks very much.

BUTTON: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it. We'll be talking to you, I know, in the days to come.

Well the Maine caucuses are this Sunday. And today, one of that state's most prominent Democrats threw his support behind John Kerry. Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell joins me to talk politics next.


WOODRUFF: Senator John Kerry campaigned in Maine today, ahead of Sunday's Democratic caucuses there. He picked up the endorsements of the state's top two Democrats, Governor John Baldacci and former U.S. senator George Mitchell. The former Senate majority leader joins me from New York. Good to see you. Thank you very much for being with me.


WOODRUFF: Can you make a flat-out prediction? Is John Kerry going to win these caucuses on Sunday?

MITCHELL: Well, I never made a prediction even about my own elections. I think he has a good chance to win the caucuses, the nomination and the presidency.

WOODRUFF: You may not be surprised to know that a little earlier on the program a spokesman for the Bush/Cheney campaign, Terry Holt said that John Kerry is guilty of hypocrisy because he goes out and he talks about how terrible the special interests are, now how he's going to stand up from the special interests, but how he's taken from special interests, citing that story that came out a day or so ago about the insurance company AIG who he benefited from. Which is it?

MITCHELL: Well, I don't think there's much to it. I think it reflects two things. First the rising concern in the White House and among supporters of the president of the strength of John Kerry's candidacy. But I think if anybody in the world is unsuited to make the charge against special interest funding, why it's the current administration. So I don't think it will have too much effect on Senator Kerry's campaign.

WOODRUFF: So you don't think the senator's vulnerable for taking some favors from that insurance company while they were giving to that pac, that Democratic pac that he sponsored?

MITCHELL: I don't think so, Judy. It's interesting, you, not you personally, but in the press, measure candidates' success in the early months by how much money they can raise. One of the reasons that Governor Dean was propelled to the front of it was that you reported how much money he had raised. Then, of course, once they raised the money the effort starts to find out well, where did they get it and the counterprocess begins.

There's always a lot of talk about that. But there's never been any evidence that has any significant effect on the results of the general election. And I don't think it will this year, either way.

WOODRUFF: You're right about what we measure. Senator, isn't it the case, though, that anybody who served in the Senate for as long as Senator Kerry has ultimately will have to have taken money that -- from groups that he's going to be passing legislation on and isn't this inevitably going to be a point of vulnerability?

MITCHELL: It's one of the reasons why the process ought to be reformed and I think it's very significant that Senator Kerry was one of the strongest supporters of campaign finance reform all the time that I was in the Senate. And was involved very much in that fight. And the fact is, we passed a comprehensive campaign finance reform law which was vetoed by the first President Bush. So I don't think Senator Kerry has any vulnerability on the issue, particularly in the general election campaign. I think the charges will fly back and forth. I think as in the past they won't have much effect. And I think people will decide based on other factors. WOODRUFF: George Mitchell, former ambassador and former Senate majority leader. Thank you very much.

MITCHELL: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, President Bush apparently finding political inspiration in football. Up next, Mr. Bush hails the return of the Washington Redskins' former coach.


WOODRUFF: Checking the headlines now in our campaign news daily. At this morning's national prayer breakfast, President Bush said a lot of Washingtonians are thankful that Joe Gibbs has returned to coach the NFL's Washington Redskins. Gibbs recently agreed to coach the team a second time after being out of football for eleven years.


BUSH: Joe, we're glad to see you back on the job. I'm all in favor of second terms.


WOODRUFF: And last night, Senator John Edwards got a chance to say things that no political candidate ever could or maybe should say. The opportunity came as part of a David Letterman top ten list.



SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lady, that is one ugly baby.


EDWARDS: When I'm president, I'm putting Regis on Mount Rushmore.

LETTERMAN: There you go. And the No. 1 thing never before said by a presidential candidate.

EDWARDS: Read my lips. No new wardrobe malfunctions.

LETTERMAN: There you go.


WOODRUFF: Pretty good lines. You have to give him credit. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Thursday. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.


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