Jan. 19, 2004: Kerry Wins Iowa Caucus

Democrat John Kerry finished first in Iowa, John Edwards was second.
9:36 | 01/19/12

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Transcript for Jan. 19, 2004: Kerry Wins Iowa Caucus
It was over much earlier and far more definitively than most of us had expected. Dick Gephardt who needed the win and -- -- just to survive in this presidential race came in a crushing force. And clearly has no illusions about what that means he has already dropped out of -- Howard Dean has the money in the organization to keep going despite this evening's results but. He appears to be this year's main example of the Iowa paradox. He -- after all is a state that will send only 45 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. A candidate needs 2161. Delegates to win the nomination. Obviously you don't spend millions of dollars and weeks of your life campaigning in Iowa. For that handful of delegates alone -- do it because it's in Iowa but the first actual votes of this presidential campaign season are cast. This huge symbolic value to a victory here it creates perceptions it builds momentum. Howard Dean came in a disappointing third tonight and now has -- -- or doesn't really matter. Senators John Kerry and John Edwards on the other hand have had to endure a long and difficult camping season. In which they were perceived to be almost hopelessly behind. That's where those Iowa Caucuses can make the song shine for a candidate Kerry came in first -- -- Edwards came in a close second. We will suddenly discover a whole new aura about both men. My old friend and colleague Peter Jennings who is no fool is inside the capitol building in the morning where it is warm. And Peter you're gonna take us through tonight's results with a lot more detail in substance go for. We'll do indeed Ted for those who love politics has been a heck of a night there's been a lot going on as you've made clear let's try to put a little more flesh on the bones that you've. Laid out so eloquently so far first just simply look at the numbers John Kerry is we projected him as a winner sometime ago John Kerry is a very clear winner here. With about 37% of the vote. John Edwards -- -- -- -- comes very close second with about 31% of the vote. Howard Dean farther back at about 18% these numbers change as you know when the caucus results continue to come in. And as you pointed out it is a very disappointing. Result for Richard Gephardt from next -- Missouri. Who kept as brave a face as anybody right up until the very end. Now we learned from people going into the caucus this time we column entrance polls not exit polls -- we asked people all sorts of questions. About their intention is today the Democratic Party here thinks this has been a record -- they're not absolutely sure that is still by the way a very small number of people. In a very small state with a very few number of delegates for the Democratic Convention however. 55% of the caucus goers tonight were first time voters. 35% of them voted for Kerry 24%. For Edwards. 22%. Fourteen and 11%. For Richard Gephardt. 41%. And you talked about things changing in the last minute there was a poll here over the weekend. Showing John Kerry and Edwards coming on at the last moment the comeback kid Senator Kennedy called -- tonight. 41% of the caucus forwards did make their decision in the last week. 39% voted for Kerry. 35%. Voted for Edwards 14%. Voted for dean and 6% voted for Gephardt. Now though war was a big issue here we discovered it all over the state talking to people on the weekend. And Howard Dean had made the war a big issue here in many ways as one of the most interesting. Pieces of information of the evening 50% of the caucus -- remember these are for the most part Liberal Democrats said they strongly. Disapproved. Of the war in Iraq. And 34% of them voted for John Kerry who voted to support the war. And spent an awful lot of time trying to explain himself to Democrats 29%. Of them voted for dean. Let's check in very briefly with campaigns themselves ABC's Kate Snow. Has been covering John Kerry Kate we know there is terrific enthusiasm in that camp tonight but what -- they now think are the immediate possibilities. And that may be an understatement Peter is absolutely electric inside the hotel to spread across the street here. They think things are really looking up for them I spoke with -- that Kate Hillis is the campaign manager for John Kerry she tells me -- go into New Hampshire now. With a completely different -- the lay of the land. Totally -- that the old order has fallen away she also noted that John Kerry was written off as dead in her words just a few weeks ago. But he was able to pull this out in part because of all the things you mentioned Peter because he was able to get the support so many first time voters. Because he appeared in their view presidential. And people wanted someone who they thought would be a clear alternative. -- Many thanks Kate Kate Snow on the Kerry campaign -- go to Barbara Pinto now who is on the Gephardt campaign. Barbara Ted maybe a little ahead of us on this when I'm not sure. Mr. Gephardt we believe is going to drop out of the race has he formally done -- in this in the few minutes we have -- paying attention. He's stopped short of formally dropping out of the race so this is that a terribly disappointing night. Those -- close to voters here in Iowa. He won here in 1988 he was predicting a -- -- Again this time around but that did not happen in a very emotional speech to supporters who thanked his family thank you -- you may not warrant. We thank all of his supporters. And he came close to fouling out saying that his campaign may end he has canceled. His scheduled trip to New Hampshire this evening instead -- flying home to Saint Louis when he is expected to make a more formal announcement. Tomorrow now from the start he says he would bow out if -- cannot -- Iowa clearly that would not happen he did pledges support however to Weber comes out ahead. Peter. Meant many thanks Barbara -- it would make sense of course for mr. Gephardt to go home to Saint Louis. Tonight it's very -- -- everybody who knows Richard several long political career has. Praised him as a public servant in fact when John carriers -- John Edwards. Was making his. Victory speech tonight one of the things he did was go out of the way to say. That Richard Gephardt could lead to base for Liberal Democrats in many respects all across the country -- go briefly two ABC's Bob Woodruff who covers of the Edwards campaign here is a man Bob who did. Better than most people expected tonight even though he showed up pretty well late in the polls. Yeah and those expectations -- interesting Peter because what the campaign will tell you. As what they complain about -- that he is just not gotten the kind of visibility up until now that he deserves. I'll tell you what I have witnessed on the trail this whole week. That's what unveiled a correspondence in the networks -- here covering him. Is it as he went through this week you saw this very gifted -- immensely gifted speaker attracting more and more people. On this bill. This they told us that they saw in him someone who could definitely beat George Bush. One of his favorite lines when the lions got the most attention and applause from the people and you -- you as the week went on was imagine me John Edwards on one side of the debate table and George Bush on the other. Wouldn't you love to see that people really resonated to that one. And I'll tell you one more -- he's got a secret weapon and no one really knows quite much about and that -- his wife Elizabeth. It's a very get good campaign if you went on campaign independently up in this week and she also. Really resonated with -- with the voters the people out there it. Many thanks Bob Bob Woodruff with the Edwards campaign let me -- a very quickly to ABC's George Stephanopoulos who knows. As much about politics as anybody in the -- what do you think George Bush would think this evening. I think he's surprised and not all that happy I mean I think the bush White House would love to have run against Howard Dean and they probably thought he was gonna win. Here in Iowa although some of them -- that Gephardt would. But right now in this democratic race is rich with possibility for each candidate could also rich with -- Look at John Kerry he won big tonight big big win but now he's -- to have the spotlight on him. Well it is specifically the spotlight on him -- New Hampshire because as a -- have a New Hampshire waiting for him -- Wes Clark. Wes Clark now Wes Clark though. Has been planning for race against Howard Dean most importantly upon he's got to re calibrate also -- of the field to himself in New Hampshire last two weeks he's gonna get attacked by all the. -- can't stay would say with John Edwards for a second because to John Edwards now make the decision to go up to New Hampshire and fighter does he wait. And go to his more native part of the country and for the primary in South Carolina. Second question -- asked a senior strategist in the campaign. Tonight and they said listen doesn't make any sense to go straight to South Carolina we want to play in New Hampshire we want to keep the momentum going. We're not gonna run away from -- yet but of course he'll hit South Carolina this week. Now I think everybody who watches -- -- understands that the press along with a political establishment. Helped to set the bar tonight and we'll set the possibilities for the eight days ahead particularly in New Hampshire this a field day for political analyst -- -- That no question about in these eight days are going to be eight very long days with a big debate coming up on Thursday night and eight long days for Howard Dean. He's been got shot here he is bleeding he's got to turn around -- days. Giving -- turn around a New Hampshire is there any evidence that he can't turn it around a New Hampshire where is doing much stronger in the polls and needed here he was very strong but he's been dropping Woolsey you know always made us. Okay as we said full of possibilities many thanks George.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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