ABCNEWS' Sally Hawkins is on the road with the former House Democratic leader in his quest for the White House. For the latest report, scroll down.
Out of public eye, aiming to be in the money
Nov. 11 — Continuing his nine-day fundraising blitz covering six states and multiple cities per day, Congressman Gephardt visited New York City on Monday, the fifth day of his tireless-tally-it-up-tour. Since last Wednesday, Gephardt has had only one public event. With such a grueling fundraising schedule, you can bet he'll be happy to get back on the campaign trail in Iowa this Saturday.
The money will come in handy later this week when he opens a campaign office in Arizona, and when the campaign settles on real estate down the road in New Mexico.
Gephardt pounced on an opportunity to slam President Bush today, jabbing at the president's statements on the economy as he toured a BMW plant in South Carolina, a state where Gephardt recently visited counties with unemployment rates upwards of 20 percent.
"During the last year, under President Bush's failed economic policies, South Carolina has been hit by the largest per capita job loss in the country. The state's economy has been devastated by bad trade agreements like NAFTA and the China trade deal that President Bush and many of my opponents in this race have supported. Instead of traveling to a thriving BMW plant, the president should visit the shuttered textile mills and factories that have been forced to close their doors and lay off thousands of workers because of these bad trade agreements. While the president is in South Carolina today, he should explain what he is going to do to bring these 74,000 jobs back."
Gephardt rides high on Iowa lead
Nov. 10 — Still smarting from last week's news of union endorsements for Howard Dean, the Gephardt campaign was on a rollercoaster ride this weekend: first with Dean's public financing decision, then with a Des Moines Register poll showing Gephardt gaining ground and Dean dropping in Iowa.
In response to Dean's decision to forgo public financing, Gephardt told ABC News, "I think it's unfortunate. George Bush has done this; now Howard is doing it. Howard said he wouldn't break the caps and now he's breaking the caps. He can disguise it with a poll but I really think it's bad for the system. We have this system in place and the caps — and all that we've done to try to contain finance spending is being blown apart."
The Sunday poll, however, brought relief, showing Gephardt with a 7-point lead over Dean in Iowa among likely caucus-goers. Taken last week, the survey could reflect some backlash among Iowans upset by the Confederate flag flap, but it was also taken prior to the news that Dean will soon be adding thousands more AFSCME and SEIU foot soldiers to rally support for him on caucus night. While Gephardt frequently jokes to his over-65 supporters at Iowa campaign stops that "January 19th will be a warm and balmy evening," the poll also shows how important it will be for the Gephardt camp to get those folks out, come balmy evening or blizzard.
More potential good news: the United Auto Workers announced they are releasing their locals to endorse the candidate of their choice. The UAW has a huge membership base in Iowa and Michigan, and some Gephardt staffers feel confident that key UAWs will be theirs.
Bill Carrick, a senior strategist for Gephardt, told ABC News that none of the recent Dean news will change their strategy. "There is no magic campaign rabbit that we're going to pull out of a hat." Another campaign source said they feel they are right on track and predicted wins in Iowa and February 3 states Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma and "that's four of the seven states up until then." February 3, he said, is an "advantageous lineup" for Gephardt.
Sounds good, but beyond Iowa money will be a key factor and Dean will have lots more of it. Adding insult to injury, it was reported that some top Gephardt campaign staffers have been asked to take pay cuts.
All of the endorsement woes and financial stresses seemed far from Congressman Gephardt's mind Saturday night in St. Louis when he attended a black tie fundraiser with his wife, Jane, and daughter, Chrissy. The gala was a benefit for the Human Rights Campaign, an organization in which Chrissy, a lesbian activist, is very involved. The Gephardts beamed when Chrissy took the podium to introduce her father.
As I squatted on the floor in front with my video camera among the tuxedos and strapless dresses, I noticed the intense emotion on the faces of both Chrissy and her father as each of them spoke. Chrissy, who is the spitting image of her dad, teared up when he talked about her courage to come forward to tell him and Jane she is gay. Chrissy described the difficult decision to come out — made more difficult because of her father's career in politics. She feared her parents would tell their friends that she had moved to a desert island. She feared backlash from her father's supporters, and they have received some.
But, Chrissy said, to her relief, her parents reacted with love and acceptance. So much so that months later, she and her new girlfriend moved in with the Gephardts into their modest Washington, D.C. condo. Gephardt later said Chrissy's and Amy's two cats were the hardest part; he's a dog guy.
Nov. 7 — With news of Dean's SEIU endorsement and the possible collaboration between the SEIU and fellow labor giant AFSCME to back Dean, phones were ringing off the hook at the Gephardt campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C., with reporters looking for statements and digging to gauge just how major a blow this is for Gephardt. The campaign had been enjoying a recent boost in positive media attention but with the SEIU news that all came to a screeching halt. As newspapers hit the stands today with big Dean headlines, you'll find Gephardt's name down in the fourth or fifth graph, where reporters assess how bad the news is for the other candidates.
Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy spun it for the positive. "This is a bigger blow to Wes Clark than it is for Dick Gephardt," he said. Clark has hoped for an SEIU endorsement since he announced his candidacy, Murphy said, and Kerry, who was reported to be the AFSCME favorite early on in the race, also hoped for their backing. Murphy said Gephardt wasn't expecting either and the campaign knew nothing of the unions working together on a joint announcement. He said they've long known that the SEIU was courting Dean and "AFSCME endorsed Dukakis in 1988, not Gephardt, and Gerald McEntee has been sending signals all year that he's not going with Dick Gephardt."
The campaign used today's news to promote Gephardt's support from the unions. "The only two candidates to have any labor support are Gephardt and Dean. This is increasingly becoming a two-horse race. There's a clear division between Gephardt and Dean within the labor movement. We've got 20 international unions supporting us and he's (Dean) has two or three … big ones. With the SEIU and possibly AFSCME endorsing Dean, there's a clear split."
That list of the 20 international unions who are backing Gephardt was promptly assembled by the campaign and e-mailed out to Web site subscribers. Also e-mailed out Thursday: a statement on Howard Dean's confederate flag flap, a day after the other campaigns did their venting and only hours after Dean's big news became public.
Murphy said Gephardt is still hoping for the endorsement of the UAW and they "feel good about it." UAW backing for Gephardt could bring upwards of 20,000 more union members in Iowa alone to rally support on caucus night, in addition to the support of the 54,000 members he already has there.
On Thursday, Gephardt claimed a nod from the 32,000-member Missouri National Education Association.
While rivals "rock," Gephardt rolls along in Iowa
Nov. 5 — While his opponents "rocked the vote" in Beantown, it was business as usual for Congressman Gephardt, who skipped the event to attend an "important" union meeting in Des Moines and an evening campaign stop at the Uptown Cafe in Jefferson, Iowa.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Gephardt met with members of AFSCME, which reportedly will endorse some time in early December. Gephardt is pulling out all the stops to try and secure their backing. The union's officials have already met with three other top candidates and Tuesday was Gephardt's turn.
In Jefferson, some people were actually surprised to see Gephardt at his own event. They knew they were attending a Gephardt meeting, but surely he must be in Boston with everyone else? When he walked in, there were a few confused faces. Without missing a beat, he launched into his typical campaign speech and barely mentioned the debate.
After the speech, Gephardt paid an impromptu visit to a girls dance class down the street. Two of the dancers had waited in their leotards to meet him earlier but had to leave since the campaign was running late. When he spontaneously showed up at their make-shift studio, the group of girls giggled as he joked around and asked them for their votes. As one woman put it, "He's a smart man. Now, their parents will at least vote for him."
As the night was winding down, word spread that Dean had been ripped to shreds at the debate on the Confederate flag issue. There were grins on the faces of campaign staffers. While Gephardt remained cool and made no comments on the matter, Bill Burton, his Iowa press secretary, said "I know Dean is running in the Democratic race but it's beginning to sound like he's running in a Republican one. The next thing we know, he's going to be campaigning at Bob Jones University."
Gephardt goes Granite for first time in weeks
Nov. 4 — Congressman Gephardt seemed to make up for lost time on Monday, his first day campaigning in New Hampshire in the last few weeks. The drizzly day began in Exeter, where Gephardt state campaign chairman Jim Demers picked up the Congressman in his plush 1999 motor home, which he bought at a bargain basement price on E-bay.
At the "Every Child Matters" forum on the UNH campus, Gephardt ripped into President Bush for his under-funded "No Child Left Behind" program and paid tribute to a high school teacher who helped him apply to college.
When the floor opened up for questions, a 13-year-old girl named Lil asked, "What kind of a student were you in high school?" Gephardt laughed, then sighed. "Oh my gosh … well, I was a geek … let's start there." "I was a fairly a good student. I wasn't at all an A-student. I did good but I wasn't at the top of the class." Recognizing his deficits he said, "I was not very good athlete. I'm coordinated but I'm not really good at any of these things" … ."I played tennis. I was an alternate on the high school tennis team, which means I wasn't any good." "I participated in school plays … I was in a musical called Sweethearts."
Leaving the UNH forum an elderly attendee fell down the concrete steps outside and cracked her head open. It was bleeding profusely. Demers called 911 and gave me and others instructions, and I held towels from the bathroom against the back of her head before the paramedics arrived. Gephardt found out the woman's name and number later in the day and called her up to wish her well. She was all stitched up and feeling fine.
I asked Gephardt whether the trip indicated a new New Hampshire strategy. "We're going to work hard in New Hampshire, I've worked hard in New Hampshire through the past nine months. You know in the last 30 days, we were concentrating on Iowa and trying to get everything we needed to do done there. And now, we're going to now work on a full strategy. We're going to work in New Hampshire and I'm working in the other states that come after New Hampshire."
After several New Hampshire stops, it was time to head to Boston for a meeting with Harvard students and then an appearance on "Hardball." The campaign was running late. The four-car caravan sped down Route 2 at about 80 mph led by Mike, a Gephardt intern at the wheel of his fancy new SUV that he won in a raffle.
Chrissy loves dad and campaign, but not pie
Nov. 3 — Bill Burton, Gephardt's Iowa press secretary, calls Chrissy Gephardt "the campaign's most effective secret weapon."
Chrissy was reportedly thrilled with Saturday's front-page New York Times story about her and the influence she has on her father's campaign, particularly when it comes to gay rights issues. (LINK) The article hit the stands as she made a swing through eastern Iowa, making 10 stops in three days.
When speaking to young crowds, Chrissy gives a stump speech drawing from personal experiences, just like her father. She talks about her personal experiences as a social worker and addresses domestic violence and women's health care with her mostly younger audience.
She differs from her father, however on one major thing: she doesn't like pie. While her pie-loving dad is regularly the recipient of freshly baked pies when traveling in Iowa, Chrissy was given a piece by a supporter this weekend and had a very different reaction. "I don't really like pie but this is still really good," she reportedly said.
Chrissy courts Iowa youth
Oct. 31 — Chrissy Gephardt began a three-day tour in Iowa Thursday meeting with students at Drake University and Simpson College in Des Moines. While her father's campaign schedule is filled with stops at senior centers and union halls, Chrissy works at drawing in what some might call "the Dean generation," stopping at college campuses and places like the Vibe Coffee House in Cedar Falls.
As Chrissy was busy on the ground trying to lower the median age of her father's supporters, the Gephardt campaign was at it too, announcing the launch of a Web site: Students for Gephardt. The site features a blog for students to "comment on campaign activities and communicate with each other" and acts as a "grassroots primer to help students coordinate events in their school community."
Gephardt campaign deals with alleged altercation
Oct. 30 —
Wednesday afternoon, as the Gephardt campaign toured rural parts of Iowa, word spread that yesterday's incident at a Des Moines press event was beginning to bubble over. Not only did they receive word of a letter of protest sent by the Dean camp but rumors were swirling that Des Moines radio stations were abuzz with the allegations that a Gephardt staff member shoved a young Dean tracker and called him an offensive name.
Tuesday afternoon, Hunter Allen, the Dean tracker, was asked by Gephardt's Iowa state director, John Lapp, to leave the speech where about 100 senior citizens were listening to Gephardt map out his health care plan. Allen, speaking loudly on his cell phone next to dozens of journalists, seemed to be reporting back to the Dean office immediately after Gephardt compared Dean to President Bush because of his willingness to cut Medicare in the mid-1990's. Allen left temporarily but returned for a presser held after the speech.
While circling the media scrum to find a good spot to record Gephardt's Q & A, Lapp and Gephardt's "body man" Mike Kelley asked him repeatedly to leave. Allen insisted that he was within his boundaries to stay and that he was simply doing his job. A heated argument ensued two feet behind Gephardt (as seen on the interview tape) as the Congressman continued to answer questions, apparently unaware that things were heating up behind him. In the end, the three walked into a back kitchen and that's the last anyone saw of the argument.
As ABC News' Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder pointed out, the Dean staffer has alleged that he was accosted physically and verbally by at least one of the Gephardt staffers.
Gephardt's Iowa press secretary, Bill Burton had this to say, "There were a hundred people in the room, at least 20 media members, 7 video cameras, and various recorders. He was even carrying a recorder. Show us the evidence. This comes on a day when Dean is hurting because of attacks on his Medicare and affirmative action positions so it seems like an act to divert attention."
In other news, on his two-day, nine-stop mini-tour du jour, Gephardt seemed upbeat and pleased with the larger than expected crowds. His enormous energy level was put to the ultimate test with upwards of 20 reporters vying for 10-minute windows of alone time with him. Most ended up switching in and out of the campaign's rented mini-van in between events, which made the campaign slightly behind schedule, a rarity.
Gephardt told ABC News that if Howard Dean wins Iowa and New Hampshire, "everyone else is toast." Over one of his favorite meals, a Wendy's single burger with pickles and a chocolate frosty, he also spoke about the differences in this year's race vs. 1988. "Today, there are more cameras. I mean, satellite trucks were a brand new thing in 1988 and there were no cable stations. Now, everyone knows your every move!"
Gephardt campaign preps for more attention
Oct. 28 — While Gephardt campaign staffers on the ground in Iowa have heard tales of Wes Clark's chartered media planes and Howard Dean's "rock star" attention on the campaign trail, the number of reporters following Gephardt from town to town in Iowa has, until now, maxed out at four (and sometimes there has been just one). So, it's being met with enthusiasm and a bit of anxiety that there will suddenly be 20 reporters in tow for the weekly whirlwind Iowa tour that begins today with a fresh health care policy speech in Des Moines.
Since last week's Washington Post article reported that several top Republicans view Gephardt as the greatest threat to Bush's re-election, Gephardt has been enjoying more press — and more positive press. The campaign is quick to dismiss the sudden onslaught of attention as a major turn in Gephardt's popularity with the media or with voters. While pleased with the high interest level on their candidate, they say the attention could be here one day, gone the next. Slow and steady, like a tortoise, is their motto. "You need to enjoy the good media weeks but be prepared to weather the bad ones too," one staffer in Iowa said.
On the endorsement front, with its 2,300 members, Iowa Local 234 of the International Union of Operating Engineers endorsed Gephardt Monday. "Gephardt has been a friend of working families his whole career. We are proud to support him and we are ready to put our friend in the White House," said Rick Lane, business manager of Local 234.
Gephardt makes whirlwind of church stops
Oct. 27 — If Congressman Gephardt hasn't made it to services at the Baptist church in St. Louis where he grew up in a while, he more than made up for it in Detroit on Sunday. While other candidates made an appearance or two at black churches around the city, Gephardt had a whirlwind tour of five Baptist churches in four hours. In and out, in and out … and on to the next. The churchgoers who saw him today were generally receptive to a slightly spiritualized version of his stump speech. Gephardt seemed to feel right at home.
At each stop, Gephardt humored the crowd by telling them that he was taught to love his friends and his enemies as he would love himself. He said to one enthusiastic crowd, "Loving my friends as much as myself was always easy, it was the enemies part that was tough. Especially, when I got to Congress and I met Newt Gingrich."
Stop #4 brought a few awkward moments when Al Sharpton, scheduled to speak after Gephardt, took the altar while Gephardt was still talking up his health care plan. While hundreds of parishioners at the Little Rock Baptist Church looked on clapping and chanting with enthusiasm, Sharpton sat motionless and staring straight forward. Gephardt was merely the warm-up act, right? Just as Gephardt finished his speech, he and Sharpton embraced and then held hands high above their heads. Gephardt's speech was a hit with the crowd, but he didn't stick around to see how this preaching thing is really done. By the time Sharpton took the podium, the campaign was well on their way to church number five.
At the Detroit debate, Congressman Gephardt stayed out of the limelight. Asked only four questions throughout the entire hour and a half, Gephardt stuck to his basic Bush-bashing on the war and the economy and spared his Democratic opponents. He continued to talk up his role in the Clinton economic plan and the prosperous 1990s. While neither an attacker or an attackee, Gephardt didn't seem to get as much air time as previous debates when he stirred the pot. And an uneventful debate meant uneventful closing remarks. Veteran Gephardt observers could lip synch along, since he played it safe and stuck to his stump speech, word for word.
Gephardt's labors rewarded with more laborers
Oct. 24 — Congressman Gephardt picked up another union endorsement Thursday, getting the nod from the New Mexico Building Trades Council, AFL-CIO, a local building trades union. This makes three early-state building trades under his tool belt; Missouri and New Hampshire building trade unions endorsed earlier this year.
ABC News also has a sneak peek at another Gephardt endorsement to be announced later today. The International Longshoreman's Association AFL-CIO, is set to be Gephardt's 20th international union endorsement today.
According to its Web site, the ILA is the largest union of maritime workers in North America, representing upwards of 65,000 longshoremen on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Great Lakes, major U.S. rivers, Puerto Rico and Eastern Canada.
Gephardt lets the barbs fly
Oct. 23 —What a difference six weeks makes. While attacks of all shapes and sizes are being thrown every which way in the race these days, Congressman Gephardt was the first to bring his pet skunk to the party. Gephardt launched his first attack on Dean back on September 12th criticizing him for supporting cuts to Medicare back in 1995. He has since expanded his offensive into NAFTA, and now prescription drug coverage is in the mix.
The mudslinging continued Wednesday as the Gephardt campaign fired back at Dean after an ad critical of Gephardt's prescription drug plan began running all over Iowa. While the ad does not mention Gephardt by name, the campaign is confident the harsh words are aimed directly at him, since the two are neck and neck in the polls there — and some polls indicate Gephardt has a slight lead.
A campaign staffer told me today "there's a real fight going on here. Gephardt's message of economic opportunity and universal healthcare is gaining traction in Iowa. There's been a turnabout in the polls since Gephardt pointed out that Dean supported cuts in Medicare. Dean is struggling to regain his lead since he said Medicare is a bad program. The ad that Dean is running in Iowa shows that he's playing defense on retirement security."
Gephardt Enjoys Rain Delay the Most at World Series Game
Oct. 22 — After a day of fund raising, Rep. Dick Gephardt's trip to the Yankees/Marlins game with Miami Mayor Penelas last night could have been a big disappointment, given the 6-1 loss for the Marlins.
A life-long and obsessed Cardinals fan, Gephardt can't stand the Yankees and would probably root for Newt Gingrich's team if they were the opposite the Yanks. But his night took a turn for the better during the rain delay, according to Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith.
"The highlight of the [congressman's]game was bumping into former Cardinals great Ozzie Smith and talking baseball with him," Smith said.
While the Fox cameras seemed to have no problems finding fine citizens like Mike Tyson and singing sensation Yanni, Gephardt was nowhere to be found for folks in their living rooms. The campaign said they wanted him to have a little quiet time and didn't notify Fox that he was there.
After yesterday's news about the Dean campaign visiting all 99 counties in Iowa, the only candidate to do so since Gephardt in 1988, I asked Gephardt's Iowa communications director, Bill Burton, for the campaign's reaction.
"It's a good thing Dean is going to all 99 counties. He's got a lot of explaining to do on his atrocious Medicare record," he responded.
Gephardt will have reached 70 counties in Iowa by the end of next week.
Gephardt Loads Up on Staff for February Primaries
Oct. 21 — The Gephardt campaign is set to announce the hiring of state campaign directors in three key Feb. 3 primary states — Oklahoma, Arizona, and North Dakota — as early as today. They'll open offices and ramp up staff in the coming weeks.
Last week, the campaign announced two appointments in Michigan — Ronald Platt as state director and Raymond Plowden as political director. While Gephardt has been focusing most of his attention on Iowa during the last few weeks, changes seem to be right around the corner.
Gephardt Hits the Iowa Airwaves on NAFTA
Oct. 17 — Stepping up his message of bringing jobs and economic stability back to Iowa, the Gephardt campaign debuted a 30-second ad focusing on trade and jobs in Iowa today.
The ad features longtime Gephardt supporters Olin and Barb Clayton sitting around their kitchen table discussing the effects that NAFTA has had on their family.
Olin Clayton says, "After NAFTA, I lost two good jobs, they closed the plants and the jobs went to Mexico," referring to losing his job at a Firestone plant that closed its doors and moved south of the border.
His wife Barb adds, "We've had to move three times, uproot our family and now we're worried we'll have to do it again."
Bill Burton, Gephardt's Iowa communications director, says the ad buy is "significant statewide", although he would not elaborate, citing the campaign's policy not to disclose campaign advertising details.