ABCNEWS' Gloria Riviera is on the trail with North Carolina Sen. John Edwards as he makes his bid for the White House. For the latest report, scroll down.
ATLANTA, Georgia, March 2--Way back before it all started, this whoa-nelly-we-are-a-national campaign (!), and Sen. Edwards made his inaugural visit back to reporters' quarters on the campaign plane, the visits were few and far between. He walked slowly down the aisle and often did not make it halfway before heading back to his sequestered section up front. Despite the fact that many of the reporters had been on the trail for months and were on a first name basis with the Senator, he was slightly stilted in navigating the casual, off the record environment. "How are you," he'd ask. "You guys doin' alright?" Maybe the reporters held back as well, unsure of exactly how to go from inter-acting with an ultra-disciplined, always on message candidate to the newly renovated, laid backwards Edwards.
It is stilted no more. Edwards has been back and forth on just about every leg of every trip in the run up to Super Tuesday. Instead of cautious questions that yield cautious answers, reporters and candidate (sometimes) chat with something approaching candor. While it might pale in comparison when veteran campaign reporters spin lore of candidates past, for example there are no nicknames doled out a la Bush, it is significant in another way. Edwards has learned a thing or two along the way, and in no small part that lesson has included press-candidate etiquette 101.
To provide an illustration of how far things have come from sequestered, silent candidate to now: Sunday Edwards' two young children were on board the plane. As Body Man Hunter Pruette put it, three-year-old Jack Edwards has never seen a camera he does not like. In fact he took a real liking to MSNBC embed Dugald McConnell's DV camera, sitting on McConnell's lap as Edward plopped down across from him and settled in for a chat as Jack commandeered the lens. Edwards introduced five-year-old Emma Claire to Dugald as well. This would be the Dugald whose first piece on the campaign was entitled, "Go Away Duglad" because it featured campaign staffers from the candidate on down (Elizabeth Edwards included) saying (not without reason) straight to camera, "Go Away Dugald!" What did Emma Claire have to say upon meeting the famous Dugald? Her eyes widened, "Duuu-gaaalllddd?? Your name is Duuu-gaaalllddd?" Apparently she had not heard that one before.
In fact, on and off the campaign plane, Edwards appears relaxed. It is as if he is fully enjoying this run up to Super Tuesday, despite the daunting polls and the once and for all end of the honeymoon with the national press. Tuesday he canvassed Ohio from Toldeo to Cleveland to Dayton. Attendance was between 200 and 400 at Monday's events, culminating with a Hootie and the Blowfish concert in Macon, Georgia. The concert was held in a massive hanger space, which was just about half-filled what with equipment and staff and a less than elbow-to-elbow audience.
Senator Edwards has been here before, a primary day that could make or break his campaign. But this time it has come down to two. Though the vertical on the uphill battle against Senator Kerry is clear, his stump speech reminds audiences of the hills he has climbed thus far in his life; getting to college, becoming a lawyer and "taking on the Jesse Helms political machine" when he ran for Senate.
He seems the picture of confidence. Perhaps he knows something the rest of us don't. Or perhaps he is satisfied he has already achieved what he set out to do, and it is simple. He has run a national campaign that ostensibly reached the goals he set out for himself at the outset; establishing him as a powerful force of potential within the party and having no small amount of fun along the way. No matter what happens on Super Tuesday, that much is done.
For Whom the Polls Toll…
NEW YORK, NY, Feb. 29--So what is a candidate do when he finds himself, once again, facing poll after poll boding nothing but bad news? Repeatedly cite one poll that bears good news, that's what. And so it is that John Edwards has added a new (new!) line into his standard campaign speech, citing a Survey USA poll that has Edwards beating George Bush in a general election in North Carolina. From Atlanta, Georgia to Cleveland, Ohio to Albany, New York Edwards delivered this news to crowd after crowd who reacted, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, with cheers and nods.
On Sunday evening in Albany, Anna Engle came to hear Edwards speak. "I don't understand how Kerry won in Iowa and New Hampshire," she said, "I think he drones on and on. I noticed when Edwards talked to newspapers, they started to endorse him. I wondered, 'Who is this guy?'" Engle is just the kind of person the Edwards campaign is desperate to reach in these last few days. Undecided voters who may have heard more about Kerry than their guy, but what they have heard they see as positive and inviting. Still, after seeing Edwards Engle was still not sure who she would vote for come Tuesday.
Asked by reporters over the weekend just what he makes of the uphill battle the polls present, Edwards said with a smile, "Sound like Wisconsin."
Asked by reporters if he has to win something, anything, to go on after Super Tuesday acknowledging plain old mathematics Edwards said, "We have to continue to win delegates and at some point we have to start winning more delegates than Senator Kerry."
And what is the deadline for that table to turn? One thing holding reporters back from booking post-campaign fantasy vacations is the fact that most have been here before. Two days before a primary; Edwards is down in most polls. One day before the primary; Edwards is still down. Primary day; surprise! Better than expected results open the gateway to carry on the campaign. But never has there been this many delegates or these many states at stake all in one go. Over the past week select senior aides have allowed that they believe they have a shot at winning more than one state. The agreed upon best chance for a win is Georgia, as such the campaign has decided to watch results from Atlanta. They also allow that yes, despite that fact their candidate tells reporters on the trail he does not have to win anything to go on, it would certainly be a better Wednesday run of the morning shows with a few wins to discuss with Charlie, Katie and Harry. And so we wait. Headlines announce that Bush strategists now plan for a tough fight against Sen. Kerry, but we wait. And while we wait the Edwards camp has mapped out a run up to March 9 schedule that takes their candidate through the Southern states he eyes as a very much still possible battle ground. On each of the previous primary nights except Wisconsin, Sen. Edwards and the travel press corps were off and running to the next battle ground. So it will most likely be this Tuesday. Additional evidence the campaign is determined to continue: money. Over the last week Edwards has held fundraisers in three of the four March 9 states he hopes to play in (Louisiana, Florida and Texas). Sunday the campaign announced post-Iowa funds of $5.7 millions raised, and their goal is $6 million by Super Tuesday. The campaign notes only that the majority of those funds are matchable.
Edwards and press adjust to new security
ATLANTA, Feb. 23 — At the end of a long day that started in New York City, leapt to Albany, Ga., and then onto Columbus, Ga., before hitting the tarmac in Atlanta shortly before 11:00 pm ET, members of the press corps formed a bucket brigade to load all the luggage from the belly of campaign plane Hair Force One into the bus to get to the hotel as soon as possible. After being surrounded by Secret Service all day, which changed the entire dynamic of the campaign trail, it was only on the pitch-black tarmac that the agents were truly missed; a few more helping hands would have been nice.
The Senator, for his part, seemed to be neither here nor there on the Secret Service verdict. He was seen very little until the end of the day when he came back to chat with press on the last leg of the trip. If he wasn't in a Secret Service SUV, he was hunkered down doing a power hour of 11 satellite interviews for audiences in Georgia, Minnesota and California. If he was not doing interviews, he was at an event separated from press (save a brief New York avail) and whisked out upon completion.
We in the press corps were warned. A memo advised cooperation and patience in adapting to the new security measures. But who would have thought some would yearn for the days of yesteryear, of high-speed minivans and events held in small town libraries across Iowa's smallest counties? Of those long and never-ending days that inherently provided more than enough time for any and all of our questions. Of hallway shots and backstage access when a simple nod to Sam Meyers Sr. or Iowa spokeswoman Kim Rubey would yield a quick one-on-one interview with the Senator before or after an event?
Gone. Instead, an eight-car caravan ferries the Senator to and from plane to campaign events well before or after the press. Luggage screened and re-screened, long lines to get into events and mandatory huddles before leaving them. Seats immediately outside the Senator's cabin on the plane, once available on to any member of the travel press corps with enough energy to get off the bus in the first wave, have been claimed by agents and are most definitely not subject to negotiation. Instead, the press corps is relegated to the back compartments and must wait for a glimpse of the candidate. No more impromptu press conferences upon lift-off, no more shadowing the candidate in the middle of enthusiastic crowds, inches away and privy to off-the-cuff conversation with voters.
Edwards' long-wished for two-man race brings similar trappings for both press and candidate. Seemingly endless in-depth scrutiny is on the horizon for us both: our equipment, his electability. Ups and downs (access or no access for us, energetic or tepid crowds for him). And finally, the uncertainty of what exactly the future will hold post-March 2.
Edwards is doing everything in his power to outpace Kerry. Despite no word from the Kerry campaign in response to his challenge for additional debates, Edwards continues to tell crowds he believes they deserve a one on one match-up. He fights his way to the front of reporters' radar screens on issues big and small, Monday pre-empting Bush's speech with his own response, before Kerry's. And his staff makes sure the press is aware of each and ever endorsement, however big or small, that comes his way. This despite the very public opinion Edwards' has of endorsements in general; in the end they are but one item on a long list of things voters consider.
Does the taste of the trail reflect his style these days? Are crowds as determined as the Senator seems to be? The crowd in New York was a more of a photo op and Q&A than a rebel raising Minnesota brouhaha. And in smaller places like Albany and Columbus, where several hundred showed up, his go-to laugh and applause lines sometimes fell a bit flat. Predictions, at this point, will remain withheld.
Edwards starts Tuesday morning in Atlanta with a fundraiser and run (the first trailed by Secret Service) before departing for Houston early afternoon.
The Wheels on the Bus …
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Feb. 22 — Those are the lyrics as sung by the Edwards press corps en route to the last stop of the day on Sunday aboard a yellow school bus warning: No Swearing and No Standing in the Aisle.
Sunday afternoon the Edwards press corps meandered through a crowd made up of locked out employees formerly of RMI Titanium in Niles, Ohio. Both groups waited for the Senator, watching their breath vanish into a cold February sky tinged with the smell of burning wood.
And without the routine fanfare of cheers and booming tunes of John Cougar Mellencamp, Senator Edwards strode up the road. No aides or police and accompanied only two members from Local 1255. For once, the candidate was momentarily unnoticed by the majority. And in that moment of silent pause before applause, as one by one the press and crowd caught sight of him, Edwards was already smiling and walking with purpose.
That event and the Senator's demeanor are emblematic of a weekend orchestrated to play to his strengths. From a Savannah town square under a sunny Georgia sky and framed by age-old Magnolia trees all the way to a dismal afternoon event in front of the literally and symbolically locked factory gates in Niles, Edwards was as "on" as he has ever been, seemingly consumed in a quiet, focused confidence that seems all the more so juxtaposed against downright frenzied crowds.
He is riding a wave of warm reception doled out from the national media as well as welcoming crowds in Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio. Is this the honeymoon before the storm? Do overflow crowds of Deaniacs wearing Howard pins with John Edwards' signature scrawled on top in permanent marker mean the movement has a new map? Does the addition of a second debate before Super Tuesday mean the Senator's wishes are slowly but surely coming true?
As intent and impassioned the press corps is at the unpredictable business of predicting, a few things can certainly be counted as dependable factors in the equation. For one, Edwards has proclaimed the Governor a man for whom he has "great affection, great admiration and great respect … my friend, Howard Dean." This works with many who come to hear Edwards speak after realizing they may have heard the last from Dean himself, for now. One woman in St. Paul said she appreciated what Edwards had to say about Dean, liked him and what he had to say but would nonetheless spend her time "shopping hard" between the remaining four candidates. Other former Dean supporters gave Edwards two minutes of their time after waiting up to an hour before walking out of his event just after it started. Not because they did not like what he had to say. On the contrary, two minutes was enough to convince them he was their new guy.
In Iowa people wanted to touch John Edwards. They wanted to reach out and shake his hand or give him a hug or get his signature. They want the same in Minnesota and Ohio, in Maryland and Georgia. Trailing the Senator in crowds, one hears, "I touched him!" Body man Hunter Pruette is the unfortunate recipient of several people's aggressive attempt to get a signature on their Edwards signs. A popular crowd move is to hit Pruette on the head, thrust a sign into his hand and gesture madly with a pen. He accommodates as many as he can.
And Monday he will have help. As of 12:01 am ET Monday, Edwards is under the protection of the Secret Service. From now on between 10 and 15 agents will accompany the campaign as it heads to Georgia, Texas and California. No word yet on a code name, but it has been confirmed that the Senator will for the first time since he began his quest for the presidency be forced to compromise the one thing he is known to hold just about sacred. He will give up the solitude of his daily run. From now on, an agent will join him for every step of those five miles.
And in final color from the campaign trail, the color in press lead Jenni Engenbretsen's face has returned after a harrowing first few days taking over for spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri. "Tiger" as she is known, was thrown into the mix at a most intense time. She faced complaints of the triple F threat (Filing, Food and Face Time) from the press corps on Saturday when one thing led to another and it all culminated in 4:00 pm tea sandwiches presented as lunch and dinner on the plane. All was remedied by Sunday to utter delight, and onward it is in very capable hands.
Leigh is Her Father's Daughter
HOPSCOTCHING AROUND WISCONSIN, Feb. 16 -- The political press corps traveling with Sen. John Edwards is filled with professionals. They're people who understand the nuances of the campaign, who can pick up the slightest change in a tightly scripted and fine-tuned stump speech, who can analyze a candidate's body language, turn of phrase, and even the way he looks at an audience. They know his positions on the issues, swap jokes over beers on the campaign plane and can tell when he's tired. They write endlessly about crowds, message, and strategy, and they speculate about the campaign's next move.
And for two minutes on the day before the Wisconsin primary, they were upstaged by a 10-year-old girl wearing a scrunchy shaped like a little leopard.
During a press availability Monday morning at the seen-better-days South Milwaukee Community Center, after Edwards had ginned up a crowd of about 150 with theater in the round and talk of bringing together the "two Americas," after questions about when and where he first started talking about NAFTA, Leigh Harwood, daughter of the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood, got her chance.
"Do you have enough followers to win the primary on Tuesday?" she asked.
"I don't know. We'll have to find out tomorrow. But we have a lot of strong supporters in Wisconsin we're very proud of," Edwards said.
It was the question that follows Edwards to every event, even as the campaign plans fundraising events in New York later this week and campaign stops in Georgia, Maryland and Ohio. Does he have enough supporters? Can he win enough to keep going until Super Tuesday? And beyond? At what point is enough enough?
The march forward continues, the campaign maintains, to the shores of March 2. And even a casual observer has to admit that Edwards connects with voters. Whether it'll propel him far enough is a separate question. Another still is whether a finish far behind the winner -- in either second or third place -- will give him enough oomph to go out and keep convincing those donors to write those checks to keep him on the air in huge states. Not to mention whether it will allow him to keep credibility with voters when he says that he's going to be the next president of the United States.
At Edwards' last primary eve event, at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, a supporter held up a sign made of red posterboard that read: "2nd in Iowa, 1st in Wisconsin."
We'll have to find out tomorrow…
Edwards looks up with Clark out
MILWAUKEE, Wis., Feb. 10 — And then there were two. Or so the Edwards campaign would very much like to believe. As news of Gen. Clark's retreat from the field of Democratic candidates trickled through the Edwards ranks, one senior staffer was overheard saying, "Exactly as I planned." The question now is, how will that plan play out?
The Tennessee results were just about thistooclose for comfort, but a win is a win (as Clanrk demonstrated in Oklahoma). Therefore the Edwards strategy of coming in second before proceeding to Wisconsin has come to fruition, in the minds of those in the Edwards camp, and the next few days will be spent trying to figure out how best to replicate Iowa magic in the Badger State.
Initially the campaign had planned to head to California and went so far as to release a preliminary press schedule outlining plans for Thursday and Friday events. No more — too much time in California at the cost of golden Wisconsin hours. Instead the Senator will criss cross coasts, fitting in fundraisers and retail politics.
Early rise after late night
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 10 — Having woken up in Tennessee at the crack of dawn and pulled from their Holiday Inn Express slumber to attend an early morning campaign event at Prater's Barbecue in Morrison, Tenn., the Edwards press corps was nothing if not anxious to make the most of what felt like a sunrise arrival event. As it turned out, it looked more than promising.
After all, this was a small town where a factory closure would soon erase an estimated 1,300 jobs from the community. Kathy George and her husband Randy had worked at United Technology for a combined total of 56 years. By spring, they have been told, they will both be out of jobs. The Georges have one daughter in college and a son in high school. They don't have any idea, they say, of what they might do next.
And so it was that Senator Edwards made room in his schedule for a visit to Morrison to meet with the factory workers Monday morning. After leaving the intimate campaigning of Iowa behind in exchange for orchestrated events and similar to-the-syllable stump speeches, the press corps was eager for real voters (!) and genuinely interested to see how Edwards interacted with the people he says he understands better than any other candidate — the people he says he will "lift up" and "embrace." Hard-working middle-class Americans who suffer from NAFTA and deserve a "president who believes in them."
It was not to be.
The majority of the press did not get any farther than a cup of coffee served from the deck in front of Prater's Barbecue. They ambled aimlessly outside avoiding the stale donuts offered in consolation. For conflicting reasons, the press was not allowed in the closed-door meeting between Edwards and the Morrison workers. While some of those interviewed said they did not mind, others understandably were not partial to the idea of the media listening in on what they hoped to be a private conversation with a man they might consider voting for the Democratic nomination in Tennessee on Tuesday.
Thus the press made do with an extremely brief press avail, grabbing what interviews they could outside as attendees exited the event. Most said they were impressed with Senator Edwards (they always say that) but that they were still thinking about Kerry. Many said all they really wanted was to beat Bush next fall.
As a grumbling press corps made its way to Hair Force One for the quick flight to Norfolk, Va., it was noted that the press bus passed the Battleship Wisconsin (while driving down "Bousch Street" no less). The campaign would seemingly get there sooner rather than later, having for all intents and purposes conceded a second place finish. If Edwards pulls anything else off in either Tennessee or Virginia, it will be considered a huge victory, no doubt spun as a come-from-behind triumph over media momentum.
Already the campaign has taken pre-emptive measures and scheduled a 6:00 pm ET departure for Milwaukee, Wis., in order to fit in an evening event to kick off a two-day tour of duty. Edwards will make only one public appearance at a polling station in Virginia in the early in the morning before retreating to closed-door meetings and down-time before wheels up to Wisconsin. The march toward Feb. 17 has begun.
As Sweet As Tupelo Honey …
33,000 feet and rising over TUPELO, Ala., en route to MEMPHIS, Tenn., Feb. 3 — For the Edwards campaign, it is as easy to romance in reflection as it was almost all too intoxicating to experience. The backstage post-speech moments when John Edwards paused between grinding out interviews, taking intermittent turns to glance up at a television screen showing him up a point in Oklahoma, then a point and a half, then tied. His eyebrows raised as he slugged down water and shook his head, and staff let themselves think about whether they should send their candidate back out into the crowd to celebrate Oklahoma's results.
How dramatic and enticing, how the headlines might have sung, the storyline that might have been if Edwards had taken by a declarable point or two the Sooner State of Oklahoma in addition to his decisive win in South Carolina.
As it is, South Carolina was sweet all around, and seemingly enough on its own to take the campaign where they say they want to be.
Edwards headed straight to Tennessee and Virginia, where the battle plans are in place for a stand against Senator Kerry. The campaign will call their Oklahoma finish essentially a tie for first, as late night/early morning tallies had the difference between the General and the son of a mill worker numbered in the low hundreds region.
Still in flux are final decisions on how and when to play in Michigan. Campaign sources cite recent endorsements and public polling as reasons to go, but expensive airwaves and airtight scheduling as reasons to stay away. Already the campaign has started to rumble over Wisconsin, where they say the real battle between two Democratic candidates will go down.
Michigan is like the quarterfinal in the Post -season playoffs. On one page in the playbook, the campaign has a bye straight to the semi-finals by leapfrogging the state and putting their starting lineup to the test in the later Southern states. On the other page in the playbook, a strong quarterfinal might help in the next round, but there is the risk of injury. Top aides will meet today while the candidate campaigns in Tennessee and Virginia to strategize, organize and for the first time bat around the beginnings of a March game plan.
But in the immediate future look for the Senator to read David Letterman's Top Ten List from New York Wednesday evening. Edwards will fly to New York for fundraising in addition to Letterman after campaign events in Memphis, Tenn. and Norfolk, Va.
And in real breaking news, Edwards, senior traveling staff and press corps flew on an upgraded 737 airplane (mirrored walls, leg room, snacks, blankets!) straight to Memphis from Edwards' Columbia celebration headquarters. Gov. Dean is riding on Pearl Jam's vacated seats? The Edwards camp is filling those of Paul McCartney, Dave Mathews and an unnamed Saudi prince.
What time is it? Game time.
GREENVILLE, S.C., Feb. 2 — On lazy weekend afternoon last fall, John Edwards rode a trolley from a tailgate to a young Democrats campaign event in Columbia, S.C. Sunlight filtered in through open windows. It was warm enough to leave coats at home. The press secretary left the candidate unattended and the body man still had weekends off. On that typical Southern football Saturday, the candidate talked about the game and what he missed most.
"Friday night games," he said. After a week of seemingly endless practice on torn-up fields in preparation, he said he missed the smell of fresh-cut grass and the moment of culmination when his work, hours upon hours week in and week out, was truly tested.
Senator, welcome to your own Friday night game.
On the night before THE night for the Edwards campaign, the candidate arrived in a driving rain at the day's last event in Seneca, S.C., the town where he was born (50 years ago, Edwards reminds audiences) and the town that has, to varying but omnipresent degree, defined his entire campaign.
For a candidate who refuses to give public predictions or venture even the slightest hint of a guess at any outcome thus far, Edwards has bet the farm on winning South Carolina from day one.
And after fighting vigorously all week in an effort to ward off any threat posed by Senator Kerry and extinguish once and for all any significant challenge by Gen. Clark, Edwards' aides say they have more hope than they did earlier in the week that he will pull off a victory here on primary day.
A South Carolina win will be their ticket to Memphis, Tenn., and the launching pad for their Feb. 7 and 10 battle plans.
Speaking to a crowd that included extended family members, some of whom have been personally canvassing door-to-door, Edwards' voice was down to a hoarse whisper. One gets the sense he would rather be bellowing out a lengthy closing argument. Instead he began, "As you can see, I have been doing a lot of talking." Despite being "miked-up" for cameras, it seemed his voice was somewhat painful to hear for family and staffers alike.
Edwards started off by saying that on the way to the event he heard fantastic news. He cited the CNN poll showing him one point ahead of Bush in a national campaign as his parents, daughters Cate and Emma Claire, and Jack (perched on Elizabeth's shoulders) cheered him on to an abbreviated speech that ended in well less than 10 minutes.
Campaign staffers were eager to spin the positive news: in addition to Tennessee and Virginia, they have decided to play in Michigan due in part to public polling which has convinced them Edwards is more than viable in that state.
When it comes to Kerry, the campaign's message is a bit less than seamless. Palmieri argued that in the immediate post-New Hampshire aftermath, Kerry was convinced he could win in South Carolina but ultimately backed down when he realized Edwards would likely take it. Meanwhile as recently as Sunday Edwards characterized the challenge as a "dogfight."
Regardless, Kerry still poses a daunting threat to the Edwards effort in delegate numbers. Particularly if Clark takes Oklahoma, a scenario Edwards' Oklahoma state director Ward Curtain indicated keeps him up at night dreaming up new ways to court rural male voters. But there is a path out, and it starts best by winning big in South Carolina tomorrow night and taking a piece of the pies in Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Life on the road with the Edwards campaign has gotten a bit dangerous. Veteran Washington Post political writer David Broder was the victim of faulty duct tape when in Seneca an "Edwards for President" sign slipped off a basketball backboard and slightly sliced the top of Broder's scalp. Two Band-Aids were enough to cover the wound and stop the bleeding. While
Broder kept a resoundingly stiff upper lip, it wasn't pretty.
Secondly, watch out for the Edwards' press buss screeching to a halt on busy highways to pick up press pizza. Out of nowhere Monday afternoon it was a Miami Vice style freeway freeze as cars pulled up on either side of the teal and orange bus to deliver sausage, pepperoni, cheese and mushroom pizzas on the mid-event route.
Edwards campaigns in Greenville and Columbia Tuesday with a scheduled departure for Memphis around 11 pm ET.
The Voice Is Gone
CHARLESTON, S.C., Feb. 1 — It happened to Kerry, it happened to Dean. Sooner or later, it was bound to happen to Edwards.
No, Nick Baldick has not been replaced. The shakiest thing to happen back at campaign headquarters recently was a computer virus that resent zillions of old e-mails to the in-boxes of the entire press corps, dated in mid-November with headlines like "Edwards Will Return to Iowa." The campaign manager's job is safe and sound, strategizing an ideal world urge to surge to take place seemingly eons from now in Tennessee and Virginia.
And no, the candidate has not re-visited his decision not to "bust the caps," as Edwards likes to stay. That decision was made long ago by some but not Edwards, who in Florence, S.C., said he thought his campaign was in perhaps the best financial shape of any candidate in the game.
It's the voice. The voice is going.
Early Sunday a slight, raspy itch and intermittent break was just ever so evident when Edwards said, on "Face the Nation," that he "would not accept" the number two slot. It was the strongest language he has used to date on the topic. In Florence, S.C. at an afternoon event he gulped some water before his press avail, which apparently worked because his voice was very clear when he said, "I think you should ask Senator Kerry if he is interested in being Vice President." The VP question has stolen the throne from those on his hair and his youthful looks as the single most stubborn inquiry Edwards gets on the stump.
But by 8:45 pm ET, when Edwards walked into LJ's bar in Charleston, S.C. to cheer on his beloved Carolina Panthers on in the Super Bowl, he had to swallow hard and belt out a "Go Panthers!" from his belly as he donned a team jacket and shook hands on the way through a cigarette smoke-filled bar. At the second bar hop stop, Manny's, the Senator's daughter, Cate, darted through the crowd to hug her father. "It's my voice," Edwards told her, rasping his way to the end of the evening.
It has been a very long weekend with little rest. Since Friday Edwards attended events in five states, and trudging behind him was an ever bulging press corps featuring an army of New York Times reporters as well as new additions from the New Republic and The Economist. From Friday night's Hootie and the Blowfish onward the schedule became fraught with travel delays. Due to a snafu en route to New Mexico early Saturday morning, the entire press corps was individually searched by airport security. The Senator sat, shoes off, feet up and wand waving, as all reporters, photographers and camera crews removed item after item for the monitors then went through their own wand check. At one point a pocketknife was found in the Senator's luggage, which he promptly passed off as belonging to body man Hunter Pruette. Pruette, meanwhile, had trouble of his own when his shoes tested positive for TNT.
However, when it was all said and done candidate, staff and press made it back to South Carolina in one piece. Aside from the language on the VP slot, the biggest news out of the Edwards campaign this weekend was the "Two Americas, One Super Bowl" cash pool lottery won in the final quarter by Scott Martell from the Los Angeles Times. It seems only fitting as Scott's son, watching the game on the west coast, was charged with phoning in each score to his dad (for immediate distribution to the entire press corps).
Monday Edwards will make his way from Charleston to Denmark to Columbia and Seneca, where he will end the day with a photo op event at his childhood home accompanied by Elizabeth Edwards and Cate, Emma Claire and Jack.
ADS: South Carolina: Edwards is on the air with two 300-second spots; "American Jobs" and "Better Life." Statewide. Oklahoma: Edwards is on the air with two 30-second spots; "American Jobs" and "Believe in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and the Sherman/Ada markets. New Mexico: Edwards is on the air the air with two 30-second spots; "Two Americas" and "Better Life". The campaign is also running radio ads in Spanish and English across the state. No change since last report: Missouri Tennessee Virginia
ST. LOUIS, Mo., Jan. 28th— Something is missing on the Edwards campaign. Gone are the black Gore-Tex boots that took Senator Edwards marching through both Iowa and New Hampshire. In their place? Black dress shoes for the formal phase of simultaneous state campaigning.
"I've had two meals today," said Senator Edwards just before take off on the last leg of a six-stop, three-state tour that started at 7:00am in Orangeburg, South Carolina and would end at 1:00am EST in St. Louis, Missouri (or Mizzur-AHH as Edwards pronounces). "And," he sighed, "they have both been from McDonalds."
The Senator chose a chicken sandwich over a cheeseburger and added extra ketchup for dinner (it was the deluxe big breakfast platter in the morning). Never a health nut, in this new phase of his campaign the Senator will have to adapt to even more on-the-go eating than before if he hopes to keep up the pace set on the first day of multi-state campaigning. Only now, the fast food meals are piled in a pyramid, set out on a tray and served with napkins on the campaign jet instead of jammed into crumpled to-go bags squished between seats on the floor of a rental minivan as Aaron Pickerell holds forth on the merits of the Culver cheese curd.
Is personal fast food service a sign of a robust campaign ready to rock? The Edwards campaign has spun their third place New Hampshire finish neck and neck with Clark as a one week message-based surge of which they can be proud. Coming off Tuesday's primary and addressing crowds throughout the day the Senator pointed out that ten days before the New Hampshire primary most polls put General Clark 20-points ahead of him. Third was a victory for a campaign that spent less time and money in the state.
But coming home is much better. Introduced at various events as the states' "native son," Edwards launched his South Carolina effort with a new campaign slogan, "Bringing it Home." The campaign is focused on tighter, well-produced events that provide camera crews with packed crowds, good lighting and of course, the music. The entire stump speech has been toned down and well tuned down to the number of fist pumps and pauses to smile back at the crowd.
On hand in Orangeburg, SC was Ike Williams, who was asked about Rep. Jim Clyburn's at that time still only possible endorsement of Senator John Kerry. "I am not for this band wagon thing," he said. "There was a band wagon behind Dukakis and we went into a train wreck."
Edwards will fly back to South Carolina in the morning and hold one event in Greenville before the debate that evening.
P.S. Other signs the campaign is ready to really rock include a future concert by the band Hootie and the Blowfish, of mid-nineties "Hold My Hand" and "I Only Want to be with You" fame. And of more recent legitimate claim to musical fame, Boyd Tinsley, the violinist from the Dave Mathews Band, has endorsed the Senator.
And I Won't Back Down
ORANGEBURG, S.C., Jan. 28— Within hours of his Iowa caucus second place celebration, the Senator was understandably and immediately thinking ahead to New Hampshire and reportedly told select senior staff he felt it was going to be a long week. It was.
Although crowd size exploded as the week went on, culminating in a 650+ person rally held in a Church in Portsmouth on Monday afternoon, there was never the consistent buzz building atmosphere in New Hampshire that followed Edwards everywhere in Iowa. At select events, yes, there was an energy and excitement in the crowd, verified by the "head nod to stump speech point" ratio that shot up when the Senator was 'on'. But Edwards could have used a week packed with those kinds of events, as opposed to one or two a day happenings in the final stretch. Gone was the rally cry, "We are going to shock the world!" and it never seemed quite appropriate enough in New Hampshire to bring it back with the same vigor.
Edging out Clark would have been sweet success, but the campaign points out that once Edwards got past two top contenders who enjoyed almost 100 percent name recognition from day one he had to deal with two additional contenders who spent more money and more time in the Granite state than he did since he played in both New Hampshire and Iowa. They maintain their Iowa second was well worth it, as it revitalized their campaign and brought national attention to it, both at a time it needed it most.
As for the evening, Edwards' demeanor was ever so slightly resigned and seemingly anxious to move on. He and his wife watched results from a suite in the Radisson Hotel in Merrimack, New Hampshire with their eldest daughter, Cate. Speaking to reporters at a time results were still coming in and it looked to be a battle for third place, Edwards explained to the press that he was intent on taking his campaign to the national level. At once point Elizabeth Edwards jumped in, "He's got all the momentum," she said. Perhaps not hearing her Edwards turned and said, "Who does?" "You, you have all the momentum," she replied. "Oh yes, of course I do."
Once Kerry hit the stage, Edwards was eager to talk to his supporters, thank them, and then get out of town on the first of the three Edwards' campaign planes (all on Air Palmieri) available. He spoke briefly to Larry King, and then skipped the outstanding option to do Nightline or CBS News.
For a candidate who fully recognizes his greatest strength is connecting with voters one-on-one, leaving the intimate era of campaigning behind him must be somewhat of a mixed bag. While the Senator himself said the time is now for a different kind of campaigning he welcomes, removing that connection factor and relying solely on his oration skills in "closing arguments" will shift the face of the campaign from candidate to message even more than it has been post-Iowa.
The first stop the Senator will take that message is, of course, home. Edwards will start the day in Orangeburg, SC (where the press corps arrived at 3:00am despite the fact the city was hit with an ice storm and power had been down less than 24-hours before) before heading to Oklahoma and Missouri o with an eventual overnight in St. Louis Wednesday night.
The ad buy for the immediate future is as follows: in both New Mexico and South Carolina the 30-second spots "Better Life" and "Two Americas" are in rotation and in Oklahoma "Two Americas" is up.
MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 22— "This is great chapstick. I really love this chapstick." - JB
So went the observation of one Edwards' staffer late night post-debate. An insightful commentary on what is good in New Hampshire. And what else is good for the Edwards' campaign in the Granite state? The following are the top three:
1.Elvis has left the building: after Edwards' event on the Dartmouth University campus in Hanover, NH a new exit strategy was on display. After his speech Edwards was whisked outside, down the stairs and into the bus in minutes flat. In the five minutes it took to get outside, audience members hoping to catch a glimpse of the Senator missed him completely and the following commentary was overheard, "He's gone! I missed him! I can't believe it."
2.What over 30 percent of Iowa caucus-goers decided last Monday night: Edwards is a real contenda'. In response to Peter Jennings question on lack of experience Edwards hit that one out of the park.
3.I may not be an expert, but is that the point? In response to Peter Jennings question on understanding Islam, Edwards deftly admitted he was no expert. The real issue, he argued, is the challenge in understanding the people, not solely their choice of prophecy.
But other than those bright spots and the biggest crowds to date at events, these long days in New Hampshire can feel like weeks, months or years to a campaign itching to get down South. The hierarchy of news stories, with Kerry's comeback leading the headlines, Dean's stumble second up and Edwards' third tier (if that) is getting old to a campaign looking to capitalize on that Iowa surge.
And so? Hedge your bets and pop your head into home turf - that is the strategy for the rest of the week. Edwards will make one more visit to South Carolina before the final push in to primary day when he jets down south for a Friday afternoon appearance.
MANCHESTER, NH, Jan 21— While the extent to which this story dogs Edwards today remains to be seen (he has only one event before the debate) last night it certainly had the press corps buzzing, calling, phoning in etc., after his avail.
Internally, the Iowa surge is not surprisingly attributed in no small part to the entire field effort (which according to all accounts succeeded due to thoroughness and intensity) and it is hard to think something like this would pass unnoticed--still sources at every level won't budge on indicating who knew what, and when.
Of course all the traveling press corps wants to determine is what Edwards knew, and when. Just before his avail Edwards was asked, in the Q&A session at his Portsmouth Town Hall, what he thought about Gephardt. Edwards went on extensively about what a "good man" Gephardt is and how he could absolutely see including him in an "Edwards Administration" without a doubt. Juxtaposed against the literature in the packet on Gephardt (which says he led Congress to lose the House)--however prefaced it may be by caveat flattery--the story could prove prickly for Edwards particularly given the window in which it broke. While in Iowa 4 days out we were hearing many audience members "heavily leaning toward" and decided for the Senator, here in NH (and in a very unscientific post-event poll) the majority seem to be undecided. At this point the most damaging potential is what his rivals tell people on the trail and how it plays tonight at the debate.
Edwards himself was decidedly lawyerly and deft in deflection, and already word is the campaign handled the incident well by nipping it in the bud. I expect it to come up again today if he does an avail, but the campaign is resolute in moving on.
GREENVILLE, SC, Jan. 20— And on the first day back in New Hampshire?
The Senator did not sleep. The Senator did not run. And the Senator did not drink absurdly copious amounts of diet coke.
Not a bad price for second place out of Iowa and a ticket of momentum into New Hampshire.
No time to sleep or run, what with hitting four states in less than 24-hours. Edwards started his day in the wee Tuesday morning hours when wheels hit New Hampshire ground in Concord. After two events he went on to two fundraisers in New York and one in Boston, finishing the day in Greenville, South Carolina. Tomorrow he attends an early morning rally in Greenville, SC - a move intended to show Edwards "staking his claim" to his home state.
While Edwards' message on the trail has changed but little (Iowans are "blunt" while New Hampshire residents are "direct" but both have taught him a thing or two) staff discussions off the trail have been entirely revised. At one time the campaign was looking to make "the best of bad situations" in the first two battle ground states: a Gephardt loss in Iowa followed by a Dean win in NH would have taken the son of a milkman and Senator Kerry off the playing field, clearing the way for a "Dean alternative" (remember that phrase?) to emerge down South.
No more. Now begins a bit of wait and see, although time is short and the campaign is itching to see their guy get in the debate ring. Campaign strategy remains based on promoting their "optimistic message of hope" and as always, do not expect to see John Edwards attack his rivals. Respond to attacks, yes, but there will be no first punch from this campaign.
What to put on the air and when to do so remains in flux. "Believe" and "Two Americas" are on the air right now in the major markets, but what political ad aficionados are on the lookout for is another glimpse of "Now" - the Iowa closer ad featuring no voiceover until the tag line and instead of script a visual-text montage chronicling the "Edwards experience" over time.
Out on the trail the Senator, travel staff and core travel press were all a bit weary after the post-Iowa all-nighter. Switching gears from the Hawkeye to the Granite state seems to have left the on the road campaign team a bit wistful for that warm Iowa buzz. Why is it hard to trade the overflow crowds in Iowa behind for the decidedly undecided (but still overflow) crowds in New Hampshire? Attribute it to stellar work of field guru Jen O'Malley and deputy field guru Joanne Salazo, whose names were on everyone's lips Monday night as one reason Edwards' Iowan-to-Iowan strategy worked the way it did. Attribute it to the way crowds caught on, the Des Moines Register's endorsement or that thing called mo'. Whatever the reason, that certain something that had crowds and candidate on fire in Iowa has yet to arrive here in New Hampshire.
MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 19 — Sometimes it is hard to acknowledge a "moment" as it is happening. But on caucus night in Iowa as the very first indications of a possible second place finish reached the Senator and his wife in their suite at the Savery Hotel in downtown Des Moines, John Edwards was certain about one thing. This was his moment.
Asked if it was the biggest night of his political career, the Senator did not hesitate for a flash. "Of course," he said rather gravely.
At 8:15 pm a small group of reporters met with the Edwards' in their suite, where the mood in the room was anticipatory and tense. The Edwards' sat side by side glued to C-SPAN, leaning forward toward the television with hands clasped in their laps. Campaign manager Nick Baldick said that in the run up to Monday, there were hopeful discussions of a close third place finish. Conventional and heavily touted spin would have had even a fourth place finish declared a victory, and not without justification. It was only one week ago the campaign celebrated the Des Moines Register endorsement by telling reporters it help them convince Iowans to take Edwards' candidacy seriously.
But even then, though there were no high fives, there were the first signs of barely suppressible grins from the faces of senior staff on down. Miles Lackey tried but failed to hide a full ear-to-ear grin as reporters filed out, and Sam Meyers Sr. wore a suit and tie for the occasion. Something, it seemed, was up.
And by 9:30pm, when Edwards bounded on stage, kissed his wife on the forehead the way he had almost 26 years ago when they were first dating, and turned to face the crowd it was clear. Nothing was tense about the way Edwards thanked his supporters and staff and vowed to continue what he now commonly refers to as "This cause." At the end of the evening, the expanding press corps flew ahead of the Senator on a private charter in order to get into position for his arrival in Concord, N.H. Approximately 40 hardy staffers danced (someone even did "The Worm") and chanted until Edwards walked through the hangar door and was promptly covered in metallic confetti.
The campaign has been airing two ads, "Right" and "Two Americas". Starting tomorrow "Believe" hits airwaves. The Senator will spend the majority of the week campaigning in New Hampshire, with perhaps one overnight mid-week in South Carolina.
I Believe in YOU
80 MPH, ON THE HIGHWAY TO CEDAR RAPIDS, Jan. 15 — The Body Man believes in country music. The Spokeswoman believes in good karma (recently reunited with the cell phone she left on a plane several days ago). The Iowa State Director believes in the power of rural caucus goers in places like Oskaloosa County, where he grew up and where the librarian at the afternoon event in Mahaska County squealed, "Where's my Aaron!?!" The Advance Man believes in signs, signs, signs, and magic hat remedies for faulty microphones. And the Candidate? The Candidate told audiences from Ottumwa to Burlington, "I believe in YOU!"
While the campaign says there will be no new moves in the next four days, the slightest variance in vernacular is notable to the traveling press. The "I believe in you!" line has emerged in the last few days (Weeks? It's all a post-New Year's blur) in Edwards' direct plea to each and every audience he comes across. His countdown address to crammed-to-the-wall crowds in the majority of venues culminates in this last request: "Join me in this fight! Join me in this cause!"
Edwards is amped. He's pacing in front of crowds, still wearing his black goretex boots day in and day out despite the fact there is little snow on the ground these days. The boots made for an interesting illustration Thursday when Edwards delivered his speech at noon in Des Moines. Joining him onstage for the first time were several new faces hopping on the campaign at a time that has never been as "hot, hot, hot" - to quote the last person one would guess (can you?) as it is now. Amongst the nary-a-scratch pairs of dress shoes, Edwards' boots stood out to the trained (or excessively any-new-detail obsessed) eye, and one couldn't help but ask at where all these faces have been on the climb up.
The campaign is targeting an estimated 50,000 caucus goers in the run up to Monday, with media appearances in-between (including one on Politics Live just before his Des Moines speech kicking off the "Five Days to Change America" tour). Edwards will appear on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday. Tomorrow, Edwards will campaign in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Greenfield, Creston and Winterset.
Five-year-old Emma Claire and three-year-old Jack will also be out on the trail, as Elizabeth rejoins her husband after a day campaigning on her own.