[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
KWAME HOLMAN: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry rallied with New York Democrats in Harlem today. He noted that tonight President Bush will deliver the first speech of his reelection campaign.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I think it’s obvious; interesting because we have George Bush on the run, and he’s going to go out there and start this campaign officially tonight before we even have a nominee of the Democratic Party. And he’s going to lay out what he calls his vision. And I think it’s extraordinary that four years into this administration we’re finally going to get what this president calls his “vision for the nation.”
KWAME HOLMAN: Those remarks followed a weekend in which the Bush and Kerry campaigns traded charges through a flurry of statements and letters.
Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, during a conference call with reporters arranged by the Bush campaign, predicted Kerry would have trouble winning next week’s Georgia primary because of a “32 year history of voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems.” Kerry responded immediately after arriving in Georgia Saturday night, accusing the president of using surrogates to attack his record.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I am not going to stand by and allow these Republicans who continually go to the low road to challenge my commitment to the defense of our nation. I don’t know what it is about what these Republicans who didn’t serve in any war have against those of us Democrats who did. But I am tired of their trying to divert attention from the real issues that confront America.
KWAME HOLMAN: Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot shot back on Sunday with this statement.
“Senator Chambliss addressed your Senate record of voting against the weapons systems that are winning the war on terror. Our campaign is not questioning your patriotism or military service, but your votes and statements on the issues now facing our country.” And Racicot suggested Kerry “elevate the remarkably negative tone of your campaign and your party over the past year.”
Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill countered. “Let’s hope President Bush will stop hiding behind his attack dogs, his $100 million campaign war chest and his campaign chairman.”
This afternoon, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards also joined the fray, while noting President Bush’s speech tonight.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: The White House is calling this speech security or uncertainty. Well, unless the president has found a way in the last 24 hours to create millions of jobs, unless he’s found a way to solve the health care crisis in this country, unless he’s improved the security that this administration is providing for the American people here at home, I can’t imagine he’s got all that much to say tonight.
The American people want this campaign to be about the future, not the past — about the future of the American people. That’s what we should be talking about, what we’re going to do, and I have a message for this president and for Washington, from ordinary Americans all across this country. This campaign and this election is not about George Bush’s past, john Kerry’s past or John Edwards’ past, this is about the future of the American people.
KWAME HOLMAN: Edwards repeated his call to raise the minimum wage and increase worker protections, as he continues to focus on closing the gap with front-runner Kerry before the ten- state contests on Super Tuesday, March 2. The Rev. Al Sharpton campaigned in Harlem today, while Congressman Dennis Kucinich courted voters in California.