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New Hampshire Update

January 15, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: Adam Nagourney’s colleague, Ed Wyatt of the New York Times has been traveling with General Clark. He joins us now to fill us in on what’s happening there.

So Ed, today, General Clark started taking a lot of fire, incoming fire from the Republicans. This was obviously apparently arising out of some testimony that he gave before Congress sometime ago. Why does the Clark campaign think this is suddenly happening?

ED WYATT: Well, they certainly think it’s happening because they’re attracting a lot more attention. They’re drawing big crowds. They are one of only two candidates who are not contesting the Iowa caucuses, and so pretty much have the field here in New Hampshire to themselves.

And I think it also is coming about because, as the tape that you just ran shows, General Clark can’t give a short answer to a question. That’s both a strength and a weakness. The Republican National Committee, in sending this out today, sent out excerpts from that testimony. One of them was a statement that Saddam Hussein is indeed a threat. That was part of an eighteen hundred-word answer to a question, taking those six words and putting them out there. It certainly looks like he contradicted himself; in the longer answer, his argument that he didn’t contradict himself does tend to hold up.

GWEN IFILL: Well, while all the other candidates are busy fighting, slugging it out in Iowa what is Wes Clark telling audiences in other states, in New Hampshire, and I gather today you were even in South Carolina?

ED WYATT: Yes, well, one thing he’s doing is he’s been using part of every day this week to visit another state. Among them, a number of the Feb. 3 states. He’s basing his strategy on the belief that he can finish a strong second in New Hampshire and then win several of the Feb. 3 states in the South where he’s from, where he thinks he will get a lot better reaction to his campaign themes, which are based on values of faith and family and things that tend to play well in the South.

GWEN IFILL: Is he bracing for the post-Iowa onslaught when whatever happens there ends next Monday night and everybody comes racing to take him on in New Hampshire?

ED WYATT: They certainly believe that they are going to bear the brunt of whatever attacks come either from the Republicans or from the other Democratic candidates. They’ve been trying to make the point or the assertion that this is a two-person race between General Clark and Howard Dean.

I think, if Dr. Dean doesn’t win in Iowa, then there’s obviously going to be a third person in the race, and certainly when you go down South, there are going to be other people, John Edwards has a strong following in South Carolina, Al Sharpton may be drawing a lot of votes down there, so it’s anything but a completed picture now.

GWEN IFILL: And Wesley Clark is making an impact, or this being alone by himself in New Hampshire is working as he had hoped?

ED WYATT: It seems to be. Now, the people in New Hampshire certainly love politics, and in January — after January 1, the crowds at every event that I saw in New Hampshire were noticeably larger. Now, General Clark and Senator Lieberman are pretty much the only show in town. So it’s not surprising in a way that the crowds for them are particularly bigger.

But a number of the people I’ve talked to at the Clark events are coming out because they don’t know who he is. They want to find out about him. They may be expressing some doubt about if they previously committed to another candidate and now want to take another look, or they simply are curious because politics I think next to the Patriots is the biggest thing in town.

GWEN IFILL: Of course I should — I’m glad you corrected me. General Clark is not the only game in New Hampshire. Senator Lieberman is there, as well.

Adam Nagourney, I want to ask you about this idea of the insiders versus the outsiders because with all of these endorsements that Governor Dean is getting, it begins to look like he is threatening his status as the great outsider of this race when you look at all of the party stalwarts who are suddenly rallying around.

ADAM NAGOURNEY: Yeah, I guess that’s true to an extent. His rhetoric — his “I’m the outsider running against the insider” rhetoric has gotten stronger than ever. And there still is obviously a large contingent of Washington insiders who are either supporting other candidates or actively opposing him, particularly around Representative Gephardt and also around General Clark who’s picked up a lot of the veterans of the Clinton and Gore world. But right now, you know, Dean is on that sort of precipice because being an outsider suddenly becoming an insider.

GWEN IFILL: All right, Adam Nagourney and Ed Wyatt, thank you both for joining us.