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MARGARET WARNER: Senator Kerry, thanks, thanks for joining us.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I’m delighted, and obviously grateful to the extraordinary people of Iowa who take democracy very seriously.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, what does this win do for you?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I can’t answer that. I’m just going to keep talking about what’s important to the American people. People are frustrated and angry. They want … they can’t afford health care. They want somebody to do something honest about the health care system. They are out of work, many of them, and seeing jobs shifted overseas and scared about the future. Kids are looking at uncertainties about college because tuition’s gone up and President Bush has cut loans. I don’t get it. This is the most say-one-thing do-another administration I’ve seen in all my time in public life. I’m going to keep talking about the priorities of Americans, and you all and others will sort out what it does or doesn’t do for you.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, tonight I think it was Ted Kennedy called you the comeback kid. You called yourself the comeback Kerry. What brought that about? How did you come back here?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I just kept talking to people, one foot in front of the other, going into the barns, going to VFW halls, letting people look inside my heart, check out my gut, and put my character to test, and I wanted people to know me, you know, not the way the TV and the other … just to really know me. I think they got to, and I think they trusted that I can be a steady, strong hand at the helm of state, and that I can guide us to a much safer world, that I will renew our relationships in the world, that I can reach out to other countries, and this country wants leadership.
MARGARET WARNER: You said upstairs that Iowa made you a better candidate, and those of us, frankly, who covered you felt that, but what was it, what did you learn about yourself here that made you a better candidate?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: That you needed to reach a little more, that you needed to kind of let people see your gut and see the passion inside of you. The passion has always been there, but I think people really wanted to put you to the test, and I rose to that because I understood it. I like that. I mean, I like the campaigning, but I respect the people here enormously. I love this state. I love the power of the land here, the history of the Mississippi and the Missouri, the openness of people’s love of our democracy, their sense of patriotism. They care. And there’s no cynicism. It really is just unabashed love of country and sense of duty, and I have a great affection, I always will, for this state and for the Midwest — I mean, all the Midwest, different from the other parts of the country.
MARGARET WARNER: Were you surprised at how poorly Howard Dean did?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: That’s, that’s … you know, that’s not for me to judge. That’s so the politics of it. He graciously called me tonight. I respect that. I’ve been on both ends of this kind of thing. I want to offer my optimistic, positive vision for the country, and I’m going to continue to try to do that as we go to New Hampshire, where I, incidentally, will start again as an underdog. So I’m ready to go to New Hampshire and fight for every vote and talk to the folks there who are equally independent and strong-minded.
MARGARET WARNER: But does Howard Dean, despite his poor showing, does he remain a formidable candidate, a formidable rival, I mean?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Everybody is a rival. Anybody who’s in the race is in the race, and I don’t … I’ve never dismissed any candidate, and I have too much respect for a candidacy to do that. I’m just worried about my candidacy. I’m not going to … I’ve got to go campaign tomorrow as hard as I can and talk about my priorities, my hopes for our nation.
But I have 35 years — not just this campaign, not just a small period of time — but 35 years that people can judge about whether they can trust me to stand up and fight for them, whether I will really do the things that I’m talking about.
No one else in this field has stood up as I did against the Vietnam War and fought to try to hold a president accountable. I’m proud of my record of standing up to Ronald Reagan and his illegal war in Central America, blowing the whistle on Oliver North, standing up to Gingrich and his attempt to undo the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, stopping the drilling in the arctic wildlife refuge.
These are things that resonated in Iowa. People looked and said, “This person is a leader, and he’s fought these fights. I can trust him to fight these fights for me in the future.” And that’s what I will do in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you and John Edwards both are going to come roaring out of here and into New Hampshire with a head of steam, and voters there are going to have one week to decide between the two of you and others. What would you say to New Hampshire voters if there’s one essential difference between the two of you?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I think the one essential difference between me and all the candidates in this field is that I am the only candidate who brings the combination of 35 years of fighting for the values of our party and country on the domestic side — health care, children, education, the environment, fairness, enforcement of the law, putting cops on our streets, all the things that make a difference to the quality of our life — and who brings 35 years of experience in international affairs, military affairs, foreign security, foreign policy, and I’ve led in those arenas. I will put my record up against any other candidate in this field, and that’s exactly what a campaign is about.
MARGARET WARNER: So would you say that’s also the essential distinction you’ll try to draw with Wesley Clark, who’s made big inroads in New Hampshire, that you have a fuller package? You simply offer a more well-rounded package than he does.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I’d say again: I am the only candidate in this field who has the length, breadth, and depth of experience in accomplishing and fighting against powerful special interests, taking on the powerful in the country, standing up for campaign finance reform, not taking Political Action Committee money in my own races, practicing what I preach, taking on Gingrich when he tried to undo the Medicare bill and tried to, you know, punish seniors in order to give the wealthy a tax cut. These are the fights that make a difference in our country, and I think the Democrats and the nation want a leader who is proven and tested in all of the things that matter to them.
MARGARET WARNER: Recently you’ve been having trouble raising money. You have, in fact, loaned yourself millions of dollars. Has that already started changing? Have calls started coming in?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: It changed sometime ago. But we didn’t have trouble. What happened was, we raised more than $20 million, which is more than any other candidate except Howard Dean, and then, with the poll numbers and with a lot of the sort of the negativity around, people sort of said, “Well, is this for real or not?” I did what I had to do to prove that I believed in my own candidacy, and I knew it was real, and I think you’re going to see an exciting, energized campaign. We’re going to win this nomination, and I intend to win the presidency.
MARGARET WARNER: Senator Kerry, thank you.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Thanks.