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Campaign ‘Times’

January 21, 2004 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: The New Hampshire primary is less than a week away. We get a Campaign Times update on the changing political landscape from Ed Wyatt of the “New York Times.” Ed, welcome.

ED WYATT: Thank you, welcome.

JIM LEHRER: Is there a lead story from New Hampshire tonight?

ED WYATT: Well, there are a couple of stories. All the candidates have different tasks this week. Mainly for the two men who finished first and second in Iowa, John Kerry and John Edwards, they are focusing on organization and money.

If they want to move beyond New Hampshire, they are going to need a lot of those in the seven states that vote on February 3, as well as the states that vote thereafter. And it looks like it could be a long primary season.

JIM LEHRER: Are there already signs that their one, two finish in Iowa is in fact helping them raise new money?

ED WYATT: There are signs each of campaigns reported that they received a lot of money in online contributions on Tuesday, the day after the caucuses in Iowa. How long that surge of money will continue remains an open question. They are going to have to do a lot of advertising in those states that vote in the first half of February and get organizations on the ground. That’s going to require a lot of money. John Kerry, obviously has donated money to his campaign from his personal funds. John Edwards is raising more as well.

JIM LEHRER: There in New Hampshire there’s something going on between Kerry and Clark about the veteran’s vote is there not?

ED WYATT: The veteran’s vote is big in New Hampshire as it is in South Carolina. There are a lot of veterans here from the naval yard, from the former air force base, they are competing very aggressively for those votes and they are doing so in kind of different ways. Of course, you have a general and a war hero and — who then denounced the Vietnam War in Senator Kerry and they are going head to head for votes and there are a lot of veterans swinging back and forth one way or another.

JIM LEHRER: In a nutshell what is Clark’s basic approach, in a few sentences? What does he say to a veteran as to why a vet veteran should support him rather than Kerry?

ED WYATT: He has been saying I’m a leader. I’m all of the things people look for in Iowa. Can I stand toe to toe on President Bush in military policy; I come from a humble background. I come from the South and I can win in there. I can do things that by implication the northern senator cannot.

JIM LEHRER: And Kerry counters that in what way, in terms of — specifically going after veterans?

ED WYATT: Well, Kerry has been consolidating his veteran base here for many years as a senator. Southern New Hampshire is practically Massachusetts in terms of the news that they are exposed to. He has aggressively courted that constituency. He has used it in his previous campaigns as organizing and getting out the vote and the thing that experts in veteran’s affairs here say is that it’s not just the veterans themselves. It’s their families. Their children, their extended families who if you can get to the veteran, you get a lot more votes.

JIM LEHRER: Is there any evidence that as a result of Iowa there’s basic retooling going on of the basic message particularly from Howard Dean?

ED WYATT: Absolutely there is. Howard dean today went back home to Vermont to talk with his advisors and what he is doing is looking at what parts of his message worked in Iowa and what didn’t. Of course the thing that he has received the most attention here is his opposition to the war. But in interviews with voters going into the Iowa caucuses, the war was the kind of third on their list in terms of issues before. Before that was the economy and jobs as well as health care. Now, he has to seemingly focus more on those issues than perhaps on the war.

JIM LEHRER: Much was said after Iowa about John Edwards — the reason he did so well was because he had an upbeat message. Is there an attempt at least in these early days, these early hours of the other candidates to say okay let’s be a little more upbeat than we were before because of what happened to Edwards?

ED WYATT: They seem to be being upbeat and whether that perception is accurate or not, Edwards has not been completely upbeat. He has run some ads attacking some of the other candidates. But I think you are going to see a generally positive atmosphere in the debate tomorrow here in New Hampshire; if any attacks are launched they are probably going to be on President Bush. Everyone did, all the candidates here, are going to be trying to look presidential by contrast, particularly Kerry since he is now the frontrunner. He is not going to go on attack and the others will try to tone it down because of results that Howard Dean got in Iowa. The thinking is being negative does not get you anywhere.

JIM LEHRER: The big event tomorrow is this debate, the last debate before the vote on Tuesday?

ED WYATT: It’s the last debate here in New Hampshire, the last one before the vote on Tuesday. There’s one more the following week in South Carolina. It’s a little bit smaller field now so the candidates will get a little bit more time on camera.

JIM LEHRER: Okay. Ed, thank you very much.

ED WYATT: Thank you.