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Kerry and Edwards Hold First Rally Together

July 7, 2004 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: Accompanied by their wives and children, John Kerry and John Edwards appeared together as running mates for the first time this morning. They talked with reporters on the lawn of Kerry’s home outside Pittsburgh.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: I could not be more proud of the pick I have made. This man is ready for this job. He’s ready to help lead America. He’s a person of compassion, of conviction, of strength, and together with Elizabeth, they represent, I think, the future that we want to fight for, for all Americans. It’s my honor to introduce to you, with the help of a lot of Americans, the next vice president of the United States and his family. John.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: Thank you, John. Well, first of all this is a great privilege for me. A great opportunity to serve my country which I love so dearly.

KWAME HOLMAN: Edwards went on to explain what he likes about Kerry.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: He shares the values and the vision that I believe in. I grew up in a small town in North Carolina. This is the kind of the man we grew up looking up to, respecting, somebody who believed in faith and family and responsibility, and having everybody get a chance to do what they’re capable of doing, not just a few.

That’s what this is about for us. And for so many Americans, this campaign is about the future and it’s about restoring hope. People are desperate to believe again that tomorrow will be better than today. That’s what John Kerry represents for the American people. He represents hope.

KWAME HOLMAN: Kerry and Edwards then set out on their first campaign swing, stopping in Ohio, one of the key battleground states this election year. Kerry introduced his new running mate to supporters in Cleveland, while behind them, Kerry’s older children cradled Edwards’ younger ones.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: This is a man who shares my unyielding optimism and sense of hope about our nation, about the possibilities of the future. Together we are going to restore to America the values that belong to Americans and define us as a people. Together we are going to move one step closer in these next days through the convention and on to November, to end the Bush presidency. Together…. ( cheers and applause ) …together over next 120 days, we are going to fight for the America that we love. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome with me, with your help, the next vice president of the United States of America, John Edwards. ( Cheers and applause )

PEOPLE: ( Chanting ) Edwards! Edwards! Edwards! Edwards! Edwards!

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: I just heard my four-year-old son, Jack, behind me asking why there are so many American flags out here. I have an answer for my son: Because when John Kerry is President of the United States, we are going to restore real American values to this country. ( Cheers and applause ) It’s what this campaign and this election is about. I also know that John understands, in a very real way, the problems that the families that I grew up with in North Carolina are facing every single day. This is not news to any of you. You know about it. You know, some of the academics call it the middle-class squeeze. This is real.

People who… you can’t save… you know what I’m saying. You can’t save any money. Takes every dime you make just to pay your bills. If something goes wrong, if somebody gets laid off, you have a child that gets sick, you go right off the cliff. John Kerry understands this. He has spent the last year and a half in real America, listening to the problems that people face, in town hall meetings, which is why he has a real plan to create jobs, to have trade agreements that actually work for America. ( Cheers and applause )

KWAME HOLMAN: Edwards then cited Kerry’s credentials to be commander-in-chief.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: And the truth is, there is no one better prepared to keep the American people safe than this man. Back in the 1960s, he volunteered three different ways: He volunteered for military service; he volunteered to go to Vietnam; and then he volunteered for one of the most hazardous duties you could have in Vietnam, to be the captain of a swift boat.

The result was he was wounded, he won a whole series of medals, and if you ask any questions about what John Kerry’s made of, about his leadership ability, about his strength and his courage, just spend three minutes– three minutes– with the men who served with him 30 years ago, who still stand by his side. They saw up close, when their lives were at risk, that this man was a leader, he has courage and determination, and he would never leave any American behind, and that’s what he will do as our president! ( Cheers and applause )

PEOPLE: ( Chanting ) Kerry! Kerry! Kerry!

KWAME HOLMAN: Kerry and Edwards addressed another crowd in Dayton before flying to Florida this evening, part of a four-day campaign swing that ends Saturday in Edwards’ home state of North Carolina.

JIM LEHRER: And what does history tell us about running mates? Ray Suarez goes for some answers.

RAY SUAREZ: We get that longer view from presidential historians Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith. Richard is also the director of the Lincoln Presidential Library and museum. And I guess we should remember that at the very beginning, the vice president was really just the guy who came in second place in the presidential race. But once we started with the party process that picked tickets, what did the man at the top of the ticket look for in a vice presidential nomination?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Different things from now, although as you say, under the old system, the president now would be George W. Bush and the vice president would be Al Gore, which would be lots of fun. In recent times or at least since the 12th Amendment, you’ve had a presidential nominee who chooses to run with him as vice president. And in the old days, it was usually balanced in regional ways and ideological ways.

This country was a country where if you grew up in Illinois, you probably stayed there your whole life so it meant something to you that someone from your region was on the ticket and the other thing was that before recent times, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party were umbrella parties. There were a lot of Republican liberals, there were a lot of Democratic conservatives. Not so many anymore. So those things are less important.

So what you see now, especially in the age of television is very much what we saw today, an effort to choose a ticket that, yes, the vice president is someone prepared to be president if necessary, but a ticket that will look good on television and where the vice president seems to complement the presidential candidate in terms of what he lacks.

RAY SUAREZ: Richard, Michael talked about geographical balance. Has the calculus changed in modern presidential elections?

RICHARD NORTON SMITH: I think actually it has changed fairly significantly, largely as Michael says, because of television. It is a very interesting thing. John Kerry is in an interesting position. This late into the campaign, there is a surprising number of even nominal supporters of Sen. Kerry who say they don’t really know enough about him. And at least until recently, many of the polls have suggested that the more important factor is opposition to President Bush than necessarily support for Sen. Kerry.

This is an opportunity, this month, this selection and the convention that comes up and of course later on, the debates are an opportunity to fill in the blanks, to define himself, to give nominal supporters along with independents and some Republicans that will be watching with an interest they haven’t been displaying earlier, positive reasons. So how this decision was made was almost as important as the decision itself.

You know, anyone who runs against an incumbent president has an extra burden of proof. He has to prove that he can be presidential. What do presidents do? They make important decisions, decisions fraught with consequences. For the Kerry team, this was an opportunity to demonstrate they could operate in a very discreet, thoughtful, serious, presidential way and the result was John Edwards.

RAY SUAREZ: And Michael, it hasn’t always been that way, the process, I mean.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: No. Very different. Look back to 1952, for instance. Adlai Stevenson was nominated by the Democrats and late at night, he chose or was almost chosen for him, the senator from Alabama John Sparkman, whom he barely knew, had almost nothing in common with. Sparkman was a southern conservative, Stevenson was a northern liberal. That was the way you did it. They also did it without checking into Sparkman’s background. That’s the way it was done.

Until the early 1970s, when you had a situation like George McGovern choosing Thomas Eagleton of Missouri, hastily at the last minute after McGovern was nominated, and then later on it was shown that Eagleton had electroshock therapy for depression, had to get off the ticket, then you see the process develop the last few months with John Kerry where these people are very carefully vetted.

RAY SUAREZ: Richard, are there any examples of the choice being crucial, where it either lifted up a ticket, a nominee that hadn’t been performing that well or really sandbagged a ticket?

RICHARD NORTON SMITH: It’s interesting. 1960 is probably the classic illustration. The convention was most of the time that a vice presidential candidate can’t really help you but he might hurt you. In fact, 1960 broke that rule. There is no doubt that Lyndon Johnson, who had been John F. Kennedy’s closest and bitterest rival in the fight for the year’s democratic nomination, when JFK, an Irish Catholic from Massachusetts, a young man, the youngest elected president in American history reached out to LBJ from Texas, powerhouse on Capitol Hill, that was a defining moment and probably the single biggest factor in the ticket’s election, because of Johnson’s appeal in the South. On the other hand, you had Richard Nixon who really would have liked nelson Rockefeller to run with him and in the end took Henry Cabot Lodge…

RAY SUAREZ: In 1960.

RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Yeah, because Dwight Eisenhower liked Lodge. Lodge was an odd choice. Lodge was a Brahmin from Massachusetts, he never died from overwork on the campaign trail. He used to take an afternoon nap every day and then demand Portuguese skinned sardines. It is interesting. He went into Harlem, did the most controversial thing in the campaign, admirable by today’s standards, he promised that there would be an African American in the Nixon cabinet. Well, this didn’t sit well in the South where Richard Nixon was walking a tightrope trying to appeal to southern voters. So in 1960, maybe the conventional wisdom held true.

RAY SUAREZ: Now you’ve talked about how television in your view has affected the change. Has it also been affected by the change that’s been perceived in what presidents want vice presidents to do? The stature of the office, the content of the office?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Absolutely, because in the old days you might see a vice presidential candidate during the campaign but they were invisible thereafter because these people were ciphers. Richard Nixon as Eisenhower’s vice president never had any office near or in the White House. His office was on capitol hill. He never went upstairs in the white house. He wasn’t very involved. Nowadays in recent times, since Walter Mondale under Jimmy Carter, the vice presidents have been given a role in the White House as a chief adviser to the president, and at no time more so than with the recent two, Al Gore under Bill Clinton, of course, Dick Cheney under George W. Bush.

RAY SUAREZ: Richard, is it also a function, this modern way of doing it, of parties being less important, less structured than they once were?

RICHARD NORTON SMITH: Well, parties are less important. There is no doubt about it. Independent voters are more numerous. They’re more changeable. They are a large part of this. But, you know, one thing I think history does suggest is that we should all be a little bit careful before we jump to immediate conclusions based upon the instant reaction. Think back to 1984 when Walter Mondale, needing to shake up the dynamics of the race when he was trailing Ronald Reagan, did something very dramatic and historic. He picked Geraldine Ferraro, first woman on a major ticket, congresswoman from Queens.

At the end of the campaign, the excitement had been largely dissipated for a number of factors including some financial problems that her husband had. In 1968, Richard Nixon, having been burned by Henry Cabot Lodge, picked Spiro Agnew to be his running mate. And there was no doubt, polls all showed that most voters thought at the beginning and the end that Ed Muskie, who was Hubert Humphrey’s running mate was much preferable to Spiro Agnew there. At one point the Democrats cut a campaign commercial which simply had a voiceover saying “President Spiro Agnew” with 60 seconds of laughter. Yet you know what? On election day, Richard Nixon won and there is no evidence that Spiro Agnew cut into his vote.

RAY SUAREZ: Can you conclude that it doesn’t really matter that much?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: No, I don’t think you can because it happens in subtle ways. In 1992, Bill Clinton chose Al Gore. Before that time, Clinton had won the nomination but was very controversial. People were thinking about Gennifer Flowers and the draft. Clinton, at the time he chose Al Gore exactly in 1992, this week in the cycle, Clinton was running third after Bush the elder and Ross Perot. He chose Gore, someone who was abounding with family values, a warm family, military record, and also doubled the message they were both southern Baptist centrists. And from that moment forward, Clinton began his climb. Very soon thereafter, he was first in the race. That was something he was all the rest of the campaign until his victory.

RAY SUAREZ: Michael, Richard, good to talk to you both.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: A pleasure.