MARGARET WARNER: Howard Dean had the toughest job at last night's debate: Repairing the damage from his third-place showing in Iowa and his relentlessly replayed concession speech afterwards. Dean commented on it himself at the first opportunity.
HOWARD DEAN: You may notice that my voice is a little hoarse. It's not because I was whooping and hollering at my third-place finish in Iowa. It's because I have a cold. We did have a little fun in Iowa. I thought I owed it to the 3,500 kids that came out and worked for us. And sure, I would have liked to have been a little bit... done a little better, but I congratulate John Kerry and John Edwards on great campaigns. I think they ran a great campaign.
MARGARET WARNER: The Rev. Al Sharpton stepped in to give Dean a pass.
AL SHARPTON: Well, first of all, let me say this. I wanted to say to Governor Dean, don't be hard on yourself about hootin' and hollerin'. If I had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I'd still be in Iowa hootin' and hollerin'. ( Laughter and applause ) So don't worry about it, Howard.
HOWARD DEAN: Thanks, reverend.
MARGARET WARNER: In this final debate before Tuesday's primary, the candidates engaged in none of their usual sniping at one another. Instead, they aimed their fire at President Bush, and each candidate made the case for why he would be most electable in November. Sen. John Kerry, who's called for rolling back most of the Bush tax cuts, and Howard Dean, who's called for eliminating all, were challenged to explain why that wouldn't open them to Republican charges that they want to raise taxes.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: That's a fight I look forward to, because if George W. Bush wants to stand there beside me and defend raising taxes for people who earn more than $200,000 a year, which are the only people who, it might be argued, will have a tax increase by rolling back the Bush tax cut that they rushed through instead of giving all of America health care and education so we truly leave no child behind -- that's a fight we deserve to have in this country. That's a fight we will win. But this president has created an economy that feeds the special interests and the powerful and the corporate power... ( bell rings ) ...and he has not helped the average worker in America to advance their cause. I will.
HOWARD DEAN: I'm going to take a different position than everybody. I think we ought to get rid of the whole Bush tax cut, and here's why. Somebody has to stand up and say, "We cannot have everything." We can't have tax cuts, pay for health care, pay for No Child Left Behind, and pay for an adequate defense. I believe we ought to have balanced budgets. I've done it 12 times. And we've got to start telling the truth and stop making promises.
MARGARET WARNER: Gen. Wesley Clark was challenged on his history of voting for Republicans.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: There are people who are worried about Democratic Party credentials; I've got to tell them that. But I'm a Democrat of conviction. But I think what matters in this party is the clarity of your ideas, the strength of your convictions, and your ability to communicate. The Democratic Party is a party of ideas. It's a party as broad as a Montana sky. We welcome everybody into this party, and we care about people. That's why I'm a Democrat.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. John Edwards was asked how he could prevail in a general election, given his support from gun-control groups.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: Through the time I was growing up, everyone around me hunted. Everyone had guns. I respect and believe in people's Second Amendment rights. That does not, however, mean that somebody needs an AK-47 to hunt. It does not mean that somebody who's been convicted of a violent crime should be able to walk out of prison, walk across the street and buy a gun. It does not mean that we shouldn't take every step that we can take to keep guns safe and keep guns out of the hands of kids.
So my belief is, first, I protect... ( bell rings ) ...I defend people's Second Amendment rights, but I don't think it's without limit. I think there are limits on those rights, and particularly when the concerns and rights and interests of the American people are at stake.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who's trailing badly in New Hampshire polls, insisted he was the most electable against President Bush.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: One of the reasons the Republicans don't want to run against me is because they can't say I'm soft on values, they can't say I don't respect people of faith, they can't say I don't want to support faith-based organizations when they help make this a better, more decent country.
MARGARET WARNER: And Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich insisted, once again, that only he had a plan to satisfy the public's desire for a speedy exit from Iraq.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Ask the U.N. to handle the oil assets of Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi people until the Iraqi people are self-governing. Ask the U.N. to handle the contracts until the Iraqi people are self-governing. All that constitutes a plan which would enable the United States to go to the U.N. and say, "Look, agree with this plan, send in U.N. peacekeepers," and 90 days later we'll have our troops home.
MARGARET WARNER: Kerry got a tough question on the war: How would he feel if he were president and returning war veterans tossed their medals away in protest, as he had?
SEN. JOHN KERRY: And I could not be more proud of the fact that when I came back from that war, having learned what I learned, that I led thousands of veterans to Washington. We camped on the mall, underneath the Congress, underneath Richard Nixon's visibility. He tried to take us to the Supreme Court of the United States. He did. He tried to kick us off. And we stood our ground and said to him, "Mr. President, you sent us 8,000 miles away to fight, die, and sleep in the jungles of Vietnam. We've earned the right to sleep on this mall and talk to our senators and congressmen." ( Applause )
And so I ... I can pledge this to the American people: I will never conduct a war or start a war because we want to. The United States of America should only go to war because we have to.
SPOKESMAN: A Diane Sawyer prime time exclusive...
MARGARET WARNER: Right after the debate, viewers who tuned in to ABC saw a kinder, gentler Dean in a first-ever joint television interview with his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean. ABC's Diane Sawyer immediately replayed Dean's Monday night rant.
DIANE SAWYER: What do you see when you look at this?
HOWARD DEAN: I was having a great time. Look at me. I was. Look, I am not a perfect person, believe me. I have all kinds of warts. I wear cheap suits sometimes. I say things that I probably ought not to say. But I lead with my heart, and that's what I was doing right there, leading with my heart.
MARGARET WARNER: Dean admitted it did not look presidential, but said he wasn't apologetic, either.
DIANE SAWYER: And when you saw it, what did you think?
DR. JUDY STEINBERG DEAN: I thought it looked kind of silly. ( Laughter )
MARGARET WARNER: Judy Dean insisted her husband is not an angry man.
DIANE SAWYER: How often does he lose his temper around you?
DR. JUDY STEINBERG DEAN: I can't remember the last time. He just doesn't get that angry. I mean, he doesn't. You know, he just ... he's very kind, very considerate, and it just doesn't happen.
MARGARET WARNER: Sawyer asked them about why Judy Dean is so absent on the campaign trail.
DR. JUDY STEINBERG DEAN: I am kind of private, and I have a son in Burlington I like to stay with, and I have a medical practice which I love. But I also love Howard, and I think he would make a terrific president. I think, if I can help him, I will, and that doesn't mean he's going to disrupt my life, disrupt my patients, my son, but if he calls on a Saturday, and I'm not on call that weekend, I'll be out there on Sunday.
MARGARET WARNER: Candidate Dean said he stood behind her decision 100 percent.
HOWARD DEAN: Judy and I share a lot of values, and one of the things we share is the family always comes first. And to have her out on the trail and have our son at home by himself is just unthinkable. Never mind the issue of careers. I think she has the right to have her own career.
MARGARET WARNER: Dean capped off his repair mission with a self-deprecating appearance on the David Letterman Show on CBS.
DAVID LETTERMAN: From Vermont, Howard Dean. Howard?
HOWARD DEAN: Hi, Dave.
DAVID LETTERMAN: "Top 10 ways, I , Howard Dean, can turn things around." Number ten:
HOWARD DEAN: Switch to decaf. ( Laughter )
DAVID LETTERMAN: Number four:
HOWARD DEAN: Start working out and speaking with an Austrian accent. ( Laughter )
DAVID LETTERMAN: And the Number One way Howard Dean can turn things around?
HOWARD DEAN: Oh, I don't know, maybe fewer crazy, red-faced rants. ( Laughter )