JIM LEHRER: Now, a campaign snapshot. It's from last night's Democratic presidential debate in Durham, New Hampshire, which was sponsored by ABC's "Nightline." The major focus was on Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean. Ted Koppel moderated. Here are some excerpts.
TED KOPPEL: This has been an extraordinary day for Governor Dean. As we all know he got the endorsement of former Vice President Al Gore. Things are going very well for him in the polls. Things are going very well for him in terms of raising money so I would like all of you up here, including you Governor Dean, to raise your hand if you believe that Governor Dean can beat George W. Bush. ( Laughter and applause ) Don't look at me. Look at these eight other folks.
HOWARD DEAN: You kind of put them on the spot, though.
TED KOPPEL: Yes, that's the idea. Tell me, Senator Kerry, why didn't you raise your hand?
( Laughter )
SEN. JOHN KERRY: For the very simple reason, Ted, that I believe in my candidacy and I believe in my vision for the country, and because every indication is that I can beat George Bush. And that's been shown in some of the national polls. I was sort of surprised today, actually, by the endorsement, because I thought that Joe Lieberman had shown such extraordinary loyalty in delaying his own campaign that it surprised me. (Applause)
TED KOPPEL: Senator Lieberman, you got a bit of a shock of the solar plexus today. You had to be surprised by it. You have to be a little disappointed by it.
The fact of the matter is, someone has got to win the primaries and the caucuses, and ultimately the Democratic nomination, before they can hope to win the presidency against George Bush. Have your chances received a bad shock today?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Ted, I think in some unpredicted, unexpected way my chances have actually increased today. I can tell you that our phones have been ringing off the hook at the campaign headquarters. I've been stopped in the airports; people angry about what happened.
I'll tell you why I didn't raise my hand in response to that question. This campaign for the Democratic nomination is fundamentally a referendum within our party about whether we're going to build on the Clinton transformation in our party in 1992 that reassured people we were strong on defense, we were fiscally responsible, we cared about values, we were interested in cutting taxes for the middle class and working with business to create jobs. Howard Dean is -- and now Al Gore, I guess, are on the wrong side of each of those issues.
TED KOPPEL: Reverend Sharpton, you were raising your hand before, in response to which part of what happened?
AL SHARPTON: Al Gore went to New York today. He should have noticed Tammany Hall is not there anymore. Bossism is not in this party.
To talk about people ought not run and that people ought to get out of this race is bossism that belongs in the other party. And we're not going to have any big name come in now, and tell us the field should be limited and we can't be heard.
TED KOPPEL: Senator Edwards, what do you think?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: Well, I have this kind of curious notion that I think actually most voters in America make their own decision about who they believe should be the president of the United States. I don't think you can tell them what to do.
TED KOPPEL: General Clark, you're relatively new to the process. It is rumored, however, that you are a favored candidate by the Clinton family. If Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton, or former President Clinton were to offer you his endorsement, would you take it?
WESLEY CLARK: Well, you know, I really have never even thought about that.
TED KOPPEL: Oh, sure you have. ( Laughter )
WESLEY CLARK: No, I haven't. And so, to me, this is about going out to the American people, listening to them, talking about the ideas. This is a very important election coming up, and it's not going to be decided by endorsements.
TED KOPPEL: I get a little bit of a sense of sour grapes here. If anyone else on the stage had gotten Al Gore's endorsement, he would have been happy to have it. What do you think?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I can't say I was really counting on it. (Laughing) But let me say, Ted, let me say, let me say that the ... that some of the best talent in American politics is on this stage right now. (Applause ) And with all due respect to you, Ted Koppel, who I've admired over the years greatly...
TED KOPPEL: There's a zinger coming now, isn't there?
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Yes. ( Laughter ) The ... to begin this kind of a forum with a question about an endorsement, no matter by who, I think actually trivializes the issues that are before us. (Cheers and applause)
TED KOPPEL: Governor Dean, what is it that makes me think that while there may be eight people up here who aren't crazy about that endorsement and who think it trivializes politics, that you probably don't.
HOWARD DEAN: Let me just say a couple of things. First of all, I think John Edwards was right. The people will decide, not Al Gore or anybody else.
Secondly, I'm going to give an invitation, which I have not yet given but I'm going to do it now. If you guys are upset about Al Gore's endorsement, you attack me, don't attack Al Gore. Al Gore worked too hard in 2000 to lose that election when he really didn't lose the election. He got 500,000 votes more than George Bush, and I don't think he deserves to be attacked by anybody up here.
He's not a boss... (applause) ...he's a fundamentally decent human being. And I think Al Gore deserves credit for being the kind of moral leader in this country that we had lost since the last election.
JIM LEHRER: The next Democratic presidential debate is scheduled for Jan. 4 in Iowa.