With the New Hampshire primary just hours away, Kerry and Dean are tied in a statistical dead heat, with the Massachusetts senator trying to keep from saying something really stupid. Even so, his goofball speeches continue. He told supporters in Portsmouth today, “We’re down to the last hour.” Later, he advised, “We shouldn’t downsize dreams in the United States of America, we should realize them.”
Try as he might to live up to his populist pose, the facts keep getting in the way. In The Buying of the President, the Center for Public Integrity in Washington finds: “[Federal Election Committee] records show that ‘people who have business’ before Kerry’s committees, or ‘people who have legislative interests in front of them’ have pumped millions of dollars into his campaign over the years.”
What’s going to happen to Kerry in a general election, if he gets that far, is not a pretty picture. At the off-the-record Alfalfa Club get-together over the weekend, President Bush gave just a hint of how his re-election campaign will bounce Kerry around: “Then we have Senator Kerry,” said Bush. “I think Kerry’s position on the war in Iraq is politically brilliant. In New Hampshire yesterday, he stated he had voted for the war, adding that he was strongly opposed to it.”
In Kerry’s favor, when it comes to choice, the senator shows backbone. “I’m the only candidate running for president who hasn’t played games, fudged around,” said Kerry. “If you believe that choice is a constitutional right, and I do, and if you believe that Roe v. Wade is the embodiment of that right . . . I will not appoint a justice to the Supreme Court of the United States who will undo that right.”
Meanwhile, Dean is talking domestic issues and staying away from foreign policy, and for a reason. In his most recent gaffe, the former Vermont governor flip-flopped on Saddam. In response to a Manchester citizen’s question about Iraq last week, Dean said: “You can say it’s great that Saddam is gone and I’m sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone. But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before.” He added: “I would never defend Saddam Hussein. He’s a horrible person; I’m delighted he’s gone. [But] would there not have been a better way to get rid of him in concert with the United Nations?” Ex-ambassador Carol Moseley Braun is traveling for Dean, attending a “political convention for high school students” in Manchester and then a 100 Club Dinner with Dean in Nashua. The Dean campaign is paying her $20,000 a month for her endorsement.
Edwards is the sleeper. He is drawing large, enthusiastic crowds and hopes to repeat his Iowa showing. He’s as knowledgeable as Dean and totally outclasses Kerry when it comes to debate. Said Edwards: “I just have to continue what I did in Iowa. I mean, what’s happening here in New Hampshire in the last few days is what I saw in the last week in Iowa. The events I go to, I’m expecting 100, 150, and we had an event in Portsmouth that was 600 people, 100 more outside who couldn’t get in. Had the same thing at Dartmouth yesterday—400 or so and another couple hundred who couldn’t get in. So this is the same kind of momentum that I saw there. And I just have to keep it going and keep moving.” Right now he’s polling Number 1 in South Carolina, followed by Kerry. Sharpton is third with 15 percent, just ahead of Clark, who has 14 percent.
Sharpton, who is being advised by Reagan operative Roger Stone, was quoted by the AP as saying: “What if you vote for one of those guys, and then they pull out after South Carolina? You’ve wasted your vote. . . . Know that I am going on all the way to the end no matter what.”
“I’m the only one running you can’t lose with. . . . I can go to that convention and make them deal with the issues they’ve ignored,” Sharpton told The Charlotte Observer. “This [party] has gone to the right. . . . If you’re looking at the bigger picture, we need someone to pick up our agenda as a people, not just get rid of Bush.”
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel