IOWA TAKES KERRY
by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
BRADENTON, Fla., Jan. 19. 2004 - After a long hard look, the Democratic voters of Iowa chose U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachussetts from a field of eight candidates tonight to lead them to the White House in November.
It was a stunning upset victory for Kerry and a humiliating defeat for his rivals, only one of whom was even close after pundits and pollsters had almost universally declared the Kerry campaign dead just weeks ago. The American Reporter, however, wrote in early December that Kerry began a comeback bid at the Fla. state Democratic Party convention in Orlando, and said on Jan. 11 that he would overcome those perceptions to win.
The first test of the eight presidential candidates found only three of them distinguished from the field, with Kerry, U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean eclipsing the fortunes of House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Gen. Wesley Clark and U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut did not compete in Iowa, and Rev. Al Sharpton rarely visited the state.
With 98 percent of the Iowa caucus-goers tallied, Kerry led with 38 percent of the vote. He was followed by Edwards with 32 percent, Dean with 18 percent, Gephardt with 11 percent, and Kucinich with 1 percent. Dean had the endorsement of the state's senior U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, as well as Vice President Al Gore, and had appeared with President Jimmy Carter - who praised him as a strong advicate for peace - on Sunday; Carter did not endorse any candidate, however. Sen. Ted Kennedy campaigned with Kerry, and Gephardt ad the backing of major unions.
In a fairly typical caucus in Dubuque, Ia. that was shown on C-SPAN 1, Kerry won with 111 supporters, while Edwards had 43 and Dean had 38. The other candidates, under the arcane caucus rules, were considered "unviable."
When multiplied by 11 and divided by 210 - the total number of the Dubuque caucus-goers - the formula yielded 6 county delgates for Kerry, 3 for Edwards and 2 for dean. So while Kerry got about 6 percent more caucus-goers than Edwards, he got twice as many delegates to the county convention that will help pick the state's Democratic National Convention delegates and their presidential candidates.
The major news services reported that Gephardt would fold his tent after tonight, and his campaign scheduled a press conference for tomorrow in St. Louis apparently to announce that decision. An earlier release by the campaign issued before the results were known said Gephardt would continue to push for votes in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
In a concession speech, Dean vowed to press on in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, and also Michigan and several other states, but made no mention of Florida, the decisive battleground in the historic Year 2000 race.
Gephardt, saying "Well, it wasn't what we planned," said the dramatic recovery of his son Tim from cancer last year helped him put this night in perspective. He was also priased by all of the other candidates as a tireless friend of the working man and the Democratic Party.
Edwards congratulated Kerry and said the Iowa caucus results confirmed his vision of an America that helps 35 million people living heere in verty join the mainstream.
Kerry, who in his own victory speech hinted again at the possible choice of Edwards as his vice-presidential running mate, was both elated and somber by turns as he accepted the mantle of leadership from Iowa voters and considered the task ahead. He is trailing Dean and Clark in New Hampshire and has only a week and a day to turn that pimary campaign into a victorious one. When he smiled, however, he seemed many years younger, evoking a warmth and happinness that erased 20 years from a craggy face that has been legitimately compared to that of New Hampshire's signature rtock formation in the White Mountains, The Old Man of the Mountain.
But with the energy of the Iowa victory sweeping him forward, and his long familiarity to New Hampshire voters as the four-term junior senator from neighboring Massachussetts - Boston is just 55 miles from New Hampshire's capital, Manchester - the potential for yet another reversal of fortune favoring Kerry appears strong.
Several elements of the Kerry campaign lacked polish Monday night. On CNN, both the triumphant entrance of the candidate and his mentor Ted Kennedy's introduction was blocked by two people waving red Planned Parenthood signs that hid the faces of both men. His wife may have seemed petulant or uninterested when she is actually just not a typical always-grinning politician's wife, while his older daughter, Vanessa, watched the proceedings with apparent wide-eyed awe until she and her sister Alexandra, who seemed a more poised and experienced campaigner, were introduced. He reacted sharply to a blast of feedback from a bad microphone. While Kerry seemed ready for the contest, his technical crew seemed a second behind.
The audio of Kerry's victory speech was repeatedly lost on CNN and C-SPAN, and his victory was often overshadowed in some CNN coverage by Howard Dean's loss. When Kerry finally appeared on CNN's Larry King Live, promos for the show had repeatedly promised former GOP Senator Alan Simpson while only briefly mentioning Kerry's imminent appearance. It was an odd and inauspicious start to what is likely to be the new Democratic front-runner's charge to the nomination. It will be a matter of much interest to see if Kerry can ultimately pull together a human but seamless campaign process that has ushered two Republican incumbents in three decades back to a second term. Tuesday's presentation was, however, "the real deal" Kerry's campaign has promised.
In Manatee County, Fla., ironically, C-SPAN 1 was repeatedly interrupted as it showed the Iowa caucus results and an actual caucus in progress in Dubuque by a stray signal - apparently from C-SPAN2 - showing Barbara Bush, mother of the current president and wife of former President George H.W. Bush, making a speech. Part of the C-SPAN Dubuque presentation was unsynchronized, apparently due to the intruding signal. Mrs. Bush could be seen clearly at times but her voice was not heard as she stood talking at a lectern, possibly on a book tour. It was unclear where the Bush tape originated, but it appeared to be from an earlier C-SPAN presentation.