Senators Ride Surge to New Hampshire

Gephardt Readies to Call Close to Career

Posted January 20, 2004 at 7:53am

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Considered to be fighting for their political lives in the Iowa caucuses as recently as 10 days ago, Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and John Edwards (N.C) dominated the first encounter of the Democratic presidential primary process, taking 38 percent and 32 percent of support, respectively, and ensuring that their campaigns will carry significant momentum into New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, the two men tagged as frontrunners in the Hawkeye State just days ago — Rep. Richard Gephardt (Mo.) and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean — had less than impressive showings despite vaunted organizations. Dean took third place with 18 percent while Gephardt placed fourth with 10 percent and will formally mark the end of his campaign today.

“This didn’t come out the way we wanted,” Gephardt said last night in an address to his supporters from his Iowa campaign headquarters. An official announcement is expected in St. Louis today.

Kerry’s stunning victory was received with jubilation at his Manchester headquarters as hordes of staffers crowded around a big-screen television between making voter contact calls and drawing signs with slogans like “Surge” (a Kerry buzzword of late) and “The Real Deal.”

Former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Kerry’s national campaign chairwoman, said Kerry’s showing in Iowa was the result of voters seeing the Massachusetts Senator as “someone who is going to fight for them.”

While Shaheen maintained that Granite State voters “make up their own minds,” she added that Kerry’s victory is likely to help sway those who have not yet chosen a candidate in New Hampshire’s Jan. 27 primary.

“In New Hampshire there are a lot of undecideds who will look at what happened in Iowa,” Shaheen said. “It is always helpful to have momentum.”

Edwards’ New Hampshire campaign staffers were equally jubilant with Monday night’s results, noting that their candidate made an even larger leap than Kerry in the final 10 days of the caucuses.

Even as the early returns rolled in, Edwards communications director Colin Van Ostern proclaimed: “We’ve already beaten expectations.”

Ostern credited Edwards’ meteoric rise in the polls to his decision to run a positive campaign even as Kerry, Gephardt and Dean were attacking one another on television as well as in direct-mail pieces. “Our campaign is distinctive and different,” said Van Ostern.

Edwards also seemed to benefit from his decision to focus heavily on organizing in rural areas, a task aided by an experienced field staff culled from the successful 2002 campaign of South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson (D).

Van Ostern said that Edwards’ Iowa momentum is being mirrored in New Hampshire as both the number of volunteers and those seeking information about the Senator grew exponentially over the last 10 days.

Dean’s New Hampshire headquarters was significantly more subdued as it became clear that the longtime frontrunner in Iowa had faltered on caucus night.

Dorie Clark, communications director for Dean in New Hampshire, emphasized that voters in the state are “notoriously independent” and said her candidate’s grassroots network in New Hampshire would deliver for him next week.

“New Hampshire voters will be basing their decisions on which candidate they have met and connected with,” she said, noting that Dean had spoken personally with roughly 40,000 voters in the state over the past year. Dean arrived early this morning in Portsmouth, greeted by the sounds of Joan Jett, an outspoken supporter of his campaign, who played an impromptu concert on the tarmac.

Soon after it became clear that Gephardt would not even come close to replicating his 1988 Iowa caucus victory, he canceled his trip to New Hampshire and said he would drop out of the race.

Gephardt had long maintained that support from organized labor and his colleagues in the House would put him over the top, but in the campaign’s final days it became clear that there was little energy for Gephardt’s second presidential bid in the past 15 years.

Gephardt’s departure brings to a close a political career that spanned more than a quarter-century. First elected to the House in 1976, he served as Minority Leader for eight years, stepping down early in 2003 to focus his energies on the presidential race.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who skipped the Iowa caucuses, brought pizza to the staff in his Manchester campaign office, but was reticent when asked what effect the Iowa results would have in New Hampshire.

“I love New Hampshire,” he said. “We are just going to keep meeting people.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), who also did not participate in Iowa, received a boost Monday night as he secured the endorsement of the Manchester Union-Leader newspaper.