Back and Forth
The fallout from the Iowa caucus was clear to see, there were now just three potential Democratic nominees, former Vice President Al Gore, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, and North Carolina Senator John Edwards (Ohio representative Dennis Kucinich and Reverend Al Sharpton remained in the race but never polled outside the margin of error). All the candidates had something to prove in the upcoming New Hampshire primary, Gore who had led the polling nationally and in the state of New Hampshire for the past year and a half needed to show that he was still the Democrat's presumptive nominee and that Iowa was an outlier for his campaign. Kerry needed to prove that he was still in the running, his second-place finish in Iowa proved his campaign viable but that needed to be bolstered by a stronger showing in New Hampshire, a victory would give him the energy to move forward. And Edwards needed to use the momentum from his Iowa triumph to prove himself a strong candidate nationwide, and a win in New Hampshire would turn him into the front runner.
Through 2003, Gore held a large lead over his opponents in New Hampshire, 20% over Kerry his closest competitor, but following the blow in Iowa it was clear that Democrats were reconsidering their options for who their nominee should be, Gore lost ground quickly dropping to an 11-point lead ( he was at 36% followed by Kerry at 25%), Edwards gained considerable ground from his Iowa victory doubling his polling average until he was just behind Kerry at 24%. Kerry and Edward's gains were attributed to the energy both candidates were putting into travelling and spending funds in the state as well as the new momentum coming out of Iowa "People are now saying, 'Oh, maybe Gore doesn't have it locked up,'"
A pollster said. "What they're looking for is a winner. And there's nothing better to prove you're a winner than winning.”.
The 3 major Democratic candidates Al Gore, John Edwards and John Kerry
The Gore camp was clearly concerned about the polling data, the team had expected a tough challenge in the granite state from the start and the loss in Iowa sunk expectations. What could have been the moment the campaign sew up the entire nomination process, confirming Gore as the true frontrunner and nominee, was now his greatest challenge yet. New Hampshire Senator Shaheen warned the Gore camp “You can’t really run up here on name recognition”
and told Gore to put extra leg work in the state,
Gore had learned that 4 years ago when he successfully kneecapped the Bill Bradley campaign beating him by a narrow 4% that ended Bradley's chances, now Gore worked overtime to shift his image from boring technocrat to passionate fighter and the contest started to get bloody. Kerry and Edwards went after Gore for the first time, attacking the former vice-president where it hurt the most, his electability “All respect to the former Vice-President but our party needs a candidate who can defeat President Bush”
said Kerry, and Edwards kept repeating the line “We can’t make the same mistakes we made 4 years ago”
. Al Gore fired back accusing both men of breaking commitments to stay away from negative campaigning and proudly declared “As far as I am aware, I am the only candidate in this race, who’s won the popular vote in three national campaigns”
The candidates competed for endorsements, and it seemed that Kerry began to gain some notches on his belt heading into the primary. The only northerner and New Englander with a chance, Kerry won the endorsement of the Boston Globe calling him the ''The best bet to beat George Bush is with John Kerry's leadership and experience.''
This was followed by an endorsement by the league of conservation an especially painful endorsement to the Gore campaign. Gore received the endorsement of New Hampshire’s prominent Democrats, praising his commitment to New Hampshire values “There is no greater friend to this state than Al Gore”
said Senator Shaheen but failed to pick up the support of other environmental groups he had won in 2000 who were split between choosing Kerry and Gore. Despite his post-Iowa bounce, in New Hampshire, Edward's campaign lagged in the state and he leaned heavily into his outsider image and his fresh face touting his low disapprovals compared to either Kerry or Gore.
All three candidates were vying for the valued endorsement of Senator Ted Kennedy the liberal stalwart. In 2000, Kennedy flirted with endorsing Gore's rival and the Gore team worked desperately to win Kennedy over a second time. But Kennedy had options, he was obviously close with his fellow Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry and was being actively courted by him and Senator Edwards (who Kennedy had mentored during his early Senate days). Kennedy had long put off explicitly endorsing a candidate saying that he would back “The strongest candidate when the time came”
That was widely expected to be a passive endorsement of Gore at the time but given the shifting political sands the question of Kennedy's endorsement remained in the air.
The candidates went head-to-head in a debate prior to the New Hampshire primary where the three leading men took some serious swipes at each other and President Bush. Gore was placed on the hot spot in the debate and forced to answer for his third-place showing in Iowa, when asked how he could inspire confidence in Democratic voters that he can beat President Bush in a rematch, Gore answered “This election is about people’s lives, looking at the consequences of Bush’s presidency and deciding if he is providing the right leadership, the right morality and the right vision and looking around right now I think it is pretty clear that he’s not doing that … I can provide the experience necessary to tackle this crisis of confidence”.
But some other candidates were there to doubt Gore’s ability, including the still present Kucinich and Sharpton who took the biggest shots at Gore. Sharpton – “The real problem with making Gore the candidate is he already lost to Bush, and there is no way that he can bring enough people back into the Democratic party”
Or Kucinich who sought to undermine Gore’s experience “The Clinton-Gore administration severely undermined American jobs and American manufacturing thanks to NAFTA and the World trade organisation, you knew that was going to hurt workers- and the Senators here voted for it”
Leading Gore to debate the merits of free trade with Kucinich “Unlike Dennis or the President I am committed to building our alliances and expanding our economic diplomacy”
. These attacks were joined by John Kerry, “We can hear the cheers of the Bush team already when they see they can run the 2000 playbook again, we need to make sure they can’t use that playbook again, we need to do better”
A comment that was taken as a swipe at Gore. And Edwards the man of the night, off the heels of his Iowa win, made an effort to charm New Hampshire, seemingly recommitting to his no attack pledge when he answered a question on his experience, “If the voters want someone who has been in politics for 20 or 30 years, and who has played the Washington game, they’ve got options, but I don’t think the Democratic party can afford to be that party”
The candidates staked out their policy in the debate when it came to hot-button issues like taxes, the President's handling of the Iraq crisis, health care and gay marriage. The candidates were uniform in the criticism that Bush’s tax cuts went too far and needed to be reversed for the wealthy “Brit (
the debate moderator) 4 years ago, I was mocked for calling the President's tax cut what it is, a giveaway for the wealthiest 1% of Americans”
When Kerry was asked how he would avoid the Bush campaign labelling him a tax and spend Democrat, Kerry confidently declared that it was a “fight that I look forward too and a fight we will win, if George W. Bush wants to stand there beside me and defend raising taxes for people who earn more than $200,000 a year, that is on him”
And John Edwards reiterated “We need to be focusing on the middle class, ensuring that their tax cuts remain in place to help middle-class families, help them buy a house and invest, not multi-millionaires who have lower tax rates than teachers or police officers”
Things got testier when the candidates were questioned on their opposition to Bush's request for congressional approval for military action in Iraq, Edwards the only Democrat on stage who supported Bush’s request “I’ve always said from the very beginning that from the evidence I have seen that Saddam Hussein was a threat, I had issues with the wording of the resolution, I did not want to provide the President with a blank check, but it is clear that President Bush’s diplomacy had failed, he couldn’t convince the United Nations, he couldn’t convince NATO and that is a failure of leadership”
The New Hampshire Democratic debate
Gore, a vocal opponent carefully explained his opposition and how he would have done the job, “The President and Vice President broke every rule in the book, by trying to rush through a congressional resolution, I supported the resolution in 1991 when George H W Bush patiently and skilfully built a broad international coalition and I went further, pushing against the hasty departure that allowed Saddam Hussein to renew his oppressive regime, President George W Bush, in contrast, politicized the process trying to brand Democrats as soft on Iraq, … what we should have done was present our case to the UN under the generally accepted understandings of article 51 of the UN Charter which reserves for member states the right to act in self-defence …”
John Kerry gave the most forceful opposition to the Bush administration on the foreign policy issue attacking Bush’s policy as “inept and arrogant, like every American I have grave concerns over real and grave fears about Saddam Hussein’s weapons and his intentions, but all the way this administration has stretched the truth, they’ve exaggerated and even deceived, I believe and know from experience that war should be a last resort, we need to confront the dictator of Iraq, but this President chose the wrong way to go about it”
The other issue was gay rights, which had been significantly heated up by Massachusett's effective legalisation of gay marriage, and Republicans' growing support for a constitutional ban on the practice. All the candidates were opposed to a constitutional ban on gay marriage and all three endorsed repealing the Don’t ask don’t Tell law that prohibited openly gay servicemen and women. In general, the candidates agreed that marriage should be left to the states to decide. Edwards endorsed stronger rights for gay partnerships but said that the country wasn’t ready for gay marriage In a mark of contrast he said that unlike Gore he did not support the Defence of Marriage Act (a 1996 law that meant the federal government could not recognise gay marriage). Kerry called Republicans' constitutional ban efforts 'mean-spirited
' and 'unconstitutional
' and defended his home state from the President's attacks of judicial overreach “Unlike the President, I don’t find it troubling that lawmakers ruled the way they did, I have always fought gay bashing by Republicans, as what it is, a thinly veiled attempt to score points by scapegoating gay and lesbian Americans”.
But Kerry struggled to respond when questioned on his previous strong opposition to the Defence of Marriage Act, backtracking on a remark he made calling the law unconstitutional but that he still would not vote for the bill even though he still opposed legalising gay marriage. Gore who as the candidate 4 years prior successfully courted the vast majority of gay voters spoke the most out of step of the three major candidates on the issue, declining to emphasise his support for civil unions above gay marriage. Speaking about the Massachusetts decision he said that there are “many kinds of love”
and that it needed to be “honoured and respected, the legal grounds are there and I don’t think this should be used as an issue to divide Americans"
and that "and there will be a time when the country will evolve”
Gore’s answer surprised some pundits as it came off more of an explicit endorsement of gay marriage rather than the view that most Democrats (and Gore himself) had previously espoused that he supported strengthening civil unions but not marriage itself, following the debate the Gore campaign issued a statement that the candidates stance had not changed but considering that Gore’s previous view included support for the Defence of Marriage Act it blatantly contradicted his words from the debate.
Besides the minor sparring between candidates the clear news of the night was Gore’s words on gay marriage, gay marriage advocates and opponents alike pounced on Gore’s pronouncements “We applaud Vice President Gore for firmly stating his support for marriage equality. It is a position which some would still call courageous, but which a new generation of Americans would call common sense,”
said a representative of the Stonewall Democrats who later endorsed Gore and from the Republicans “Al Gore’s pandering to the far left, and shows he is out of step with the vast majority of Americans”.
Gore's position on gay marriage became the primary topic of conversation following the debate and heading into the primaries only 3 days later.
The debate did not ruin Gore’s lead in the New Hampshire primary but his lead thinned considerably as more undecided voters made up their minds, Kerry gained considerably in the race rising 5 points, only a couple percentage points behind Gore, and within the margin of error. As New Hampshire voters lined up to cast ballots for the ‘first in the nation's primary, the three major candidates worked hard to knock on every door and kiss every baby in the bitter New Hampshire winter. Making their closing arguments across the frigid landscape, voters had two main things on their minds, electability and the economy. Many were still undecided on their march to the polling stations, with a decent chunk of still undecided voters ''Everyone is cycling around because they all want to vote for someone who can win, but no one knows who that will be”
. Said one person at an Edwards rally ''Do you want the guy who looks good on TV? Then you want Edwards. The one that sounds good, Kerry. Experience? Then you go for Gore. They all have pluses, and they all have warts, so it's hard to know who's going to play strongest against Bush.''
The 3 candidates on the campaign trail
The New Hampshire Democratic Primary
“Thank you, New Hampshire, for making me the comeback Kerry”
Those were the words on Senator John Kerry’s lips through a beaming grin in front of a crowd of supporters. When with 97% of precincts reporting, the Massachusetts Senator was declared the victor of the hotly contested New Hampshire primary edging out a victory over former Vice President Al Gore and North Carolina Senator John Edwards. "I have spent my whole life fighting for what I think is right and against powerful special interests, and I have only just begun to fight."
Kerry told his supporters.
His first-place victory came from behind and defeated the former Vice President by 5% a powerful turnaround from only a few weeks ago when Gore held a double-digit lead. Kerry’s victory coupled with Edward's victory in Iowa upturned the Democratic race and left the competition without a firm front runner just as the contest prepared to widen next week.
Gore’s second place ensured that the former Vice President averted disaster by repeating a third-place showing, but this was clearly far from his preferred outcome and it continued to question Gore’s long-held frontrunner status, the campaign had anticipated a harder fight in the state early in the race but had been able to maintain a steady polling lead in the contest for most of the race only again to be beaten at the finish line. Gore found himself battling for second place with Senator Edwards through the count but came out ahead of the Senator by the end of the night. “I want to thank all of those who stood and fought with us here in this state. But let me tell you I will keep fighting for working families, and I will keep defending Medicare and Medicaid and the underprivileged … Thank you all, God bless you. Let's keep fighting all the way to the White House.”
Edwards was upbeat in his sign-off, indicating he fully intended to continue his race for President "We're going so to see great victories on February 3,"
Edwards said, referring to the upcoming contests. "Yes, we are.".
Following Edward's victory in Iowa, he had risen significantly in the polling in some cases on par, or even above Gore for the first time in the race, in certain states.
The results of the primary dealt another upset to Gore, despite heading into the race with favourable data, exit polling revealed that many Democrats flipped to supporting Kerry very late in the day, with only a few days before the election, as well as a large number of independent and some Republicans casting their ballots in the open primary (possibly brought out by the Republican primary occurring on the same day), who either cited Gore’s electability or his unfavorability as the reason.
With Iowa and New Hampshire in the rearview mirror, the race would now turn national, cars and buses replaced by aeroplanes as the three main candidates would be running in South Carolina, Missouri, Delaware, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and North Dakota, bludgeoned by Iowa and New Hampshire, Gore needed to redeem himself quickly while Kerry and Edwards needed to prove that they could win votes across the country, and the polls were tightening fast.
New Hampshire Democratic Primary Results
2004 New Hampshire Democratic Primary Wiki box
John Kerry, Al Gore and John Edwards celebrate their 1st 2nd and 3rd place in the New Hampshire primary
The Republicans held their own primary in New Hampshire on the same night, the race received more coverage than an incumbent President's primary normally should thank's to the primary challenge mounted by liberal Republican, Senator Lincoln Chafee. Chafee’s challenge was a long shot, though Bush’s popularity lagged nationwide, the Republican party was, by and large, supportive of him. Bush had irked the edges of his party on both sides, the neoconservatives and the moderates, but his brand of compassionate conservatism built a steady base of support in the Republican party, he had cut taxes, but also funded schools. He rejected electoral finance reform and Medicaid expansion and adopted a hawkish but not over expansive foreign policy. Though decried by Chafee as sideling or ignoring the moderates of the Republican party, Bush sought to use his challenge to show that the party had been unified behind him.
Though the President stopped short of openly campaigning against Chafee, the White House wagons quickly circled New Hampshire. The campaign quickly worked to court the endorsement of moderate Republicans, like New York Republicans former mayor Giuliani and Governor Pataki rallied to support the President. For those two weeks in New Hampshire, it looked like the Presidential election was already underway as truckloads of Republican volunteers came up to bury the Chafee candidacy. The militant organisation of the Bush Cheney 04 team was on full show, pouring in all the blood sweat and money that could be offered.
Vice President Cheney was the bruiser stumping in the President's stead, with the grim straight talk only he could provide “Liberal Republicans like Chafee, frankly, do more harm than good to us”
he said to the cheers of Republican supporters in New Hampshire. The Chafee campaign looked a lot like the mom-and-pop shop going up against the big chain store. His campaign was composed mainly of him, footing it through New Hampshire, distasteful of fundraising he relied on tapping into his own and his New England brahmin friends and family fortunes, though his campaign received a decent sum of initial donations from libertarian or anti-Bush conservatives it wouldn’t last. His messaging was not always on point, though the theme of his campaign was a 'return to common sense conservatism
', he frequently lectured audiences on all the policy minutia, he opposed the President and the Democrats, going over his political acumen. Though somewhat aimless, those following his campaign credited his diligent campaigning in the granite state, with promptness and politeness, he wasn’t going to be President but he definitely wasn’t going to be late.
When all was said and done, Bush won the election with a landslide 29-point majority, crushing the Chafee campaign and ending any momentum it might have garnered “It’s a solid victory, and I am grateful,”
said the President. Chafee round up only 16% of the vote and any ideas of dragging on his campaign were quickly dropped “While I was excited to carry out a campaign based on common sense Conservatism, unfortunately, my campaign for President ends today."
The President would proceed to win the Republican nomination without any opposition.
New Hampshire Republican Primary Results
Senator Lincoln Chafee concedes
Excerpt from the 2004 Republican Primary Wikipedia page
President George W. Bush