August 29, 2003 Friday
HEADLINE: Senator John Kerry, next presidential candidate
ANCHORS: CARL QUINTANILLA
REPORTERS: JAMIE GANGEL
CARL QUINTANILLA, co-anchor:
And you may think Senator John Kerry is already in the race for president tonight, officially he's not, at least not yet. The Massachusetts Democrat is set to formally announce next week that he is in the race. Kerry was once the front-runner until a fellow New Englander named Howard Dean started stealing the headlines. A new poll out this week gives the former Vermont governor a 20-point lead over Kerry in New Hampshire: 38 percent to 17. Earlier this year, Dean trailed Kerry by 13 points.
NEW HAMPHIRE PRIMARY: NOW FEBRUARY
DEAN 38% 13% KERRY 17% 26%
+/- 4.5%, Source: Zogby Intl.
QUINTANILLA: We have an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how Kerry is trying to turn things around tonight from "Today" show national correspondent Jamie Gangel.
Mr. JOHN KERRY: Looks good.
JAMIE GANGEL reporting:
In the high-stakes game of presidential politics, 57-year-old John Kerry wants to show voters that this is what he's really like. And it's not just the daring sport of kite surfing. Kerry's campaign handlers want you to know that he is a real alpha male who rides a Harley, plays ice hockey and flies his own plane.
Why do you do all of these things? I mean, I have a list a mile long.
Mr. KERRY: This is fun. I mean, look, you have to have some fun in life, and I come out here andand this is a great relaxation.
GANGEL: Are you a daredevil?
Mr. KERRY: Absolutely not. I do things where I'm knowledgeable about what I'm doing...
Mr. KERRY: ...and I feel in control, and it's fun.
GANGEL: It's also a key part of campaign strategy. Often called distant and shy, Kerry is working hard to connect with voters.
Mr. KERRY: Hello, Joy.
Unidentified Man #1: Good luck, John.
Mr. KERRY: Thank you, sir.
GANGEL: Up till recently, you know this, the word most often used to describe you is?
Mr. KERRY: I don't know. I don'tIyou know, I don't worry about...
GANGEL: The A word, the A word. What..
Mr. KERRY: Astounding.
GANGEL: Come on. Aloof, yes?
Mr. KERRY: Have I seemed aloof to you? II just think that that's written by people that don't know me, haven't spent time with me, and I don't worry about it. I really don't.
And did that press thing...
GANGEL: But while Kerry has raised the most money to date and is seen by many Democrats as the most electable of the field, he is worried about this man, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, whether or not he'll admit it.
You don't want to talk about Howard Dean, but this summer he has been the man with the buzz. He's taken a big leap in the polls. How much of a threat is he?
Mr. KERRY: Well, the polls are very early, Jamie, and they move a lot. He's done a good job. I mean, I give him credit. I respect what he's put together and what he's done. So I'm very confident that people want more than just anger and more than, you know, railing at things. They want real solutions, and they want leadership.
GANGEL: You're not worried about Howard Dean.
Mr. KERRY: I'm confident about my campaign.
GANGEL: To counter Dean, Kerry is sharpening his attacks on George Bush.
Mr. KERRY: The truth is, the Bush administration went to war without a plan to win the peace in Iraq.
GANGEL: This is the Kerry the campaign hopes will resonate with voters: a potential commander in chief who has the credentials of a war hero. Born in Denver, Colorado, the son of a diplomat, Kerry spent much of his childhood in Europe attending a series of elite boarding schools then Yale. But his public career really began when Kerry enlisted in the Navy and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. A swift boat captain, Kerry was wounded three times and awarded the bronze and silver stars for bravery. But he returned home disillusioned and became one of the most prominent leaders of the anti-war movement.
Mr. KERRY: (From file footage) How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
GANGEL: But to really know this candidate, you must meet his wife. Eight years ago, Kerry, divorced with two grown daughters, remarried the much-talked-about Teresa. Teresa is Teresa Heinz, one of the richest women in America and widow of former Republican Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz, heir to the ketchup fortune, who died in a 1991 plane crash.
Ms. TERESA HEINZ: She'd be a very interesting person.
GANGEL: Worth more than $500 million, Mrs. Heinz, as most still call her, is one of the most generous philanthropists in the country: runs the Heinz Foundation, and, like no other political wife, speaks her mind.
If someone said, do you want your husband to run...
Ms. HEINZ: I...
GANGEL: ...for president, you used to say?
Ms. HEINZ: Or suggested it even.
GANGEL: Right. What would you used to say?
Ms. HEINZ: I say over my dead body.
GANGEL: Up until recently a registered Republican, Heinz has never voted for Kerry, and in this campaign has been making headlines for being outspoken. In front of reporters, she has sworn, undiplomatically criticized other politicians and talked about everything from botox treatments to, in our interview, taking antidepressants when her first husband died.
Ms. HEINZ: The grief counselor offered some medication, Prozac specifically, and I took that for just a year. And what it did for me was just to, I could still be sad, but I wasn't just so down and out.
GANGEL: But there is also a refreshing candor about Heinz. When she describes her courtship with John Kerry, this is no canned answer.
Were you immediately attracted to him?
Ms. HEINZ: No. It's different. It's not like a kid attraction, you know what I'm saying? It's different. Did I think he was interesting? Yeah, sure. I wouldn't have gone otherwise. But it's notit's not like theit's not like 21 years old, you know?
GANGEL: For a private man, Kerry seems to take all the scrutiny in stride, although, no question, the day we spent on the beach was clearly his favorite.
Is all of this, the campaigning, being out here on camera, is running for president worth it?
Mr. KERRY: Absolutely. I'mI'm having a ball.
GANGEL: What do you think your chances are?
Mr. KERRY: I believe they're good or I wouldn't be doing it. But, you know, you have to just plod away. You have to put one foot in front of the other, meet people and go out there and fight, fight like hell.
GANGEL: Senator, if you do win, this all goes away.
Mr. KERRY: Oh, no, no, no.
GANGEL: No more of that.
Mr. KERRY: We're going tono, this you can do. I'm absolutely convinced...
GANGEL: Do you think the Secret Service is going to let you do this if you win?
Mr. KERRY: I think they're going to have a hell of a good time out here.
QUINTANILLA: NBC's Jamie Gangel reporting. And this programming note: John Kerry will be Tim Russert's exclusive guest this Sunday on "Meet the Press" on your local NBC station.
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