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CNN Paula Zahn Show Transcript

Location: Manchester, NH

December 9, 2003 Tuesday

HEADLINE: Gore Endorses Dean; Interview with Senator John Kerry

GUESTS: Thomas Friedman, Peter Shumlin, Rebecca Lieberman, Michael Kirby, Joe Klein, John Kerry

BYLINE: Jane Arraf, Jeff Greenfield, Candy Crowley, Paula Zahn, Jeff Flock, Tucker Carlson, Paul Begala, Jeanne Meserve

Does Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean mean he's sealed the deal for the Democratic presidential nomination? Investigators say a missing North Dakota woman's blood was found in the suspect's car. A confidential government report done earlier this year declared the allegations against Michael Jackson unfounded. Senator John Kerry discusses his run for the Democratic nomination.

ZAHN: Welcome back. More now on the Democratic debate tonight in New Hampshire. Joining me live from Manchester is Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Always good to see you, Senator. First off, the top of the debate dominated by the issue of Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean, the moderator suggesting that there was a bunch of sour grapes on the part of the eight other candidates standing up there. You made it clear how you felt about Al Gore's disloyalty to Joe Lieberman, but how does that endorsement affect your campaign? Does this hurt your campaign?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I-I-it doesn't-it's not going make any difference to what I'm doing. It really isn't, Paula. I'm in this race. My campaign is growing. My campaign is moving. I feel we have energy. People are only just tuning in now.

And you know, one person's opinion is one person's opinion. Obviously, I disagree with the judgment he made, but I'm going to go out on my agenda for the country. I believe that I can lead our nation. I believe I have an agenda in order to provide health care to all Americans. Mine is the only health care plan that will actually lower costs for people who have health care today and are struggling with the increase in premiums.

I also bring the leadership that we need on an international basis to make America safer. And I know how to put people back to work and fix our schools. Those are the things that matter to people, and people are going to look for real leadership here.

ZAHN: Are you saying that what is perceived to be the presumptive nominee in some people's minds, even though no votes would be cast, wouldn't be a very good president?

KERRY: I don't agree with his policies. That is-I really don't. I don't agree that he's going raise taxes on the middle class. I don't agree with raising taxes on the middle class. I don't believe that-you know, George Bush, who I think has not shown that he has the experience to be commander-in-chief, and I'm quite convinced that the governor doesn't have that experience. So I think there are real differences between us.

The fact is that I think it was important to stand up to Saddam Hussein, but it was important to do it correctly. We didn't do it correctly. This president broke all his promises to our nation. And we need now to get back to the work of fixing our schools, fixing our budget, which is the biggest deficit in modern history, and really put this country back on the right track. That's what this race is about, and I look forward to having a continued debate about it.

ZAHN: We had a well-rounded panel earlier this evening that suggested that none of you laid a glove on Howard Dean tonight, that you let him get off softly. Was that by design?

KERRY: I want to talk positively about my agenda for the country. I think this notion that you have to have a knock-down drag- out fight is silly. When there is a reason to have a difference, you draw that difference. But I wanted to share my positive agenda.

I have a health care plan that will literally lower costs for all Americans and it'll guarantee that every American has the right to buy into the same health care that senators and congressmen give themselves. I think that's worth fighting for. I also think it's worth fighting against this Medicare bill that's going to push seniors off of Medicare into HMOs and raise the costs to them. These are the real issues. People are worried about their wages, their jobs, about how we're going to compete with other countries, where we're losing countless numbers of jobs for those countries. I think we can put people back to work in America. I know how to do it, and that's why I'm running.

ZAHN: Senator, you say you've seen some positive things develop in your campaign as of late. I know how much you hate any analysis of polls. But isn't it kind of difficult to ignore a poll or several polls in New Hampshire that show Howard Dean outrunning you 3-to-1 there, in your own state's back yard?

KERRY: That's wrong. That's just dead wrong. Yesterday there was a Pew poll that showed us having closed the gap about 12 points. Look, if you guys want to end the race tonight, go ahead and do it. I'm going to be out here campaigning for the next months. I'm campaigning for every vote I can possibly talk to. I think the voters of the state of New Hampshire and Iowa deserve more respect. I think they will-they are the ones who will make this decision.

And I know how we're doing there. My campaign is growing because I'm talking about the things that matter to those people. And you know, I've never been a poll advocate. They always change. People are beginning to listen. I believe I have the leadership qualities. I have the vision for the country. I can make our country safer than George Bush is. I can put people back to work. I know how to lead this nation. And people want real leadership.

ZAHN: And you certainly know how to take a cue. We only got 20 seconds left in our broadcast tonight. Thanks to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts for joining us.

KERRY: Thank you very much. Glad to be with you.

ZAHN: As we wrap-up of the debate. And we appreciate your all being with us tonight. Tomorrow, I'll be talking with a woman who is taking Arnold Schwarzenegger to court, claiming his campaign tried smear her after she went public with allegations that he sexually harassed her.

Content and programming Copyright 2003 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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