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CNN Sunday Night Transcript

Location: Unknown

January 11, 2004 Sunday 10:18 PM Eastern Time

HEADLINE: Interview With John Kerry

GUESTS: John Kerry

BYLINE: Carol Lin

HIGHLIGHT: And now, I'm going to be speaking with Senator John Kerry, who's trailing both Gephardt and Howard Dean, according to a recent survey of Iowa voters.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Our "Newsmaker" segment features two Democratic presidential candidates. We just spoke with Dick Gephardt. And now, I'm going to be speaking with Senator John Kerry, who's trailing both Gephardt and Howard Dean, according to a recent survey of Iowa voters.

Senator, thank you very much for being with us tonight.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSCHUSETTS: Glad to be with you.

LIN: How did it go tonight? Things got pretty feisty on the floor.

KERRY: Well, yes, it did. But I think what Iowa voters and people are looking for now is who can be a president. Who can lead our country at a time of really the most complex international issues we faced in a long time and in an economy that is not working for the average person. And I believe that I bring to this race, the experience, the vision, and the ability to be able to beat George Bush. And that's what matters.

LIN: So is it frustrating for you to see the latest polling, for example, "Newsweek" now has a new national poll that shows that Howard Dean is beating the next two competitors down from him. Dick Gephardt and Wesley Clark, two to one at this point. He's leading in the Iowa polls. Your campaign has yet to really catch fire.

And yet, you do have those credentials. And you criticize Howard Dean for not having the breadth of experience that you have.

KERRY: Those national polls are meaningless right now. They are a reflection of publicity. They're not a reflection of what's happening on the ground in Iowa or elsewhere.

And I'm very confident, people who have traveled with me, I had 1,000 people at an event yesterday in Cedar Rapids. 1,000 people in an event that important. We had an extraordinary amount of energy campaigning yesterday.

I've got the attorney general of the state, who endorsed me a couple days ago, traveling around the state with me. Tomorrow, I'll be standing up with 27 legislators, all of whom have endorsed me. Right now, they're working for me. And they're there in twice as many as Dean or Gephardt have. We're growing.

My campaign has energy here. And...

LIN: There's a...

KERRY: ...the reason it has energy, sorry, go ahead.

LIN: No, senator, excuse me for interrupting, but I'm just wondering as I'm listening to you, you talk about energy and momentum. I'm just trying to figure out, in your comparison, when you talk about Howard Dean, you have criticized him for having no national security experience, no military experience, no foreign policy experience. And yet, in this post 9/11 era, he has somehow managed to capture the imagination of the Democratic voter out there. What is happening in that campaign that you have yet to be able to tap into?

KERRY: Well, why don't you come out here and find out? I think if you spent some time here on the ground, you'd hear people talking about a very different race from the one that you're reporting.

People here have a great sense of independence. People here make up their own minds. People here value the democratic process that Howard Dean has criticized in the last days. I think that people in Iowa are listening carefully, to find out who could lead our country. And the reason there's been a sort of block here is because most people want to talk about something other than the real issues.

The real issues are how we put people back to work, how we're going to provide healthcare to all Americans, how we fix our schools, how we make America safer in a very dangerous world.

And I think that as people are listening to my vision of how we do that, we're gaining people every single day. I'm very confident about it.

LIN: Do you have to win Iowa in order to stay viable?

KERRY: David Yepsim (ph), who's the premier writer out here, says that there are three tickets out of Iowa. We always came to Iowa with the notion that we're going to try to win one of them, and that's exactly what we're doing.

LIN: And then you're on to New Hampshire. Our senior political...

KERRY: Well, on to New Hampshire, but I think that if you listen to people out here, you'll really see them working hard to figure out who can lead America.

And the fact is that George Bush has said he's going to make national security the top issue of this campaign. If national security's the top issue of the campaign, we need a nominee who has the ability to be able to stand up to him on those issues, because if we don't succeed as a party in convincing America that we know how to make the country safe, we're never going to get to talk about healthcare and education, jobs, and the other issues.

And obviously, George Bush can't run on those issues, because so many people are out of work, so many people have lost their health insurance, so many schools are desperate for the money that he promised them and didn't give them. Those are the real issues of this campaign. And that's why I'm very confident that my campaign is going to continue to grow over this next week. And we're going to show you a great surprise.

LIN: Eight days and counting. We'll be looking forward to that surprise. Thank you very much, Senator John Kerry.

KERRY: Thank you very much.

Content and programming Copyright 2004 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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