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NBC Today Transcript

Location: Unknown

January 19, 2004 Monday

HEADLINE: Senator John Kerry discusses his campaign and the Iowa caucuses


MATT LAUER, co-host:

Senator John Kerry has enjoyed the greatest surge in the polls in recent days in Iowa. He joins us now.

Senator Kerry, good morning to you.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat) Good morning, Matt. How are you?

LAUER: I'm great, thank you.

About 10 days ago you were at about 15 percent in the MSNBC/Reuters/Zogby poll. You wake up this morning at about 25 percent, technically, in the lead in this thing. That's the good news. The bad news is some people think your actual teamwork on the ground is weaker than other candidates. Can you get the-the voters out today?

Sen. KERRY: Matt, the voters of Iowa are going to decide all of that. What I want to do in the next 12 hours is make sure that the voters of Iowa hear what I want to do for the country and for them. They want leadership. They are incredibly independent minded out here. I'm stunned by how hard they work at this process. There's no cynicism. They have a great belief in America and so do I. I know that we can put people back to work and do a better job of building relationships around the world and fighting the war on terror.

LAUER: Right.

Sen. KERRY: And what they-they want is somebody with a steady hand who has the proven experience and the ability to make us safer and to have a smarter approach to our economy that doesn't punish people in the middle class. So I'm hopeful...

LAUER: You clearly also think that what they want is someone with a strong military background. You have been reaching out to veterans extensively over the last couple of days. Do you think those veterans can help you swing the undecided voters?

Sen. KERRY: Well, obviously, we want to reach out to every constituency. But veteran are an important one, Matt, because they're-they're being left behind. The veterans' budget-the VA budget has been cut by $1.8 billion. I mean, here we are creating a new generation of veterans, and the old generation is having a hard time getting the care that they need and want. And all over the country, veterans are feeling as if a promise is being broken. So, indeed, I am reaching out and they are responding. And they are a tremendous part of this campaign. But I'm also reaching out to every other sector. You know, there are people out of work here...

LAUER: Right.

Sen. KERRY: ...who have been out of work for two years. There is a guy I met in Waterloo the other day. He's 49 years old. His wife is diagnosed with MS. He has no health care. He can't find a job. He doesn't know where to turn. Those are the people who need help. And what's happening is the administration keeps giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people while leaving these people behind.

LAUER: Howard Dean...

Sen. KERRY: I'm going to fight...

LAUER: Howard Dean will say...

Sen. KERRY: Sorry.

LAUER: ...excuse me, Senator. Howard Dean will say that he's the candidate who can get people off the sidelines, and he can energize people who haven't been in the political process in the past. Given the current popularity of President Bush, isn't that a key asset to take forward into November?

Sen. KERRY: Matt, I wish you could have been there last night with literally 2,000 people or more, the biggest crowd that's been assembled in this campaign here in Iowa. And there were young people there who came up to me and said, 'This is my first vote. I am so excited.'

LAUER: Right.

Sen. KERRY: 'I am 18 years old. I'm in your camp. I'm going to work as hard as I can.' We've brought unbelievable numbers of young people into this campaign. And one of the reasons is that I have been a strong leader for over 35 years on the environment, on the AIDS issue, on our relationship with other countries in the world. And young people particularly care about our moral responsibility to the rest of the world as well as to people here at home. I think-look, I'm not going to claim-I think there are other candidates in this field, when this is sorted out, who will also be able to do that. There is no one candidate. What happens is our ideas. The ideas of our party, the value system that we offer in contrast to George Bush is like night and day.

LAUER: And let...

Sen. KERRY: And young people across this country want real leadership that addresses the future, not that divides Americans.

LAUER: And let me jump in there and say good luck today, Senator. And I appreciate you joining us this morning.

Sen. KERRY: Thank you.

LAUER: All right. Once again, here's Campbell.


Matt, thanks.

Copyright 2004 National Broadcasting Co. Inc.

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