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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer Transcript

Location: North Augusta, SC

February 1, 2004 Sunday

HEADLINE: Interview With David Kay; Interview With Joe Lieberman

GUESTS: David Kay, Chuck Hagel, Joseph Biden, Joseph Lieberman, Mark Sanford, Janet Napolitano, Al Sharpton, Pat Robertson

BYLINE: Wolf Blitzer, Adil Bradlow, Michael Holmes, Elaine Quijano, Bob Franken, Suzanne Malveaux, Bruce Morton

Interviews with David Kay and Senator Joseph Lieberman.


BLITZER: Dramatic changes in the opening weeks of the Democratic presidential campaign. Dean down, Kerry up, but still, a big field of candidates waiting for lightning to strike or, as some critics suggest, enjoying the attention for themselves and their ideas.

Low in votes but certainly high in energy is Al Sharpton. He's joining us from North Augusta, South Carolina.

Reverend Sharpton, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: What is it with you-do you really, at this point, believe you have a shot at getting the Democratic presidential nomination, or are you simply more interested in getting your views out there to the American people?

SHARPTON: Oh, well, not only do we have a shot, I don't think it's one or the other, I think it's both. And we have, from the beginning, had a strategy to pick up enough delegates to go to the convention to win and, at worst, make a strong enough showing that our concerns are there with delegate strength. I think we can have enough delegates to win.

That is why we, on Tuesday, will win delegates in South Carolina, in Missouri and Delaware, go on from there to Michigan, three days later on to Virginia and on and on.

I think other candidates opted not to Iowa with an escalated agenda, Wolf. We're no longer dealing with a January to June agenda. Everyone had to choose where they were going to concentrate to get their delegates.

So we are right on time, and we are very confident that our strategy will work.

BLITZER: There had been a poll as recently as last week showing you with about 15 percent of the potential Democratic vote in South Carolina where you are right now.

Our latest CNN-Los Angeles Times poll, we'll put it up on the screen, shows you not doing all that well. You're down at 5 percent in this poll, with Senator Edwards at 32 percent, Senator Kerry at 20 percent.

Is that consistent with other polls that you're seeing, including your own polls, if you have any?

SHARPTON: Well, no, it is not. Your polls have always had us low. You're right, another poll had us at 15. Other polls have been closer to the other poll, but I'm not dealing with polls. I'm dealing with, as I move around the state, I spoke at three churches this morning. One, I did a full sermon.

I think that people that have not been polled, and even more important have been ignored, in terms of their needs and in terms of their desires to see this party really represent working-class people that have lost their jobs and represent people that have been marginalized, I think that they're going to surprise people.

I was in Delaware yesterday, hundreds came out. I was in St. Louis the other day, hundreds came out. I think the real poll will be on Tuesday.

If you recall, during the statehood primary three weeks ago in Washington, the night before, people said I would get 6 or 7 percent. I got 34 percent of that vote.

And I think that when you look at the fact that we're going to do much better than the pollsters say, you will then begin to understand that a lot of people are tired of being ignored by a party that wants to take them for granted and assumes that they will be there.

BLITZER: As you know, Reverend Sharpton, it's been estimated that about half, maybe as high as 50 percent of the voter turnout, the Democrats voting in South Carolina, will be black voters, but some of the key African-American political leaders in South Carolina are not supporting you. Representative Clyburn, for example, has endorsed the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry.

And Senator Kerry himself is clearly appealing to African- American votes. He's got an ad that's running in the state. I want you to listen and watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the bullets began to hit the side of the boats, the boom, the pow-pow-pow, we found out that John Kerry can lead.

This man would make a great president.


BLITZER: Do you understand why many African-Americans in South Carolina support John Kerry?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think many African-Americans will support different candidates. I think many will support me. I think many whites in South Carolina will support different candidates; many will support me.

There are other elected officials and clergy around the state, from Representative Joe Neal to any number of ministers that are supporting me.

You must remember, 20 years ago when Jesse Jackson ran, most of the black members of Congress didn't support him. It didn't stop him from winning their districts. Most black mayors didn't.

So I'm not at all bothered by some people not supporting me. I think that the support is based on the votes. And when voters say who has been there for me, who has stood by the issues that I'm concerned about-when it comes to civil rights, if that's your issue, there's no comparison. There's no one in this race that has ever done anything in civil rights other than me. They're taking positions where I've led that fight.

BLITZER: Well, wait a minute, let me interrupt you on that civil rights issue. Didn't Joe Lieberman go down in Mississippi and fight for civil rights in the '60s, when it was a rather dangerous thing to do?

SHARPTON: Yes, but we're now in 2004. So I don't have to go back 40 years. I'm talking about what I did for civil rights since the '60s. And I think that if someone has to go back to the '60s and talk about civil rights, I mean, that's a little stretch to tell voters in 2004.

Now, again, I think Lieberman and the others have taken good positions, but they have not taken leadership. And I think people want people that take positions of leadership and help to guide us where we need to go.

I've been the first candidate in this race to come out against the war, to come out for a single-payer health care plan, to deal with the fact that NAFTA was wrong. Many of the other guys running had supported NAFTA. NAFTA has cost 75,000 jobs to the people in this state.

BLITZER: All right.

SHARPTON: So I think people are going to go by the issues, not go by who cosigned for them. Usually, when you need a cosigner, it means your credit is bad.

BLITZER: The New York Times editorial page may not be your favorite in the country, but I'll read an excerpt from their editorial that ran on Thursday.

"Representative Dennis Kucinich has every right to keep campaigning despite his minuscule vote tallies, but he should not be allowed to take up time in future candidate debates. Neither should the Reverend Al Sharpton, who is running to continue running, not to win."

Strong words from The New York Times.

SHARPTON: I think that they're the most undemocratic words I've heard them say.

First of all, how do they know why I'm running?

Second of all, if these are the first primaries that we had on- the-ground troops in, then what is their assessment? Are they suggesting now that Iowa and New Hampshire should be the only barometer of who a Democratic nominee should be? They didn't even wait on the states that have a broader base of support, a wider demographic. You're going to take two states that are 99-percent white and tell the rest of us we shouldn't run if we don't engage in those states?

I think that that is the height of irresponsibility in The New York Times.

BLITZER: But, as you know, Howard Dean is now going to bypass these seven contests on Tuesday, saying he's looking down the road to Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington State, big contests early March in California and New York.

I assume that's been your strategy from the beginning.

SHARPTON: I said it. The difference between Dean and I-as I said in the beginning, we will bypass Iowa and New Hampshire. So is The New York Times saying, because he decides to bypass, he shouldn't be allowed in the debates?

The other part of that is, I think that clearly everyone-Mr. Clark bypassed Iowa. Mr. Lieberman did. I think everyone has the right to strategies when you have an escalated agenda.

The question is, who achieves enough delegates to make a difference in Boston? That's what we are determined to do, and that's what we will do. People that want to stand for the things that we represented, that I've outlined here will vote for us.

And I think that we are just beginning this fight. A month ago, people were saying, when I did your show, Dean was the runaway winner. Look at him today. Many of the black officials you named endorsed Gephardt. People that are on absentee ballots voted for Gephardt, wasted their vote. He's not even in the race.

So, people are not as silly or immature as people think. They know that their best bet...

BLITZER: All right.

SHARPTON: ... is voting for Al Sharpton. Not only can you win, you can't lose.

BLITZER: One final question. We're almost out of time, Reverend Sharpton. I know you're very good friends with the godfather of soul, James Brown; spent some time with his daughter in church today.

He's got some legal problems, as you well know, as our viewers know, around the world. What's the latest? How's he doing?

SHARPTON: I've not spoken with him. His daughter was in church with me today, and I've asked people to pray for him and his wife. I don't know what happened. I certainly would not condone, nor would he, as far as I've known him through the years-a man has no right to touch a woman. I don't know if that's what happened. But I pray for healing there, and I certainly stand with Mr. Brown. Even if he's wrong, he must be healed, and he must pay the consequences. If he's right, I hope he can establish that. But I'm asking people to pray for him and not prejudge him, but we can never condone a man touching a woman in any way, shape or form.

BLITZER: Reverend Sharpton, thanks so much for taking a few moments off from your busy campaigning in South Carolina to join us.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: And just ahead, church and state, how separate should they be? Joining us, the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, on politics, religion and his new book, "The Ten Offenses." He also says God has told him who will win this U.S. presidential contest.

Stay with us.

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

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