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MSNBC "Decision 08" Interview - Transcript


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MR. OLBERMANN: The third candidate in tonight's primary in South Carolina did not minimize the events there in his speech. Senator John Edwards, who will finish third when the vote tally is complete not far from now, has been good enough to join us now from Columbia.

Senator, thanks for your time tonight.

MR. EDWARDS: Thank you, Keith. Thanks for having me.

MR. OLBERMANN: Can you sum up this night for us, based on your perspective on what happened for you or what happened to you, depending on your point of view?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, you know, I'm in a different place than the other two, Keith, because, you know, I started even earlier this week, Sunday, Monday, way behind the other two. And we made up enormous ground over the course of this week, some of it as a consequence, I think, of the debate, people seeing us side by side. And we continued to move throughout the week.

And I do have to say thank you to all those supporters we've had and to all the people who've been contributing online. We've had, like, the best two weeks in our whole campaign in the last two weeks online. So actually we've got a lot of good things happening right now.

MR. OLBERMANN: We discussed a couple of nights ago the sense that there was a change in perception in South Carolina -- how much of a change would await the vote, obviously -- that the two leading candidates had sort of hit themselves over -- or hit each other over the head with blunt instruments and done damage not just to each other but to the concept of what the primary was about.

I don't know if you've heard some of these exit poll numbers, but we heard that 56 percent of voters in South Carolina believed that Senator Obama had unfairly attacked Senator Clinton. Seventy percent thought Senator Clinton had unfairly attacked Senator Obama. Fifty percent of voters thought they had both unfairly attacked the other.

Do you think that your showing here, compared to where you were earlier in the polls, reflected that kind of sense that perhaps the electorate is well ahead of some of the candidates, anyway, in terms of how you conduct a primary campaign?

MR. EDWARDS: Absolutely, I do. And I'd go another step, Keith. I mean, I think we came into South Carolina with the two of them raising over $100 million, having overwhelming national media attention and publicity. And every place that I'm able to dig in, speak, and speak directly to voters about the things they care about, instead of tearing other politicians down, which is part of what we saw from the two of them, people respond and we continue to grow.

And so I'm actually very encouraged. We started the week way, way behind. We didn't go as far as I'd always love to go. I want to win. But I saw progress this week, which is extraordinarily encouraging about where this campaign is headed.

MR. OLBERMANN: You said, I believe, almost at the very start of your speech about 25 minutes ago that the campaign obviously will continue, and you've said previously that your target is the convention in Denver in the summer. Is there a -- do you feel like you have more of a floor under your feet, less of one, the same now? What is the impetus to say, "Yes, this is a viable presidential candidacy," when, whether it was more of a percent than predicted, it was still a third-place finish tonight?

MR. EDWARDS: Oh, I think we have more of a floor, absolutely -- than when this week began? There's no question about that. As I mentioned earlier, we continue -- we're in a good place financially. We continue to raise enormous amounts of money online, which we're very grateful for.

Second, we saw momentum during the course of the week. I mean, I know that we were, I mean, really, 35, 40 points behind or something not that long ago. And we saw enormous growth during the course of the week. And the bottom line is the causes that I'm engaged in, as I spoke about tonight, giving voice to veterans, to the uninsured, to the middle class, to people who live in poverty, those things aren't going away, Keith. And I intend to be as loud and strong and passionate a voice for those causes as I can be. And they're not going away, and I'm sure not going away.

MR. GREGORY: Senator Edwards, David Gregory here. You spent so much time in 2004 campaigning in Iowa and had a deep organization there. You lost there. You've now lost, fallen far behind in third place in your home state. Why stay in the race?

MR. EDWARDS: Very different race, David, than 2004. I mean, in 2004 we very quickly went to a two-person race. It was John Kerry and me. And when it's a two-person race, the dynamic is enormously different. We have three candidates now who are clearly taking a sizable chunk of the vote. It shifts from state to state how much anybody's taking and who's taking the lead, but all three of us are taking sizable vote.

I heard Congressman Clyburn saying earlier tonight he believes this thing is going to the convention. And you look at the way this is headed and it looks like that's a very real possibility. So I think this is a -- I don't compare this race with 2004, because in 2004 at this point it was John Kerry and me. And that is not the case now. We have three candidates, all of whom are taking a sizable chunk of the vote. I think what that means, in practical terms, is voters are going to continue to evaluate us and evaluate us in a very critical way, which is what they should do.

MR. OLBERMANN: Senator John Edwards after the South Carolina Democratic primary conducted today and tonight. Senator, as always, thank you for your time.

MR. EDWARDS: Thanks for having me, Keith.

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