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Erie Times-News - "Kerry Hopes Obama Will Make Stop in Erie"

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Location: Erie, PA

Erie Times-News - "Kerry Hopes Obama Will Make Stop in Erie"

U.S. Sen. John Kerry carried Pennsylvania, including Erie County, when he sought the nation's top job four years ago.

This year's race casts him in a supporting role, endorsing Sen. Barack Obama for president.

Kerry, 64, campaigned last week in central and eastern Pennsylvania. He doesn't know whether the campaign will take him to Erie, as it will for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who will campaign here Monday on behalf of Obama.

"I'd love to get up there. I just don't know what the schedule's going to be," he said.

The Erie Times-News caught up with Kerry by phone Thursday from Washington, D.C. Here are excerpts from that interview:

Q Senator, I appreciate the fact that you're speaking with us today, but here in Erie we're starting to feel a little bit forgotten. Why hasn't Senator Obama campaigned here yet, and do you know when he will?

A I can't tell you specifically what days he will be there. I know that he's headed to Pennsylvania. He's there now, I think. And he just did a six-day bus tour. I don't know how that schedule was put together, but you know, who knows whether he's going to be able to get there in the next days? I think there's still ... 12 days left. ... So who knows what happens? I would hope he'd be able to certainly, but he's campaigning all around the state.

Q A lot of Obama supporters are looking forward to seeing him come up here for --

A Well, I think it would be great if he does. And I will ... urge the campaign to try to get him or somebody there. But I'd love to see him be there. I loved campaigning there. I had a great time in Erie.

Q Senator, if you could tell us why you're supporting Senator Obama over Senator Clinton.

A I believe that Barack Obama has the best opportunity to unite the country and change our politics. I think that he has proven his ability across the nation by winning 30 states and caucuses to her 15, and by gathering the largest numbers of delegates and the largest vote, and he's winning in places that Democrats don't normally win, which is very important to Democrats. I think that he's shown an ability to attract support in red states. ... We need to win in November, and I think Barack Obama has the best chance of doing that.

Q What advice would you give to Democrats here in Erie who are torn between the two candidates with the primary just over a week away?

A Well, I'd say this. I mean ... a lot of us were torn. We work with both of these people. You know, Senator Kennedy, Senator (Jay) Rockefeller, Senator (Christopher) Dodd, Senator (Dick) Durbin, a lot of us have looked at these two candidates and we both see people we like and that we respect. But I believe Barack Obama has a better opportunity than she does to be able to change the voting coalition of America. I believe he has a chance to win states where we haven't been able to in the past -- or haven't -- whether we've been able to or not. I think that, you know, the fact is that I think he brings more legislative experience to the table. He's been a legislator longer than Hillary Clinton. He's got foreign-policy experience from the Foreign Relations Committee and his life. And he comes to the job with more foreign-policy experience than Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton had when they became president. And I think he's ready to do the job and able to get elected. And I think the country wants to really turn the page of history.

Q With this internal Democratic battle waging on, isn't there a chance that the Democrats could blow this election as Senator McCain waits in the wings?

A You know, I don't believe ... that's going to happen at all. I think as long as the two candidates keep focused on the real issues -- the difference between Democrats and the Republican Party -- as long as this is not a demolition derby going down to these last primaries, there's no reason this doesn't strengthen us. And as long as we are unified, which I believe we will be, I think it's going to be healthy.

Q If Senator Obama becomes the nominee, what are the chances that he could be targeted in a Swiftboat-style campaign, and what could you have done better to counter that criticism four years ago?

A Well, I think it's a hundred percent, a hundred percent that some partisans on the other side are going to attack in the same kind of way, using whatever targets are available to them. And everybody expects it. The difference is, we now know that you can't take -- you can't assume that people have learned the truth because it was printed in the newspapers or put out on one television show. What we could have done better and should have done better was made sure that more money was spent specifically answering their lies. And ... they, for an example, they spent about $4 million in Ohio in the last week alone, and we didn't counter those lies for whatever reasons. I can't tell you. You know, you hope people are getting those kinds of things done. It didn't happen. I take responsibility for it. I don't think that Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are going to stand for that for one instant. The Democratic Party isn't going to stand for it. We've learned the lesson. You have to answer dollar for dollar, and even more, every effort they make to lie about your character or who you are.

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