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Election 2004: Kerry Campaign on VP Pick

Tad Devine
Kerry Campaign Adviser
Monday, June 7, 2004; 3:00 PM

Sen. John F. Kerry has selected Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina as his vice presidential running mate.

Kerry campaign adviser Tad Devine discusses the choice, Sen. Edwards and the 2004 election.


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Tad Devine: Hi everyone - it's very nice to be with you - I look forward to answering some of your questions. And if you'd like more information you can go to www.johnkerry.com

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. Devine,
To the average voter Senator John Edwards is almost the anti-Cheney. He is young, affable, vibrant, charming and almost always seen with an infectous smile. Even before his recent outburst, Vice President Cheney struck me as unrefined and aggitated. Can the Kerry campaign use this to its advantage? And if so, how?

Tad Devine: I think there will be a real contrast between the hard negative campaign that Vice President Cheney and President Bush are running and the positive, optimistic campaign that John Kerry and John Edwards have run and will run in the future. We think this contrast is not only good for our campaign but good for our country.

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Herndon, Va.: Which areas will Senator Edwards be campaigning in most heavily?

Tad Devine: He is going to be campaigning all across America. John Edwards is the embodiment of the American dream. His life story - son of a millworker from a small town in the heart of North Carolina - is a powerful success story that will resonate all across this nation. He demonstrated his appeal to voters in our primary process and we expect that he will campaign all across the country in the weeks ahead.

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm proud of Senator Kerry's good decision. Now can you explain the following?

Senator Edwards won my vote in the primaries not only on the issues, but with his determination to run a "positive" campaign without a lot of personal attacks or negative ads. Not only is that an appealing and fresh strategy, but it seems to fit with his sunny personality.

However, in past campaigns, we've always heard that the vice presidential candidate's job is to be the "attack dog" who does the dirty work of attacking the opponent so that the presidential candidate stays above the fray, and can stay positive. I'm assuming that's because somebody on the ticket does need to do this less appealing, more negative work.

Given Edwards' positive campaign record, it seems like a contradiction that will be hard to resolve. How do you see this playing out in terms of Edwards's role?

Tad Devine: John Edwards will not be the attack dog on the ticket. We'll leave that role exclusively to Vice President Cheney. The Kerry Edwards Campaign is not about fear - it's about hope. It's about the possibilities for America that can be realized if we have a president and vice president who are committed to an agenda of making America stronger at home and respected in the world.

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Huntington, Va.: Now that there are two sitting Senators on the ticket, are you concerned that there will continue to be negative publicity concerning their absence from the Senate floor? Particularly given that the Senate will be voting on a minimum wage increase this week and it appears Kerry and Edwards will be nowhere near the Capitol?

Tad Devine: Senator Kerry has told Senator Daschle that he would be available as needed in the Senate. We know that the Republicans will attempt to manipulate the process as they did recently to gain political advantage. Having said that, both John Kerry and John Edwards understand that the best way to serve their constituents and the nation is to campaign aggressively across America so we can change the direction of this nation and reverse the failed policies of the Bush/Cheney administration.

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College Park, Md.: I think Edwards is a great choice for vice president, but I was surprised that Kerry selected him as his running mate. I had heard Bill Richardson, John McCain, and even Dick Gephardt's names tossed around more often than Edwards, especially since Kerry won the primaries. How was the decision ultimately made?

Tad Devine: This decision was made in a serious, deliberative process. We believe it was the best selection process in history for a vice president. Certainly better than the one which Dick Cheney headed, resulting in the selection of himself.

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Tonica, Ill.: What do you think of the ad that Republicans are now running touting John McCain as Kerry's "first choice" for Veep? Could it backfire -- especially with moderate Republicans?

Tad Devine: I think they run an ad with John McCain and George Bush together at some risk to their campaign. I think voters will look at President Bush and Senator McCain and think, "Why can't John McCain be the Vice Presidential nominee instead of Dick Cheney?"

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Daytona Beach, Fla.: How do you dispute the claim made earlier by Scott Stanzel in regards to Senator Edwards being "too inexperienced to do the job?"

Tad Devine: I am not surprised that the republicans have begun launching attacks immediately against Senator Edwards. This is just the latest chapter in a relentlessly negative campaign that is falling on deaf ears of voters all across America. John Edwards has spent twenty-five years fighting for people - for families and children in North Carolina where he represented victims against armies of lawyers on the other side, and for the past 6 years on the floor of the United States Senate and all across America where he championed the cause of ordinary people. I think this experience is invaluable in our leaders and I know that Senator Kerry understood that fact. In many ways that understanding helped him make this decision on his running mate.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: What was the strategy behind picking John Edwards now as opposed to one week before the convention, the traditional time to pick a running mate? I'm concerned that the buzz surrounding the pick might wear off by the time of the convention.

Tad Devine: This election is unlike other elections in the past. Today, as was demonstrated in the most recent ABC/Washington Post poll, the public is far more engaged in the details of the election than they have been in past campaigns. This intense public interest was one of the factors that made an early selection a good idea and we believe that the public interest will continue because the issues that America faces today - defending our nation, the war in Iraq, the economy, health care, and other key issues are so fundamental and important that the public wants an in-depth debate on these issues and real answers to the problems they face in their daily lives.

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Massachusetts: Hi,
I'm one of Kerry's constituents and I have been excited about his campaign for the presidency since he announced he would run. I personally feel Kerry makes a great candidate in his own right, but many people are voting for him simply because he is not Bush -- how would this kind of voter sentiment affect a Kerry presidency once/if he takes office?

Tad Devine: Voters are just getting to know John Kerry and his lifetime of service and strength. As they come to know him better in the weeks and months ahead, we're confident that not only will his support grow, but the underpinnings of that support and the enthusiasm for his candidacy will grow as well. In the most recent ABC/Washington Post poll, over 70% of the respondents who supported Kerry said they were "certain" to vote for John Kerry in November - as opposed to "likely" voters. That level of vote consolidation was not achieved by George Bush and Al Gore in 2000 until the middle of October. This campaign is already ahead of shedule and I expect, given the selection of John Edwards, that the tremendous enthusiasm and intensity of support for this ticket will continue to build.

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Rockville, Md.: During the last discussion with a spokesperson for the Bush campaign, someone asked, "Was this just another flip-flop on Kerry's part? Didn't Edwards and Kerry attack each other all through the primaries? How can he get away with this?"

My question for you is, with the Bush team using John McCain in web ads, is that just another flip-flop on Bush's part? Didn't Bush and McCain attack each other all through the 2000 primaries? How can Bush get away with this?

Tad Devine: That is a great question. What President Bush did to Senator McCain in the South Carolina primary was the worst kind of politics. We are not surprised that a republican senator would endorse a republican president for re-election. Having said that, I think that most Americans would agree that John McCain is a patriot and someone who is honest about the political process and who, unlike the president and vice president, is willing to reach across party lines on behalf of the American people. That's why John McCain worked so closely with John Kerry to find the truth about POWs and MIAs in Vietnam and to restore relations with Vietnam during the Clinton administration. And that is why Senator McCain to this day is standing with John Edwards to support a Patients' Bill of Rights in the United States Senate. Instead of invoking Senator McCain's political support, perhaps the president should support some of John McCain's legislation. That would be good for all Americans.

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East Lansing, Mich.: Let me preface my comment on Edwards to say that I have what many people would categorize as strong liberal leanings. I took time off from my undergraduate studies years ago to campaign for George McGovern. I have voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since then. Furthermore, I was happy to see Kerry win the primaries.
John Edwards, however, strongly bothers me. This is not a man who made his millions by building a company, developing a new product, or in some way adding to our economy. Instead, he made his fortune by suing others. He depicts his days as a trial lawyer as standing up for the little guys who needed representation. Anybody in law knows such cases are seldom "black and white". Through increased medical bills, insurance, etc., we have all payed for the fortunes of people such as Edwards. I guess I will have to make the choice between voting for two bad candidates or one good and one bad. I guess I also have the choice of voting for Nader or staying home.

Tad Devine: Senator Edwards was a successful trial lawyer. That is a fact. But the people that he represented, many of whom I had the chance to meet personally when I worked for his Senate campaign in 1998 in North Carolina, where ordinary people who many times found themselves up against powerful interests. Some of them were children who were tragically injured in terrible accidents. John Edwards' advocacy on their behalf and on behalf of their families is a true testament to the meaning of the word "justice" in our society.

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Rochester, N.Y.: Sitting here in a "safe "state we rarely see any part of a Presidential campaign. Will Kerry or Edwards make a swing through upstate new York?

Tad Devine: They will be in New York City later this week but I don't know of a specific event yet scheduled for upstate New York.

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Columbus, Ohio: As a political consultant, I've read polling results about how "church-goers" Americans tend to support Republicans and non-church-goers tend to support Democrats. Putting aside the accuracy of some of these polls (I suspect many say they go to church when they don't), what's the Kerry campaign's approach to the many thousands of us who attend progressive churches and believe that the Democratic Party is more closely aligned with the social reform agenda of the Bible? Thanks.

Tad Devine: John Kerry and John Edwards are both persons of faith, and people of faith are participating throughout the campaign. Senator Kerry is today speaking to the AME and he will continue to campaign across the country to people of all faiths in the course of this campaign.

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Alexandria, Va.: Are you concerned that by picking Edwards, Kerry has given the impression that he is incapable of making his own decisions, rather than giving in to the demands of the media and party leaders? When will Kerry realize that as the nominee, he should be the one leading the Democratic Party forward?

Tad Devine: Senator Kerry had a serious process for selecting his running mate. It involved about twenty-five people who were looked at in the course of the process as a potential running mate. We believe it was the best vice presidential selection process in modern history and that it helped Senator Kerry to select the best candidate for vice president.

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Tad Devine: I looked at the answers from the Bush campaign in the earlier chat and I think the tone of all of them is negative, as is the tone of their entire campaign. That is an unfortunate reality of this race. America really does deserve more from its president and vice president than negative campaigning and bitter destortions. The American people deserve a true contest of ideas. John Kerry and John Edwards in the days, weeks and months ahead will focus on the real issues that matter to people and on real plans for America's future. They believe in the American people and that belief will be manifested day after day in the course of this campaign. I think George Bush and Dick Cheney are going to lose this race for one fundamental reason: all they do is attack their opponents by talking about the past, while John Kerry and John Edwards will continue to talk about the American people and the nation's future. That's the choice and I'm confident the American people will choose a hopeful, optimistic vision for our future over the negative tactics and the politics of division from the Bush campaign. Thanks very much. I appreciate the chance to chat with so many of you today.

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Valencia, Calif.: To me, Edwards warms Kerry's image up so much. He is clearly a great asset to the team. I have heard tons lately about how the VP choice is unimportant to voters historically. However, my personal recollection is that candidates like Clinton, Reagan and, certainly, Kennedy were helped by their number two choices, while choices like Ferraro and Liberman were heroic, but unhelpful. Can you please comment on how you feel the role of VP helps/hurts a candidate?

Tad Devine: Let me answer this last question. I think the best pick for vice president is someone who shares the values and priorities of the candidate for president. John Edwards and John Kerry share traditional American values - hard work, patriotism, responsibility, service to nation and caring for others. I think these shared values and the common agenda which they share of strengthening the nation and defending it against threats to our security make their combination powerful politically. I think the American people will respond very favorably to Senator Kerry's choice and look forward to getting to know both of these candidates in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks, everyone.

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