Candidates who aren't conceding anything.

Candidates who aren't conceding anything.

Candidates who aren't conceding anything.

Policy made plain.
Jan. 29 2004 11:06 AM

Never Say Die

Candidates who aren't conceding anything.

(Note: On CNN the night of the New Hampshire primary, a spokeswoman for Joe Lieberman said the candidate was encouraged by his third-place showing in greater Manchester.)

Q: Governor, in light of your seventh-place showing in five successive primaries, some people are saying it's time for you to withdraw from the race. What is your reaction to that?

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A: Larry, the American people have spoken, and I have heard them loud and clear. They want change, they want leadership, and they demand accountability from all of us who have the privilege of asking for their votes for the highest office in this great country. To withdraw now, simply because the going is tough, would betray everything I stand for. I cannot let down my supporters in that way and still call myself "that krazy kick-ass comeback kid."

Q: Many people have been hoping you would stop calling yourself that anyway.

A: Well, they hope in vain. I am that krazy kick-ass comeback kid. I always have been and always will be. You have to be true to yourself, Larry, to who you really are. Because the American people can spot a faker. You know, Larry, unlike some of my rivals who went to fancy prep schools, my family didn't have a lot when I was growing up …

Q: Yes, we know, we know.

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A: … we didn't have a lot of money for things like tracking polls and negative advertising. But my poppa used to say, "We don't need focus groups to tell us what's right." My parents raised me not to give up. I'm a fighter. And I'll keep on fighting for my message of hope and for the American people.

Q: But nobody's voting for you, Governor. At what point do you say, "They've heard my message and they just don't like it"?

A: How can they not like it? I mean, let's get real here. It's a message of hope and a message of change. It's a message with every cliché that's worked for every winning candidate of both parties. How can it not be working for me? I mean, let me ask you that. Why isn't it working? Why, why?

Q: You tell me, Governor. Why isn't it working?

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A: Who says it's not working? It is working. It's working all over this country. It's working hard, just like the American people. And working people are responding to a message that works as hard as they do.

Q: They are? What's your evidence for that?

A: Larry, in the Nebraska primary, I came in third among Hispanic homeowners living in metropolitan Lincoln. That's an amazing showing for a white guy like me who rents a studio apartment.

Q: Your wife got the house, I believe.

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A: That's right, Larry. Thanks for reminding me. But as I was saying, only a month ago I was coming in fourth among Hispanic homeowners in Lincoln, Neb. Yet I ended up a strong third in that crucial demographic. This says to me, "Kid, you've got the momentum. Don't give up now!" Not that Hispanics or any other Americans can be reduced to the status of a demographic. They are people—never forget that. And people are what this election is all about, no matter what my opponents may say.

Q: How many Hispanic homeowners from Lincoln voted in the Nebraska Democratic primary?

A: Seven, although we're still waiting for Mrs. Menendez's absentee ballot.

Q: And weren't there only two other candidates on the ballot in Nebraska?

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A: Yes, and they own two homes each, because they're rich. What's your point?

Q: Well, leaving Hispanic homeowners aside, how did you manage to finish fifth among three candidates?

A: There's a strong write-in tradition in Nebraska. In fact, we felt we were putting ourselves at a disadvantage by registering to appear on the ballot. But we did it because it was the right thing to do. Can we move on now?

Q: Don't you have to actually win some primary somewhere if you're going to claim your party's nomination?

A: I agree with you, that's the conventional wisdom. But we couldn't afford a lot of conventional wisdom when I was growing up. My mama used to say, "We don't need conventional wisdom. Homespun bromides will do just fine." And that's why I believe it's not over 'til it's over. Would it be better to win a primary than to lose all of them? Would it be better to come in second or third than fourth or fifth? And Larry, I truly believe we will come in a solid fourth in at least one of the 14 primaries happening tomorrow.

Sure, a lower number like one or two is better than a higher number like four or five under the cockamamie and corrupt electoral system we operate under. That's one of the things that has to change in this country, if we're going to move into the 21st century. We face competition from other nations with much more sophisticated approaches to elections, such as not having them at all. In 2000, our own country tried the experiment of holding an election and ignoring the result. Many Democrats found that solution unsatisfactory. We must do better. For ourselves, for the world, and most importantly for our children.

When I am president, I will appoint a high-level commission to meet in secret and refuse subpoenas for documents. It will address this issue, along with all other issues that might arise during my presidency, so that I can concentrate on continuing to tell the American people how wonderful they are. Which they are, by the way. Some of my opponents in this primary season—and everyone in the other party—appear to believe that the American people are only wonderful during election years. When I am president, the American people will be wonderful all the time.

Q: Thank you, Governor. And America Votes 2004 continues. Coming up next: Our distinguished panel of journalists will discuss, Is there any way to stop this thing from becoming a foregone conclusion and giving us nothing to write about between now and the conventions? Don't go away. Please, please, don't go away. Wait! Come back. Come back …