Presidential Campaign Update

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann.

And I’m Steve Ember. This week -- a progress report on the race for the presidency.

Many Americans can remember when presidential campaigns lasted two or three months. The campaign this year will be one of the longest in American history.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts already has gained enough delegates to secure the nomination of the Democratic Party. Elections at the state level decide how many delegates will support a candidate at the party nominating convention. A candidate needed two-thousand-one-hundred-sixty-two delegates to secure the nomination.

Democrats began to vote in January for a candidate to compete against President George W. Bush. The biggest day of voting was on March second. It was called Super Tuesday. Citizens voted in ten states. Senator Kerry won nine of them. Senator John Edwards of North Carolina won the tenth. But he left the race after that.

So Democrats have chosen their candidate early. This did not happen by chance. Some states held their nominating elections earlier than before. Not everyone thinks this was such a good idea. They say voters may lose interest in the campaign. Election Day is not until November second.

Democrats will meet in Boston, Massachusetts, in July to nominate John Kerry. Republicans will hold their nominating convention in New York City in August. President Bush ran unopposed for delegates. The Constitution permits presidents to serve two four-year terms.

Early March was important for President Bush as well as for Senator Kerry. The Bush re-election campaign began television messages in seventeen states. And the president made some campaign trips to seek votes and raise money.

John Kerry has served almost twenty years as a United States senator from Massachusetts. As a young man, he fought in the Vietnam War. He was honored for bravery. When he came home, however, he protested that war. Yet a lot of people thought the Democratic nominee this year would not be John Kerry, but Howard Dean. As of October there were ten candidates. They took part in debates and campaigned around the country.

Howard Dean, a medical doctor, was popular as governor of the small northeastern state of Vermont. He resigned in two-thousand-two to begin his campaign to become America’s forty-fourth president.

Some Democrats liked Doctor Dean because he opposed the war in Iraq. They liked the energetic way he expressed anger at the Bush administration. His supporters noted that other major Democratic candidates had voted in Congress for the United States to invade Iraq. Senator Kerry supported the American-led action when Congress considered it. He says he voted for war because the administration had warned that weapons of mass destruction threatened America. He criticizes the war, now that searchers have not found any such weapons.

Political observers also praised Howard Dean for the way he raised money for his campaign. He received millions of dollars in small gifts through the Internet. Some experts thought he had a good chance to defeat the president. But people in the state of Iowa thought differently. The Iowa caucuses took place on January nineteenth. Local citizens held meetings to choose delegates who would support the candidates. John Kerry received thirty-eight percent of the delegates. John Edwards finished second. And Howard Dean finished third, with eighteen percent.

What happened? Commentators said many people in Iowa thought Howard Dean sounded too angry. They also thought some of his television messages were too critical of his opponents. And then there was the "Dean Scream." The night he lost the Iowa caucuses, Howard Dean made a short statement to his supporters. Many were young people who had worked hard for him. Clearly he wanted to say something to give them energy to campaign in the other states. Howard Dean shouted over the noise. He waved his arms around and ended his speech with a yell.

Television showed this moment hundreds of times in the days to follow. The Dean campaign protested that this was unfair. But the media were not alone. Many Americans said Howard Dean did not appear presidential.

The next nominating election was the primary in New Hampshire. Again, John Kerry won. He received thirty-eight percent of the vote. But this time Howard Dean finished second, with twenty-six percent. Wesley Clark was third, with John Edwards close behind. Mr. Clark is a retired Army general and former NATO commander.

Then came voting in seven states on February third. Senator Edwards won South Carolina, which is next to his home state. General Clark won Oklahoma. That proved to be the only state he won. Senator Kerry won the other five states.

Some campaigns did not last long. Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois withdrew just before the Iowa caucuses in January. Representative Richard Gephardt of Missouri quit afterward. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut stayed in the race until early February. So did Wesley Clark.

On February eighteenth, Howard Dean also left the race. His campaign collected a lot of money. But campaign officials say they did not spend it well. As a result, there was not much left to spend this year. John Edwards left the campaign after he won only South Carolina on March second.

Senator Bob Graham of Florida was also in the race for a time. And there were two other candidates: the Reverend Al Sharpton of New York and Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

Senator Kerry must still choose someone for vice president. Many people would like him to choose John Edwards of North Carolina. They say he is the best speaker of all the candidates. He was a trial lawyer before he ran for the Senate. He is in his first term as a senator.

Some people say John Edwards would bring balance to the Democrats in the election. Senator Kerry is from a rich family in New England, in the northeastern part of the United States. Senator Edwards, though now wealthy, is from a family in the South that did not have much money. Many people call John Kerry a liberal. John Edwards is known more as a moderate.

President Bush says he wants Dick Cheney to remain his vice president. Public opinion research shows that the vice president has lost popularity in recent months.

One issue involves the company that Mr. Cheney once led, Halliburton. Halliburton provides services for oil fields. Currently it is also serving food to American troops and doing other work related to the Iraq war.

There has been criticism about overcharging and a lack of competition for projects. Halliburton defends its pricing and the way it has received work. Still, some people say the company in Texas has too much influence in Washington.

There are different issues in this election year. Iraq. Terrorism. Taxes. Education. Health care. But the economy plays a big part. The economy is better since the last recession. But the recovery has not created many new jobs yet. Another issue is the loss of information technology jobs to India and other countries.

John Kerry leads President Bush in some public opinion studies. The president is just beginning his own campaign. Estimates of the amount of money that his supporters have already given are as high as two-hundred-million dollars. That is a lot more than the Kerry campaign has received.

The two candidates have already begun to attack each other through paid announcements on television and radio. At some point President Bush and Senator Kerry will probably debate each other. And there will be lots of travel. Some states are considered easy for one or the other candidate to win. But other states could go either way. These are called battleground states.

One thing is sure. Americans have eight months until Election Day to hear all about it.

Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was Caty Weaver. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA, in Special English on the Voice of America.