Is Kerry a Sure Thing?

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto", March 2, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: If it is John Kerry’s race to lose Tuesday, what could make him lose it? Front-runners do stumble, after all. Just ask Jimmy Carter, who survived a withering series of March and April losses to a much talked about California governor named Jerry brown in 1976. Some say, had Brown entered the race earlier, he had become president.

With us now, Mr. Brown himself, now the mayor of Oakland, California.

Mayor, a pleasure. Thanks.

OAKLAND DEMOCRATIC MAYOR JERRY BROWN: Thank you. Good to be with you.

CAVUTO: You know, I do remember that race very well. And I remember you scoring some victories at a time when everyone thought the race was wrapped up for Jimmy Carter. A lot of people are saying the same thing now, Mayor, about the race being wrapped up for John Kerry. What are the dangers for Senator Kerry?

BROWN: Well, there is always a danger you can put your foot in your mouth. I mean, after all, if Dean had behaved a little differently, he might be the front-runner today.

What John Kerry has demonstrated is a certain steadiness, probably because of his character, his temperament, also, I think, because of his long experience. He has been around a long time. He came up in Boston, you know, the home of a very sophisticated form of politics. So I don’t see him getting beaten.

And also, Edwards has been running a lot. So he’s had a number of chances.

I came in, you know, in May, and was able to win, you know, many primaries. Actually five of them. But I hadn’t been tested before. So the people have seen Edwards, they like a lot of what they see, but John Kerry, definitely, I think, will continue to win, because he doesn’t give himself over to taking big chances.

CAVUTO: But, you know, in 1976, I argue at the time, Mayor, there was some buyers’ remorse going on here. You know, Jimmy Carter had come on the scene fairly quickly, he was a phenomenon at the time. And I think a lot of Democrats thought better and said, surely there must be someone else out there, and gave you a serious look. And I did say at the outset here that maybe had you entered the race earlier you would have got then nomination.

But do you think there’s the potential for buyers’ remorse among Democrats this year?

BROWN: I don’t think there is enough time. Tuesday -- we’ll see what happens tonight, but he may win all these things, or all but one. And then it is pretty well over at that point.

CAVUTO: But stop right there. I’m curious about that, Mayor. Why do we see it’s over when -- let’s say he wins 80 percent of the delegates up for grabs tonight. He’s still only halfway there.

BROWN: Well, because the money dries up.


BROWN: The media wants a winner. In effect, there is a vote by the voters in the primary, and there is a vote by the media as a system. And if you have demonstrated consistent failure, even though it is impressive as a second or third place, then they write you down in terms of the credibility, the coverage, the contextual framing of your presence over television.

So that is just one of the facts. And it’s developed.

One other point I need to make. I don’t think Jimmy Carter ran in very many primaries before emerging. He ran in Pennsylvania. I think he ran maybe in Georgia.

CAVUTO: Very good point.

BROWN: The big vote was in Florida, where he beat Wallace. So he hadn’t been out all that much. Whereas now we have 20 primaries. After tonight, we’ve got another 10.

So it is different. And certainly done the road people may get a little tired. But my hunch is that Kerry, because of his reserved New England character, is not given to a mistake. And also, it has taken a while for people to warm up to him, and so it has been a gradual courtship that I think will serve him well because it was a steady build-up. And that steadiness will continue right along, unless Bush and his demolition squad can somehow undermine John Kerry.

CAVUTO: I thought both sides had demolition squads. But let me ask you...

BROWN: Well -- and they do.

CAVUTO: And they do. Let me ask you about what is going on in your neck of the woods, this whole California referendum, the money. It seems like Democrats and Republicans are on board.

Jay Leno last night had Arnold Schwarzenegger, with the former governor on at the same time. Dianne Feinstein has come out saying that this $15 billion referendum is a good idea, this bond offering. How do you stand on this?

BROWN: Well, I’m for it. I came out right away because we have no choice. The legislature will not pass a tax which takes two-thirds. They have a huge gap, $15, $16 billion, $20 billion by some account. And you have to cut schools, and aid to retarded kids, and all sorts of stuff.

Nobody wants that. So the easiest default position, go to the credit card. So this is a massive credit card operation, and it is going to help for the short term. And if we get enough economic boost, you may never have to go back to taxes. But the smart betting is saying that within a year or so the impact on state spending is so devastating that even Arnold and some of the Republicans will have to raise some kind of tax somewhere.

CAVUTO: All right. Mayor Brown, always a pleasure. Thanks for joining us.

BROWN: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Jerry Brown in California.

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