Presidential Candidates Attend DNC Meeting
JOHN YDSTIE, Host:
NPR's Don Gonyea was there.
DON GONYEA: Whenever Democrats gather these days, you can feel the anticipation, the sense that it's time to capture the White House. But party chairman Howard Dean opened yesterday's meeting of the DNC with words of caution.
HOWARD DEAN: The worst thing we can do right now is be complacent, overconfident, and take things for granted. The Republicans may not know how to run America, but they do know how to win elections, and we had better be willing to work hard and pull together in order to win this one.
GONYEA: In all five Democratic presidential hopefuls who spoke to the meeting, Senator Clinton's cancelation came mid-afternoon; Senator Dodd had cancelled earlier in the week, opting instead to campaign in Iowa. The first to speak yesterday was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
BILL RICHARDSON: You're going to hear a lot of arguments for how we can win the presidency. But for me, it's much bigger than that. We, as Democrats, have to start by winning back the confidence of the American people, and that begins with proving that we're listening to them.
GONYEA: Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who has leveled strong attacks against Hillary Clinton out on the trail, yesterday, focused more on his ability to win votes in southern states that favor Republicans.
JOHN EDWARDS: We need to go to every state in America to make our case, and I mean every state. If we have a candidate who is straight with people, who has strong convictions, and who won't back down from a fight, we can compete everywhere.
GONYEA: Direct jabs at opponents at such big party gatherings are often delivered with a velvet glove as Senator Obama did with what was clearly a reference to an unnamed Senator Clinton.
BARACK OBAMA: Triangulating poll-driven positions because we're worried about what Mitt or what Rudy might say about us just won't do. If we are serious, really serious about winning this election, Democrats, we can't live in fear of losing it.
GONYEA: During the afternoon session, Congressman Dennis Kucinich went after President Bush, saying it's time to get out of Iraq and calling for impeachment.
DENNIS KUCINICH: There are those who say, well, you know what, they'll move for impeachment of the president if he bombs Iraq; that would be a little bit light...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
KUCINICH: ...with all due respect.
GONYEA: Moments later, Delaware Senator Joe Biden portrayed himself as ready for battle against anyone the Republican's nominee.
JOE BIDEN: If they think they're getting in the ring with someone who doesn't know to punch back, they've got the wrong guy. Ladies and gentlemen, we will eat these guys alive on national security, on domestic security, and all of those issues we've always beaten them on - from health care to education, to the environment.
GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.
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