The biggest differences are that the trees still have leaves on them, the temperatures are above freezing, and the Red Sox fans are no longer depressed, but by and large the end of John Kerry's campaign for the presidency looks very much like it did in the beginning here in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Manchester's bars, diners and city hall are again the backdrop for the campaign of Senator Kerry, last Democrat standing from a primary season that kicked off nearly 11 months ago. Back then, Kerry defied expectation, coming from behind in the Iowa caucuses to upset Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont. On Sunday, Kerry talked about defying expectation yet again — he hopes to win New Hampshire back for the Democrats (it was a red state in 2000) by hammering at President Bush's record and portraying himself as the champion of middle-class values. "I'm a strong closer" he told the crowd of thousands, many of whom brought children still dressed for Halloween trick-or-treating. But a strong close for Kerry means pulling off a Red Sox-esque upset — an analogy the senator was not beyond making himself — as final tracking polls put him behind Bush, but well within the margin of error.
With fewer than 48 hours to go, Senator Kerry talked to MTV News for the fifth time during this campaign, taking questions about how he'd rep young voters, what he'd do to catch Osama bin Laden, and the political implications of Eminem's "Mosh," a topic we'd only begun to broach when his body men whisked him away to rally his base as the seconds ticked down.
Gideon Yago: Hi Senator, good to see you again. What is it you're hearing from young people on the road? What do they expect from you if you're elected president?
John Kerry: The truth, first and foremost. And secondly, a vision of the future that ... is [about] responsibility. Protecting the environment. Making college more affordable. Creating jobs that pay more than the jobs we're losing overseas. People want an honest possibility for the future. They don't want everything in their hands, but they want a clear shot. And I'm going to give them that shot.
Yago: Is there one young person you've met this year — is there one story in particular — that sticks out in your mind that really clarified an issue for you, or that you'll think about when you [reflect on] this campaign and when you're in the Oval Office legislating and leading on behalf of young people?
Kerry: The truth is there are really thousands. I have a thing called Kids for Kerry, and kids all over the country are wearing Kids for Kerry T-shirts. [There is] a 6-year-old kid in Philadelphia, his name is Winfield. He gave me a Tupperware container with 680 bucks that he raised this summer selling bracelets on the street with a little table. [He] got his 9-year-old brother to make the bracelets. And he gave me 680 bucks. I mean, that's more than some people who've been working in our democracy for 80 years have done.
I've been swept off my feet by the unbelievable commitment of young people. We're going to fix America's role in the world. We're going to restore our values and our prestige. And we're going to make the decisions that we need to to protect this planet — to protect the environment and to lead the world to a safer place. I think young people understand that we can do better than we're doing today. Period.
Yago: You said that President Bush has not admitted the mistakes he's made in the last four years. Looking back at this year, if there's one thing that you could have changed about your campaign, or one mistake that you could've fixed, what would it have been?
Kerry: Oh, there are a number of things, Gideon. I can't pick just one, because there are several. I was pretty frank about admitting a couple of them. I changed my campaign managers in mid-stream and it was risky. But I did what I had to do to correct what was happening. I've been blessed to have an extraordinary group of people come together in the end. There are times when I probably said a couple stupid things — not probably, when I have. And you wish you hadn't said something the way you said it — it just happens. But all in all, I'm proud of this campaign, and I'm proud of the people involved in it.
Yago: On Friday, the first tape in 35 months has come out from Osama bin Laden. He has been public enemy number one for the last three years. It is your first day in the White House. What do you do to catch him?
Kerry: Well, there are a lot of things I'm going to do long before day one to begin to lay the groundwork to run a more effective war on terror. We have to rebuild our intelligence structure and we have to have much better cooperation with other countries. That's the key to good intelligence, and that's the key to catching Osama bin Laden.
Yago: Last time we talked, in March, you said that it's important to listen to hip-hop because it gives you a sense of what's going on in the street. Have you heard the new Eminem song that's been out?
Kerry: You know, I heard Eminem on "Saturday Night Live" last night. I heard the song that he did. I don't know if that's part of his new [album] or not. I liked it. But that's the only thing that I've heard in the last weeks. I'm on the trail. I'm campaigning every day.
Yago: Last question: If you're elected, will you come on MTV as president and speak with young people again?
Kerry: I would love it. I would absolutely love it. I'd really look forward to it. The answer is absolutely. With pleasure.