Following Senator John Kerry's announcement that Senator John Edwards (D-NC) would be his vice-presidential running mate, CNN seemed to bolster Bush-Cheney '04 talking points that Edwards was not Kerry's first choice. By the afternoon of July 6, CNN reporters had collectively bumped Edwards to perhaps fourth among Kerry's preferences, behind Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Dick Gephardt (D-MO), and Governor Tom Vilsack (D-IA) -- and behind Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) among VP candidates preferred by "the most 'hard-core'" Democrats.
According to a Bush-Cheney '04 July 6 press release, the campaign's new ad, titled "First Choice," "features John Kerry's first choice for a vice presidential running mate, United States Senator John McCain" (R-AZ). As Media Matters for America previously noted, the Associated Press reported in June that McCain's chief of staff, Mark Salter, had said, ''Senator McCain categorically states that he has not been offered the vice presidency by anyone."
Following CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux's reporting that McCain was "Kerry's first pick" and that he "rejected that invitation" to join the ticket, later in the day, during an interview with CNN Crossfire co-host and syndicated columnist Robert Novak on CNN's Live From..., show co-anchor Kyra Phillips asked Novak, "Is it true that Gephardt was really Kerry's first choice?" Novak replied, "A lot of people say that. He likes Dick Gephardt," but moved on to assert that it was Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack whom "Kerry was really most personally fond of."
From the July 6 edition of CNN's Live From...:
PHILLIPS: Is it true that Gephardt was really Kerry's first choice?
NOVAK: A lot of people say that. He likes Dick Gephardt, but that they're kind of two of a kind. They've both been around Congress a long time. Dick Gephardt has a very distinguished record in the House of Representatives as a leader -- even people who don't agree with him are very fond of him, think he's a man of extremely high intellect and principle -- but a little bit "been around the track a little too much." And I think one of the reasons, however, that it took so long to pick John Edwards, was that labor really did want, or substantial parts of labor, really did want Dick Gephardt, but it wasn't enough to put essentially two Washington insiders on the ticket. John Edwards is not considered a Washington insider, he's only been here five and a half years. ...One thing I'd like to add, though, is the most interesting and odd candidate was Tom Vilsack, the governor of Iowa -- who, I'm told, is the one Kerry was really most personally fond of. A lot of people think that a governor on the ticket is helpful, but he had two strikes against him. One is no foreign policy experience. He was the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, which is not really a foreign country though it may sound like it. And the other thing was that Vilsack is a Catholic and people say it doesn't make a difference but having two Catholics on the ticket, Kerry and Vilsack, might be a little much.
Later on CNN's Live From..., show co-anchor Miles O'Brien interviewed CNN political analyst Carlos Watson; Watson reported that Senator Clinton -- not Edwards -- was the Democrats' true preference to be Kerry's running mate. Watson did not cite any sources to support this claim. In fact, the only evidence Watson did cite served the opposite conclusion: a June poll that showed Democratic voters favored Edwards to be the Democratic vice-presidential candidate. According to Watson, this poll did show Edwards was favored overall among Democrats; but, nonetheless, he stuck to his un-sourced claim that "die-hard" Democrats preferred Hillary Clinton:
O'BRIEN: When you talk to the real die-hard, hard-core Democrats, what was their dream ticket?
WATSON: Make no mistake about it. It was not Kerry-Edwards. And not Kerry-McCain. But it was Kerry-Clinton. For a long time Hillary Clinton has been one of the most popular figures in the party and I think for many of the most "hard-core," if you will, Hillary Clinton still would be the choice. Although what was interesting in that one of the recent polls back in June, when people were asked, Democrats included, who would be their favored choice, Hillary Clinton was the choice of about a quarter of the voters, whereas John Edwards was still number one with about 34 percent of those Democrats saying that he would be their top choice for the VP. So Hillary Clinton for the die-hards, but still overall among Democrats, John Edwards was the homecoming king, if you will.