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The Democrat Candidates

Holding the Democrats accountable today, tomorrow...forever.

John Kerry

excerpts from the Iowa Daily Report

September 1-15, 2003

Twenty years from now, this could be the core curriculum for the “How Not to Run For President” course: Kerry and his consultants – on the eve of his “formal” announcement – still undecided on the message. Maybe they should have just flipped a coin or let Teresa Heinz Kerry decide? Headline from this morning’s The Union Leader: “Senator spends 11th hour writing candidacy speech Excerpt from coverage by the AP’s Mike Glover – who’s normally stationed in IA watching for wannabes threats, but just happened to be in Charleston yesterday awaiting Kerry’s campaign kickoff. Excerpt from Glover’s report: “Facing a pivotal moment in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, John Kerry worked until the last minute on the speech that will formally launch his candidacy. The 11th-hour move exposed the divisions within his own team over the campaign's direction. Once considered the front-runner, Kerry now trails Howard Dean in New Hampshire and is bunched at the top of the field with Dick Gephardt and Dean in Iowa. Dean has gained traction with his anti-Washington establishment campaign, which has proven costly for lawmakers such as Kerry and Gephardt. Dean's surge has revealed a split among Kerry's advisers, with some aides calling for aggressive tactics while others urge caution, fearing that harsh attacks would alienate the new voters Dean has attracted to the Democratic Party. Kerry dismissed the poll results, saying ‘they don't mean anything today’ because voters are only beginning to pay attention, and that's why he chose to officially announce his campaign after Labor Day. ‘America is just beginning to listen,’ said Kerry. Critics, including some prominent Democrats, have argued that Kerry needs to change his approach to counter Dean's growth in the polls. Kerry's aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the candidate was more involved in the crafting of the speech, which would reflect his personal view on the campaign's direction. Some of Kerry's critics have said the campaign is bloated with too many aides and advisers. The Massachusetts senator launches a high-profile swing formally announcing his campaign for the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, and that closely watched speech likely will signal who has won the internal campaign debate. The choice Kerry faces is similar to what former Vice President Al Gore had to deal with before the 2000 election. Gore relocated his campaign to Nashville, Tenn., and pared back his staff when his campaign faltered early. After losing the New Hampshire primary to Republican John McCain, George W. Bush switched his message 180 degrees. At the center of Kerry's claim for the nomination is that his decorated Vietnam War-hero past gives him credibility beyond any other Democratic candidate in challenging Bush's national security record. Some aides argued for him to broaden that theme; it was certain to be the centerpiece of his announcement. Kerry was scheduled to deliver his speech against the backdrop of the mammoth aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in the harbor at Charleston, S.C. At his side would be members of the gunboat crew he commanded in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. While Kerry voted last October to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, he has been critical of Bush's handling of the conflict, particularly for failing to enlist the help of other nations. In recent weeks, Kerry has moved to spell out his positions on issues ranging from health care to the economy to protecting veterans, but he was reserving his high-profile announcement swing for an ‘overarching vision’ of where he would take the country, aides said.’” (9/2/2003)

… “Economic focus helps Kerry” – headline on Thomas Oliphant column in Sunday’s Boston Globe. Oliphant contends that Kerry’s economic thrust has potential to redirect the Mass Sen to the Dem nomination. Excerpt from Oliphant’s column:  “The presidential campaign that John Kerry is ‘formally’ launching this week in South Carolina is built on biography and resume -- political sand castles that usually disappear with the next tide. It is a campaign, off its performance for most of this weird year, that is capable of heading straight into a ditch. But the campaign that Kerry displayed last week is built on an economic message that is just as capable of heading in the opposite direction, toward the Democratic nomination. Biography and resume, by definition, are about him. An economic message is about us. In a chat with journalists before Kerry's presentation in Durham, N.H., last week, a senior Kerry adviser well versed in the ways of Washington and Wall Street expressed amazement at how easily Democrats have forgotten the core lessons of Bill Clinton's presidency, when getting economic fundamentals right supported and stimulated prosperity. The core of government policy, he said, must focus on the most powerful engine of growth -- America's middle-class -- for reasons that include simple fairness and politics as well as sound economics. In addition, discipline must be maintained over the huge federal budget, and trade policy must be ‘progressive’ to foster American exports, meaning no rollbacks of existing international agreements and a willingness to pursue new ones. That is the essence of Kerry's approach, which stands not only as a solid means of reversing an astonishingly poor record by the Bush administration but as a forceful rebuke of two competitors -- Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt -- who have let their fixation on a single issue (universal health insurance) cloud their judgment about the income tax burden on ordinary Americans…This portion of Kerry's speech deserves repeating: ‘We shouldn't make it harder for middle-class families to make ends meet and we shouldn't turn our backs on making the 21st century work for all of us. But some in my party are so angry at George Bush and his unfair tax cuts that they think the solution is to do the exact opposite.’ Anger, the source of Dean's surge, is a poor substitute for sound policy. His proposal would raise the income tax burden on middle-income households by as much as $2,000 a year, putting a ridiculously brutal squeeze on families, the elderly included, that are being pinched by hard times and the rising cost of essentials as never before. Kerry's proposal shows how concentrating on the top-rate tax cuts and other high-income areas yields more than enough money to stimulate the economy in the short-term, but also to slash the deficit over time so massive federal borrowing doesn't choke off recovery…One speech will not be enough for Kerry -- or for John Edwards and Joe Lieberman, who have similar views. The key question is which candidate will fasten upon a middle-class economic message, almost to the exclusion of everything else, and make the contrast with Dean a question of values. I suspect most people believe Kerry is as qualified to be president as anyone has ever been. They want to know whether he can make a difference in their difficult lives.”(9/2/2003)

What will Teresa focus on during his campaign appearances? Tax credits for Botox treatments or prenuptial agreements for gay marriages? Headline from Sunday’s Boston Herald: “Kerry’s wife spices up bid” Coverage by the Herald’s Andrew Miga: “Teresa Heinz Kerry, stepping back into the spotlight after a low-key summer, will soon boost her profile on the presidential campaign trail with appearances for her husband in key states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. The outspoken comments by the wealthy wife of Sen. John F. Kerry on matters ranging from marital fidelity and prenuptial agreements to Botox cosmetic treatments generated headlines last spring during a round of media interviews. She was less visible in the media during the summer months, however. Kerry has complained that the media has unfairly portrayed his wealthy wife as a ‘loose cannon’ whose freewheeling ways could undermine his candidacy.  Kerry advisers contend her brash, independent-minded personality will be a campaign asset - a dose of Sen. John McCain-style authenticity that will play well with jaded voters turned off by slick campaign messages. ‘She is her own person and voters tend to like people who speak their minds with no holds barred,’ said one Kerry adviser. ‘She is an asset.’  Heinz Kerry plans to appear at a string of fund-raising events on behalf of her husband, campaign sources said, and will speak before small groups of voters in grassroots-style events over the next two months.  She will accompany her husband on his campaign plane this week as he formally launches his presidential bid in South Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire and Boston. She will also travel to New Mexico for the first presidential debate to be held Thursday in Albuquerque. Next weekend she will host a major fund-raising event for high-end Kerry fund-raisers at her Brant Point, Nantucket home.”(9/2/2003)

Even when he’s not in sight, Dean dominates latest wannabe discussions. Headline from yesterday’s The Union Leader: “Kerry, Lieberman fire at front-runner Dean” Excerpt from AP report – datelined Washington – by AP’s Jennifer C. Kerr: “He wasn't even on the Sunday talk shows, but Howard Dean got plenty of air time as his Democratic rivals for the White House took aim at the former Vermont governor. ‘Howard Dean has zero experience in international affairs,’ said Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry on NBC's Meet the Press. ‘The presidency is not the place for on-the-job training in this new security world,’ he said. Dean has opened up a wide lead over Kerry - by more than 20 points - in the latest poll in New Hampshire, a key state because of its Jan. 27 primary. Dean had been trailing Kerry earlier this year. Kerry dismissed the new numbers, saying, ‘I'm not concerned about it.’ He added, ‘Summertime is not when presidential races are won.’ Dean aides said their candidate is gaining ground and that must be making Kerry nervous. ‘For seven months they ignored us, now they're attacking us,’ said campaign manager Joe Trippi. ‘I wonder why that is?’ White House hopeful Joe Lieberman also had Dean in the political crosshairs. The Connecticut senator said Dean is not the candidate to take on President Bush: ‘I worry that he cannot win.’ On CBS' Face the Nation, Lieberman also accused Dean of flip-flopping on some of his positions. ‘He's got to let the American people know exactly where he stands,’ said Lieberman.” (9/2/2003)

Kerry starts over, but it will probably take more than an “announcement” tour to get him past Dean. Excerpt from this morning’s coverage by Los Angeles Times’ Ronald Brownstein, reporting from Mt. Pleasant, SC: “Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), in a ceremony suffused with symbols of his service in Vietnam, formally launched his presidential campaign today with a sweeping indictment of President Bush — and a newly combative edge toward Howard Dean, the rival who has surged to the forefront of the 2004 Democratic race. Overall, Kerry's speech did more to recapitulate than redefine the case he has made over the past year. But by drawing a succession of contrasts with Dean on taxes, gun control and foreign policy, the address outlined the arguments Kerry is hoping will allow him to recapture the initiative from the former Vermont governor. Beyond the policy differences, the speech dramatized the military service Kerry believes will be one of his central advantages in the race. He delivered the speech in a park that houses the Yorktown, an aircraft carrier that was deployed in Vietnam, where Kerry won a Silver Star and Bronze Star as the captain of a Navy gunboat. On the podium in front of Kerry, his campaign placed a placard that read: ‘The Courage to Do What's Right for America.’ Kerry, 59, was forceful and energetic, but apart from the stress on military service, the speech mostly reprised themes common to all of the Democratic contenders: more reliance on allies abroad, a rollback of Bush's tax cuts at home, and increased focus on environmental protection and the development of renewable energy sources. ‘I am running so we can keep America's promise to reward the hard work of middle-class Americans to restore our true strength in the world which comes from ideals, not arrogance, [and] to renew the commitment of our generation to pass this planet on to our children better than it was given to us,’ Kerry declared to about 300 supporters who gathered just outside of Charleston on a steamy morning. For Kerry, now serving his fourth term in the Senate, the speech came at a critical moment. He began 2003 as the consensus front-runner in the Democratic race. But lately he has surrendered that title to Dean, who has moved past Kerry in fund-raising and in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the critical first two contests on the nomination calendar.  Because the speech did not offer a significant new framework or message for Kerry's candidacy, it may not end the concern among those Democrats who fear that the senator has failed to crystallize a single compelling rationale for his campaign. But the speech signaled several of the contrasts that Kerry will stress as he tries to slow Dean's momentum. Although he never mentioned Dean by name, Kerry underscored his differences with his rival on three distinct issues: Taxes…Gun control…War in Iraq.(9/3/2003)

Washington Whisper: Kerry-McGovern connection exposed. Under the subhead   “McGovern's Guy,” Paul Bedard reported in his “Washington Whispers” column in U. S. News & World Report: “It may have been wishful thinking when Sen. John Kerry, the 1970s antiwar Vietnam veteran, couldn't recall helping 1972 Democratic loser George McGovern. Well, thanks to his foes in the Republican Party, we have something that might jog his mind. It's a brochure from his failed House campaign in 1972. ‘Recently at the request of Senator George McGovern,’ it says, ‘Kerry campaigned in the Oregon and California primaries.’ Still, the pander didn't work: McGovern won the Massachusetts district, while Kerry lost it.” (9/3/2003)

Vilsack’s “first tier” remains the same as it was weeks ago: Dean, Gephardt and Kerry. Headline from this morning’s Quad-City Times: “Vilsack’s not ready to endorse candidate” Excerpt from report by the Times’ Todd Dorman:  “Gov. Tom Vilsack was willing to handicap the Democratic presidential race Tuesday, but Iowa’s top Democrat said he is not ready to hand out an endorsement just yet. With Labor Day having signaled the start of a more intense period in the campaign, Vilsack said U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., make up the race’s ‘first tier.’ Kerry formally announced his candidacy Tuesday with a series of events that included a speech in Des Moines. Recent polls in Iowa, where the precinct caucuses open the nomination process Jan. 19, show Gephardt and Dean locked in a neck-and-neck race with Kerry running third. U.S. Sens. John Edwards, D-N.C., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., trail the top three. ‘But there is opportunity for other candidates to move into that first tier and to have a successful caucus night,’ Vilsack said. ‘I think we’ll see a lot of activity the next three or four months.’ The governor said he expects Iowa Democrats to start paying more attention to the race, partly because, he says, they now see President Bush as politically vulnerable. ‘We have a situation in Iraq that clearly was not handled very well. There was no plan for peace,’ Vilsack said. ‘With the economy, the president talks about that fact that he recognizes there is suffering, but he has no plan.’ Vilsack, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, has hosted Edwards, Gephardt, Dean and Lieberman at his Terrace Hill residence. But the governor said he has no plans at this time to endorse any of the nine candidates. In 2000, Vilsack remained neutral in the race between Vice President Al Gore and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey. The governor’s wife, Christie Vilsack, endorsed Gore, however.  ‘I’ve left open the option for me to endorse a candidate…I have no timeline,’ the governor said. If he does pick a candidate, Vilsack said he would do so to help undecided voters make a decision. ‘It might be an aid to people. I don’t think anyone’s endorsement is a key for any candidate,’ he said. As for undecided candidates, Vilsack suggested Gen. Wesley Clark’s possible late entry into the Democratic race would be ill-advised. ‘He would clearly start behind, and I think it would be very difficult for him in the early states to catch up,’ Vilsack said.”(9/3/2003)

Boston report: Kerry’s candidacy announcement signals start of another round of Dean-Kerry encounters. Anticipation grows as the wannabes rally for today’s debate in New Mexico, but Dukakis – remember him? – downplays the Dean phenomenon. Headline from yesterday’s Boston Herald: “Kerry heads back to thwart Dean’s regional challenge” Report – an excerpt – by the Herald’s David R. Guarino:  “Suddenly an underdog in his own backyard, U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry today begins a breakneck fight to reclaim New Hampshire from an upstart fellow New Englander. Fresh from a campaign kickoff in front of a warship in South Carolina, Kerry returns to hometown turf -- where allies admit they worry a primary loss to Howard Dean could be a death knell. Dean strategists, relishing the latest poll that shows the former Vermont governor beating Kerry by 21 points, want a quick TKO.  ‘Kerry has a huge advantage here. If he can't turn that into something, that will mean something,’ said Dean New Hampshire adviser Debbie Butler, a prominent Democrat. ‘If he's not catching on with the people who know him second best, that's trouble.’ Kerry allies said they're not writing off New Hampshire - despite the buzz about Kerry's South Carolina announcement.  On the ground, they're exuding confidence and saying Dean loses because he can't win in the long run. ‘Gov. Dean is striking a chord. He's stirring up a lot of interest that we'll enjoy having in our campaign when we win,’ said William Shaheen, a Kerry adviser, longtime Democrat and husband of former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. ‘Democrats are now looking at the guy who dislikes George Bush the most. In the end, that's not enough. You need the guy who will beat George Bush.’  Former Bay State Gov. Michael S. Dukakis downplayed the Dean phenomenon and said Kerry can still win the nomination - even with a Granite State loss.  ‘With two other New Englanders in the race, he has to do well but he doesn't have to win,’ Dukakis said. ‘This one is a long-distance race. You want to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, but it's what happens afterwards that's critical.’”(9/4/2003)

Kerry begins TV spots in six Iowa markets.  Excerpts from report – dateline, Des Moines – by AP caucus watcher Mike Glover: “One day after the official launch of his presidential candidacy, Democrat John Kerry unveiled ads for Iowa television that criticize President Bush's economic record. The commercials that will be broadcast in six major media markets in the state include excerpts from the rally Kerry held in Iowa Tuesday night as part of his four-state, two-day swing announcing his bid. Iowa holds its precinct caucuses Jan. 19. ‘Three million jobs lost, too many of them in the heartland,’ Kerry says in one ad. ‘That is an astonishing failure.’ Recent polls in Iowa show Kerry trailing rivals Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt. In one ad, Kerry focuses on his differences with Dean and Gephardt on repealing Bush's tax cuts. The former Vermont governor and Missouri congressman favor eliminating the cuts; Kerry would preserve some of the reductions. ‘If I am president I will roll back the tax cuts for the wealthy so we can invest in education, health care and the skills of our workers,’ the Massachusetts senator says in the ad. ‘We need to be on the side of America's middle class and a tax cut for them is the right way to strengthen our economy.’ Kerry, one of nine candidates seeking the party's nomination, formally announced his candidacy Tuesday in South Carolina and then traveled to Iowa for a series of campaign events. He planned appearances in New Hampshire and Massachusetts Wednesday. ‘I believe the resolve of Americans can break the grip of special interests and bring back jobs and finally open up health care to all,’ Kerry says in one spot that shows Kerry making his announcement to a cheering crowd in downtown Des Moines. Kerry is the fourth Democratic candidate to launch television commercials in Iowa. Dean, Gephardt and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina have already aired spots in the state.” (9/4/2003)

As if Kerry didn’t have enough trouble getting his campaign moving forward – not to mention possibly being steamrolled by the Dean bandwagon – the Union Leader editorialists are after him, too. Headline on editorial in yesterday’s Union Leader – “Kerry’s courage: The reality, rhetoric don’t match” Editorial excerpt:  “Announcing his candidacy for the office of President on Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry wasted no time before mentioning that he was a Navy combat veteran in Vietnam. In fact, his service, as usual, was the first thing about himself that he highlighted. Kerry made his announcement in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., with the retired World War II aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown as his backdrop, for two reasons: to be sure that no one who watched the speech live or on television could miss the connection between John Kerry and the U.S. Navy; and to collect votes for the South Carolina primary. The central buzzword of Kerry’s address, which seems destined to be the focus of his campaign, was ‘courage.’ He began by noting his courageous service in Vietnam, and segued to the courage that a President needs to deal with national security and the economy in today’s world. The unmistakable message: I am the right man for the job because I am the most courageous. This would be a good message for Kerry if his political courage were as undaunted as his physical courage. Unfortunately for him, it is not. Kerry was a courageous warrior, but he is a notorious political coward. His long history of equivocation makes him appear irresolute and wishy-washy. He loves to try to please everyone, and he has yet to realize that this indecisiveness has cost him a great deal of credibility and support. Much of that support has been shifted to Howard Dean, who gives the impression that he is nothing if not decisive. If Kerry wants to win this nomination, he must begin living up to his own rhetoric.” (9/4/2003)

Kerry’s Demise? – I: Washington Times columnist Tony Blankley writes that “politically speaking Kerry is campaigning while dead.” Blankley says Kerry’s “South Carolina strategy is nuts.” Headline from yesterday’s Times: “The trouble with Kerry” Excerpt: “Over a month ago (when John Kerry was known as the frontrunner), I predicted on the McLaughlin Group television show that by September, Mr. Kerry's campaign would be in crises. And here we are in the first week of September with Sen. Kerry in third place in Iowa (Dean-Gephardt- Kerry) and behind Howard Dean in almost home-state New Hampshire by 21 points…One of Mr. Kerry's Boston aides said that ‘We're in this no matter what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire.’ All but writing off New Hampshire by Kerry must be spooking his troops. After all, as recently as a month ago, New Hampshire was considered both safe and a must-win state for Mr. Kerry. Mr. Kerry explained Mr. Dean's lead in New Hampshire by claiming that Mr. Dean had ‘been out there, very visibly spending money on TV and elsewhere.’ But, according to pollster John Zogby, Mr. Kerry has visited New Hampshire 38 times, has eight regional offices there and flooded the state with TV ads during his recent Senate re-election campaign…If his supporters were spooked by the bad numbers in New Hampshire, they must be jumping out of the windows at the Post-Modern Literary Deconstructionist Department at Harvard once they heard the South Carolina strategy. I understood Nixon's and Mr. Reagan's southern strategies. I even understood father and son Bush's South Carolina firewall strategy. But Mr. Kerry's South Carolina strategy is nuts. (And he accuses President Bush of not being a good strategist.) I've been to South Carolina. In fact, I was there just a few weeks ago at a barbecue stand. There was a young man waiting for an order, dressed in full Confederate uniform. Inside, they were selling beautiful color tee shirts which portrayed General Robert E. Lee in battle uniform on his fierce white horse leading a magnificent confederate charge against the Yankee intruders. Down the road a piece from that stand was a restaurant named The Swamp Fox — which I believe invokes the fond memory of Confederate guerrillas sneaking up on Yankee encampments to deliver justice to the blue bellies from Maine, Michigan and Massachusetts. If ever their was a figure from Massachusetts, it is John F. Kerry. The Senator is a man who doesn't look all that comfortable dining at the Four Seasons in Georgetown. The thought of this quintessential moralizing, haughty, Boston Brahmin campaigning over drawn pork down at the Swamp Fox could persuade even a cheapskate to pay the price of admission. And what on Earth would he say to the South Carolina voters? Perhaps he would repeat a line he used on Meet the Press last Sunday regarding Iraqi policy: ‘I think this administration has made an extraordinary, disastrous decision not to bring the United Nations in in a significant way. I have said repeatedly that we must go to the United Nations, we must internationalize this effort’…South Carolinians only begrudgingly recognized the command authority of the U.S. Army. Somehow, I don't think calling, yet again, for the grand old dream of liberal internationalism is going to be a winner in South Carolina — even amongst its Democratic voters. Or perhaps he could repeat his support for Bill Clinton's affirmative action policy, or his equivocation on Bush's tax cuts? South Carolina is not going to be John Kerry's firewall — but a firestorm. A strategy for a New England liberal to lose in New Hampshire and win in South Carolina is not a strategy at all. It is a delusion. Politically speaking, Sen. Kerry is campaigning while dead. Johnny boy, we hardly knew ya.”(9/4/2003)

 Kerry’s Demise? – II: Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh writes that Kerry’s announcement “signals that after long months of skirmishing, the struggle for the hearts and minds of Democratic voters has begun in earnest.” Headline from yesterday’s Boston Globe: “Kerry’s battle just beginning” Excerpt: “It’s hardly the sort of send-off a candidate wants as he begins his grand announcement tour. John Kerry has failed to connect, says The Washington Post. The Massachusetts senator is sinking from the top tier in the Democratic field, judges The New Republic. He's only a distant fourth nationally, notes CNN. The surging Howard Dean is the next Jimmy Carter, declares the Economist. Yesterday evening found Kerry denying that a shake-up of his campaign staff might be imminent. And, as any number of interviewers have reminded Kerry, a new poll shows Dean, the former Vermont governor, leading him by 21 points in New Hampshire, a must-win state for the senator. So how does Kerry feel? ‘Absolutely spectacular,’ he said on Monday. ‘As we go into the next month, you are going to see a lot of things change’ in the campaign's dynamic, he predicted. Now, there's no doubt an element of whistling past the political graveyard in Kerry's profession of optimism. The names on the tombstones from campaigns past should be a warning. Names like Edmund Muskie and John Glenn and Bob Kerrey, men who also looked like strong presidential prospects on paper but who left voters cold. Still, the notion that Kerry is already in some sort of political death spiral misjudges the very nature of presidential politics. It's true the last month has not been a particularly good one for Kerry…Meanwhile, it's been Dean who has spoken to the passions of the party's liberal base with his vehement opposition to the war in Iraq and his call for repealing the entirety of the Bush tax cuts. But credit Kerry with this: He has largely resisted a panicked impulse to slide leftward to contest Dean, preferring instead to stake out defensible general election ground…In his announcement speech, Kerry also served not-so-subtle notice he will go after Dean for his leave-it-to-the-states stance on gun control. Now, one can occasionally read commentary counseling the Democrats not to criticize each other. That's unrealistic. Primary campaigns are ultimately about defining, explaining, and debating differences between candidates of the same party. And until that debate occurs, the primary campaign hasn't begun in earnest. Thus early leads have to be greeted with considerable skepticism. None of that is to say that Dean hasn't been impressive, nimble, and creative. He has. Just two months ago the Kerry campaign could say with some confidence that the senator had secured a spot in the top tier and that the real question was who would emerge as Kerry's chief rival. Today it's Dean who appears to have a lock on a top-tier spot. Yet the battle ahead still looks to be between Dean and Kerry. To count Kerry on a troubling trajectory before fall's first shot is fired is to forget that nominees are chosen not in the lazy days of an inattentive summer but in the intense combat that comes as the weather turns cool. And that, more than anything he said yesterday, is why Kerry's announcement is important: For all the predictable anti-Bush boilerplate, it signals that after long months of skirmishing, the struggle for the hearts and minds of Democratic voters has begun in earnest.”(9/4/2003)

…  If Kerry starts to look like a political punching bag, it’s because every media player with a computer or microphone weighs in on his ineptness. There’s more hits on Kerry below, but we’ll start with Deborah Orin’s commentary in yesterday’s Washington Post. Post headline – “A far cry from Dem-debate front-runner” (Editor’s Note: The following column was written prior to last night’s debate, but the main points are still relevant.) Excerpt from Orin’s column: “Maybe it's no surprise that slipping Democratic presidential wannabe John Kerry's emotions seem so close to the surface that he burst into tears at a jobless woman's sad story yesterday. For many months, Kerry was riding high as the Democratic front-runner, but now he seems to be in freefall against surging anti-war contender Howard Dean, and no one has more than Kerry riding on tonight's Democratic TV debate. Kerry (Mass.) has lost the lead to Dean in New Hampshire, a key state where Kerry must win the Jan. 27 primary to stay alive -- and where he's a household name, since Massachusetts TV blankets the Granite State’The last time they debated, Kerry had the most money, was perceived to have the most solid operation and was the perceived front-runner -- now it's all been flipped around.’ In fact, Kerry's own staffers stole attention from his official campaign kickoff Tuesday as they publicly squabbled over whether there should be a staff shakeup. Public staff squabbles over strategy beg questions about a candidate's sincerity -- perhaps even about his tears, which flowed in a response to a woman's hardship story during a campaign stop at a New Hampshire diner. ‘It's like a politician kissing a baby -- I feel your pain. Tears? Please,’ scoffed a Democratic activist who supports a rival candidate. ‘It looks scripted to show compassion. People lose their jobs every day.’ The tears come at a time when Kerry is at risk of morphing into Al Gore, as he takes heat for being too stiff and too ‘overconsulted’  -- with too many strategists (several of them Gore veterans) competing to tell him what to say. By contrast, Dean's top strategists have worked with him for a decade and are a tight team.” (9/5/2003)

Post debate analysis: “Democrats target Bush, not each other, in debate that may favor front-runner” – headline from this morning’s The Union Leader. Excerpt from analysis by AP’s Ron Fournier: “President Bush was an easy target. Too easy for eight presidential candidates who railed, in harmony, against White House policies in Thursday night's debate. In doing so, they failed to distinguish themselves from each other. Their hands-off approach may have best served Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who left the debate relatively unscathed and still the party's presidential front-runner.Dean kept his shine on,’ said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile who managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. ‘Nobody took any of the gloss from the type of message and the type of campaign he's been running.’ Joe Lieberman tried. The Connecticut senator accused Dean of pressing for fair trade standards that would scuttle existing treaties and cost millions of jobs. ‘If that ever happened, I'd say the Bush recession would be followed by the Dean depression,’ Lieberman said. It was the type of shot Democratic activists had expected since Dean surged this summer to the head of the nine-candidate field. A day before the first major debate of the 2004 campaign, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson spoke for the entire party when he predicted verbal ‘fireworks.’ But there was more fizzle than fireworks. Democrats targeted Bush, not each other. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts accused the president of a ‘failure of leadership’ in the world. Lieberman said Bush has been a ‘powerful failure’ on the economy. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Dean accused Bush of refusing to tell the truth about the conflict in Iraq -- both its costs and risks. But voters already knew that the Democrats don't like the president; they learned nothing new Thursday night about why they should favor one candidate over another. The campaigns are unsure how to respond to Dean's rise. Some strategists fear the former Vermont governor will pull away with the nomination unless he is confronted. Others worry that aggressive tactics will make their candidates look mean while firing up Dean's backers. That may be why the most pointed criticism came outside the University of New Mexico's Popejoy Hall - in press releases distributed by campaign aides and in post-debate interviews. Away from the debate spotlight, Lieberman said he would have criticized more Dean policies if given the opportunity during the 90-minute debate. Arguments over strategies to confront Dean have deeply divided Kerry's campaign. The senator has criticized his own staff while promising there will be no shake-ups. His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, complained publicly that the campaign waited too long to air its first television ads. ‘They all have to be careful’ about attacking each other, said Kathleen Sullivan, head of the Democratic Party in New Hampshire. ‘Their job tonight was to introduce themselves to voters.’…’I don't think anybody had to win or lose tonight - and nobody did.’” (9/5/2003)

Headline of the day: “Teresa gives strategy thumbs down” – from yesterday’s Boston Herald. Coverage by the Herald’s Andrew Miga: “You can add Teresa Heinz Kerry to the lengthy list of Democrats expressing doubts about how her husband's slow-starting presidential campaign has been run so far. Sen. John F. Kerry's wife said yesterday she wishes the campaign had launched TV ads two months ago to stop former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's summer surge.  ‘I've been asking for that for a long time,’ she said of Kerry's three new campaign ads airing in Iowa, New Hampshire and Boston. ‘I'm not involved in campaign decisions. I'm only the wife.’ Heinz Kerry, a wealthy philanthropist and longtime activist, said she often shares her view on the issues of the day with her husband, usually over meals. ‘I talk to him all the time about foreign policy, the environment, the economy, women's issues,’ she said aboard Kerry's campaign plane as it jetted from Iowa to New Hampshire.  Heinz Kerry, who has been freewheeling and opinionated in recent interviews, said she has learned to adopt a more serious approach. ‘I can't joke around anymore about myself,’ she said. ‘People take it seriously and I get into trouble.’ She joked that her husband has nicknamed her ‘Sassy.’”(9/5/2003)

Columnist Novak explores some of the “tricky” contentions – like knowing GWB at Yale – that challenge his credibility. He says Kerry “looks like a trickster running for president.” Headline from yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times: “For Kerry, snide comes before and after the fall” Excerpt from Novak column: “One reason why Sen. John Kerry has precipitously toppled from being putative Democratic nominee for president to a potential also-ran was demonstrated at the conclusion of his grueling interview on NBC's ‘Meet the Press’ Sunday. It had nothing to do with Iraq or taxation but everything to do with his credibility and likability. Moderator Tim Russert ended the hourlong program with the last blast from his massive research. Kerry was quoted by Vogue magazine last March as talking about George W. Bush's ‘lack of knowledge,’ and adding this: ‘He was two years behind me at Yale, and I knew him, and he's still the same guy.’ Implicitly, Kerry was saying the president was the same empty-headed, hard-drinking playboy he was in college. But when Russert twice asked Kerry just what he meant, he shrugged off these questions (‘I believe that President Bush is a very likable fellow.’). The conclusion widely drawn from that exchange is that Kerry never knew Bush at Yale and that he fibbed to Vogue's interviewer in trying to denigrate the president. In fact, there is an eyewitness: George W. Bush. He tells aides he certainly did not know John Kerry at Yale. Kerry, the Vietnam War hero-turned-protester who out-debated front-running Republican William Weld in the 1996 Massachusetts Senate race, looks like a trickster running for president. On Tuesday, Kerry was tricky again. ‘Re-launching’ his candidacy by announcing it at Patriot's Point, S.C., he declared: ‘I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations.’ Kerry's vote, which seemed politically prudent at the time, was to authorize--not to threaten--force in Iraq. Meeting privately Tuesday on another matter, a group of Democratic political operatives agreed that Kerry blew it that morning when interviewed by Katie Couric on NBC's ‘Today’ program. Only a few months ago, Kerry was the presidential choice of establishment Democrats. He led the party's other eight candidates in the polls, and seemed the strongest challenger against President Bush. All this was predicated on getting his primary election season off to a winning start with being the sure primary winner in his neighboring state of New Hampshire Jan. 27…That explains the shock inside the Kerry camp when the Zogby Poll showed a 21-point lead by Dean on Aug. 27. While Kerry has certainly not abandoned New Hampshire, his campaign team has hastened to construct a backup position in South Carolina. However, Kerry's opponents privately deride the switch of his Tuesday announcement from Boston to South Carolina, which holds its primary one week after New Hampshire. The Zogby Poll in July gave Kerry 5 percent in South Carolina for fifth place. He had not been in that state for three months prior to his Tuesday announcement. The announcement from the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown generated chuckles among the Democratic lobbyists who met Tuesday. These savvy Democrats used the words ‘arrogant’ and ‘attitude’ in describing what they felt was wrong with their former front-runner. That may stem from Kerry's failure to come to grips with his ambivalence on the Iraq War. On ‘Meet the Press,’ Russert played a tape of Kerry addressing the Senate last Oct. 9 with a hard-line speech declaring Iraq ‘is capable of quickly producing weaponizing’ of biological weapons that could be delivered against ‘the United States itself.’…’That is exactly the point I'm making,’ Kerry replied to Russert. ‘We were given this information by our intelligence community.’ But as a senator, Kerry had access to the National Intelligence Estimate that was skeptical of Iraqi capability. Being tricky may no longer be as effective politically as it once was.”(9/5/2003)

Kerry just might be overdoing his emphasis on Vietnam background as he directs supports in New Hampshire to “lock and load.” On the other hand, what more can be expected of a guy who calls his campaign plane “Bushwacker 1”? Headline from yesterday’s The Union Leader: “Kerry hits Bush policies in a pair of NH stops” Excerpt from coverage by the UL’s Nancy Meersman and Kimberly Houghton: John Kerry made a short but lively appearance in Manchester yesterday to round up New Hampshire supporters and tell them to ‘lock and load’ as they departed in a 10-bus caravan to Boston.  Senator Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts was the last stop in his two-day ‘American Courage’ tour marking the official launch of his ‘fight’ theme campaign for President. ‘I just flew in on Bushwhacker I,’ Democrat Kerry declared to loud cheers and the waving of signs by several hundred people in ‘American Courage’ T-shirts who rallied outside his campaign headquarters.  Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said it was time for Americans to ‘take care of each other the way the veterans did’ and to work together to change the course set by Republican President George Bush.  With rock oldies blaring from speakers, he urged his supporters to fight to ‘take back the White House’ reminding them of the Vietnam battle cries ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ and ‘lock and load.’…’We need to turn this country around, and those are not just words,’ Kerry said.  Kerry, 59, has slipped in the polls, to about 20 points behind former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Kerry brushed aside questions about how he would catch up to Dean.  ‘The challenges we face are the same as they were a month ago or six months ago,’ he said. ‘People have not made a decision yet.’ New Hampshire supporters also shrugged off what has been described as Kerry’s ‘free-fall.’ They say that poll results are meaningless this early in the primary season. ‘It’s too early to tell. A lot of candidates start off fast but that doesn’t count,’ said Cheryl Vezina of Manchester. ‘We have to do something to turn the economy around. I think Kerry can do that.’”(9/5/2003)

The story that – unfortunately for John Kerry – has been surfacing over and over during the week. Under the subhead “Kerry’s denial,” Greg Pierce was the latest to report on rumors of a Kerry staff shakeup in yesterday’s “Inside Politics” column. Excerpt from the Washington Times: “On Tuesday, his first day as an official Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry did not get past his second campaign stop before having to deny a staff shake-up was in the works. It was the last thing Mr. Kerry needed on a day his campaign was getting heavy media attention to his entry into the race, and he hoped to focus it on sharp differences he has with President Bush. Talk of changes in Mr. Kerry's campaign have surfaced as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged past Mr. Kerry in fund raising and opinion polls in key early states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Mr. Dean's charge has ended the perception of Mr. Kerry as the presumptive front-runner. Mr. Kerry's political free fall has prompted a fresh round of finger-pointing in his campaign and has the candidate considering changes, according to several campaign officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Initially, Mr. Kerry said he had not considered a shake-up, though he sounded as if changes could be made. ‘You always hold the possibility open if something's not working, you do something,’ Mr. Kerry said. ‘I always reserve the right to do what I need to do to run a good campaign.’ Mr. Kerry huddled with top aides after the exchange, and quickly issued a terse statement, the Associated Press reports. ‘I have confidence in my campaign,’ the Massachusetts senator said. ‘I have assembled a great team that is going to beat George W. Bush, and any rumors to the contrary are completely erroneous and there will be no changes.’”(9/5/2003)

… “Kerry casts himself as ‘first’ and ‘only’ on key issues” – headline from this morning’s New Hampshire Sunday News. But is he engaged in more campaign trickery? Claims leadership on issue that Kucinich also has addressed.  Excerpt from coverage – dateline: Salem – by AP’s Holly Ramer: “Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry on Saturday accused his rivals of following his lead on some key issues and ignoring others that only he has the ‘vision’ to recognize.  In a speech laden with the words ‘first’ and ‘only,’ Kerry cast himself as a leader on the economy, health care, foreign affairs and other issues. He repeated his opposition to the Bush administration's plan to design so-called ‘bunker buster’ nuclear bombs that could destroy deeply buried targets, saying most Americans aren't aware that the 2003 federal budget includes money for the project.  ‘I say to this President and to the country -- and I'm the only candidate who's had the vision to talk about this and see this issue -- I don't want a world in which we have more visible nuclear weapons,’ Kerry told supporters at the opening of his 10th New Hampshire campaign office. But at least one of the nine Democrats seeking the nomination has spoken out against the project. U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio argues that American officials will have little credibility in asking North Korea to stop building nuclear weapons if they're unwilling to do the sameKerry also touted his energy policy, which includes fuel efficiency standards and creating a trust to finance research into alternative energy. His goal is to have 20 percent of the nation's electricity produced by alternative fuels by 2020 and to end dependence on overseas fuel within a decade. ‘Long before any of the other candidates started talking about this ... I laid out an agenda for energy independence,’ he said. ‘I see some of them have even stolen my name for it, it's fascinating.’ Asked later which candidate had copied his plan, Kerry said, ‘I'm staying generic.’ But he did name names when he continued his criticism of Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, both of whom support repealing all of Bush's 2003 tax cuts to pay for health care and other programs…Though Kerry trails Dean in the latest New Hampshire poll, a national poll released Friday showed him bunched at the top of the pack with Dean and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.  ‘I've said it when polls are up, I've said it when they're down: I don't pay much attention to polls,’ Kerry said. ‘The polls aren't critical now... These next months, it's still going to take time to move in New Hampshire, it's still going to take time to move in Iowa. But we're going to do it.’”(9/7/2003)

.. For everyone wondering when Kerry would begin attacking Dean, they have misjudged the situation. Dean, in a phone interview with Des Moines Register Reporter Thomas Beaumont, has Dean blasting Kerry for mimicking his position of bringing in the U.N and specifically Arabic speaking peace keepers. Kerry spokesperson David Wade counters the claim of mimicking Dean by siting a Senate speech of Oct. 9, 2002 where Kerry calls for post-war assistance from nations in the region. Dean further lays claim to the fact that Kerry is copying his position at the same time he is claiming he has no foreign policy experience. In the article, reaction from Polk County Democrat Party Chairman Tom Henderson is as follows: “I just don’t think they [caucus attendees] listen to that [spats]. There is no copyright on ideas.”(9/8/2003)

From the House of Political Pancakes: Kerry confronts Lieberman accusation that he’s a serial “waffler.” He says Smokin’ Joe is just fishing for headlines. Headline from yesterday’s Boston Herald: “Miffed Kerry responds to Lieberman’s attack” Excerpt of report from Albuquerque by the Herald’s David R. Guarino:  “Sen. John F. Kerry yesterday tried to shake off the ‘waffler’ tag given him by opponent Joseph Lieberman, saying his struggling rival is just fishing to get headlines. Appearing at an Albuquerque community center the morning after the Democrats first major debate, Kerry shrugged off Lieberman's post-debate attacks on Kerry's Iraq stance. ‘He's fishing, he's just fishing, I'm not worried about it,’ Kerry said of Lieberman, a Connecticut senator and the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee. ‘I think I've been clearer than Joe Lieberman, who only recently has started to try to talk about how we ought to be managing (post war Iraq).’ The sudden infighting between Lieberman and Kerry, two New England senators battling to upend front-runner Howard Dean of Vermont, showcases frustrations simmering among the crowded field and attempts by candidates to break out from the nine-person pack.  In the post-debate spin room, Lieberman was asked why he only targeted Dean during the debate.  Lieberman responded by teeing off on Kerry, who during his recent campaign announcement tour said he voted in the Senate on the Iraqi resolution just as a threat to Saddam Hussein - not to go to war.  ‘It was clearly an authorization for President Bush to use force against Saddam, I don't get it,’ Lieberman said.  ‘(Kerry's) been criticizing Howard Dean for lacking experience to lead America in the world today. It's true, it's not the best time to put a rookie in charge of our country's future, it hasn't been a good time to have a cowboy (in Bush) in charge of our country's future,’ Lieberman said. ‘But we also don't need a waffler in charge of our country's future.’  But Kerry said yesterday he always maintained the vote was to authorize force -- despite his most recent statements. ‘Of course it was, I've said that everywhere I go’ Kerry told reporters. ‘The threat came from the authorization, it's that simple. Without the authorization, you wouldn't have had a threat - it's very clear. My language has been clear from day one, it's been the clearest of anybody.’  Kerry said he, unlike Lieberman and the other Democrats, warned Bush that he needed more support from Americans and international allies before rushing into war. He said the post-war debacles have proved him right. ‘My experience comes out stronger as a consequence of the way President Bush has screwed up what we are doing in Iraq, it's what I predicted,’ Kerry said. ‘Joe Lieberman never talked about those things, nor did the other candidates.’”(9/8/2003)

Sharecroppers, milkman, anti-Bush, courage – The themes for the initial flight of media spots being seen by the initial players in the 2004 nominating contests. Washington Post media guru Howard Kurtz says the wannabes are projecting the image that they feel best suits them in early TV spots. Headline from today’s Post: “Media Primary Commences as Democrats Run First Ads” Excerpts from Kurtz’ report: “ John Edwards talks about hailing from a family of sharecroppers. Dick Gephardt says his father was a milkman. Howard Dean says he's the man to stand up to President Bush, unlike many timid Democrats in Washington. John Kerry talks about the courage of Americans -- while using a flag-bedecked backdrop that may remind viewers of his own courage in Vietnam. The initial television ads of the Democratic presidential candidates, even at this early stage, shed considerable light on how they want to present themselves to primary voters in the only format they fully control. If you get just one chance to make a good first impression, these 30-second snapshots are an important clue to each man's media strategy. Despite their stylistic differences, the commercials, running mainly in Iowa and New Hampshire, all trumpet the need for jobs and, almost as often, expanded health care -- an issue about which Democrats had been skittish since the Clinton health plan crashed and burned in 1994. The ads all strike an us-vs.-them tone in which the candidates sell themselves as champions of the middle class. ‘I'm not sure how much it does with voters,’ said former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart. ‘But the unwritten rule is if you don't do well in the media primary, you may not get to the real primary. Obviously, Dean has passed the test, so he's in a different place than everyone else. But several of the others have to move numbers to keep reporters from dismissing them.’ Republican media consultant Don Sipple agreed that ‘the shelf life of early advertising is very short. But these candidates need to show movement in key early states in order to raise money around the country.’…Kerry says nothing about himself in the three ads unveiled this week, taped at Iowa and New Hampshire speeches. But two of them mention ‘courage,’ which dovetails with the Vietnam-era photo of Kerry on his Web site, featuring the headline: ‘The courage to fight for America.’ The colorful, fast-moving ads, which keep cutting to cheering crowds, hit the unemployment issue hard. ‘Three million jobs lost, too many of them in the heartland," Kerry says in one. ‘That is an astonishing failure. If I am president, I will roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy so we can invest in education, health care and the skills of our workers. We need to be on the side of America's middle class."(9/8/2003)

Kerry says he’ll vote no on Bush Iraq funding without policy changes, but his real target is Dean. He emphasizes that ex-governors – Carter, Reagan and GWB – get in “trouble real fast” on foreign policy. Has he forgotten that his buddy Bill Clinton also was a governor? Excerpt from last night’s report by AP’s Ron Fournier:      “Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Monday he would not support President Bush's $87 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan without a dramatic shift in White House policies. ‘I'm not going to vote for an open-ended ticket,’ Kerry told The Associated Press. He said Bush should get more foreign troops into Iraq and use oil revenues to help pay for reconstruction before Americans are forced to foot the bill. Kerry said the United States cannot abandon the Persian Gulf nation. In a wide-ranging interview, the Massachusetts senator said Democratic rival Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont, lacks foreign policy experience in a post-Sept. 11 period that demands it. ‘We've seen governors come to Washington who don't have the experience with Washington and they get in trouble real fast. And they don't have the experience in foreign policy, and they get in trouble pretty fast,’ Kerry said. ‘Look at Ronald Reagan. Look at Jimmy Carter and now, obviously, George Bush.’ On foreign and domestic policy, Kerry said, ‘We've got to have somebody who knows how to pull the levers of this city and get something done.’ Kerry, fielding questions from AP reporters and editors for more than an hour, condemned Bush's policies on North Korea, the Middle East, homeland security, the environment and taxes. While shrugging off his own political problems, Kerry criticized Dean and fellow Democratic candidate Dick Gephardt for seeking to repeal Bush-backed tax cuts for the middle class. Kerry waded into the California recall fight -- he'll campaign for embattled Gov. Gray Davis later this month -- and gingerly addressed his own state's liberal political lineage. While he would ‘absolutely and with pleasure’ welcome Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., on the campaign trail, Kerry noted that he didn't always agree with former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee who lost to Bush's father. Kerry once served as Dukakis' lieutenant governorKerry insisted he is comfortable being 12 points behind Dean in a recent poll of voters in New Hampshire, which shares a media market with Massachusetts and is considered vital to his chances. ‘Absolutely. Are you kidding? Al Gore was way behind that with Bill Bradley’ in the 2000 primary fight, Kerry said. Gore eventually defeated the former New Jersey senator in New Hampshire. Asked what he was doing to slow Dean's momentum, Kerry replied, ‘I don't know what you mean. What about my momentum?’ He cited national polls as proof that his campaign has grown stronger.” (9/9/2003)

Must-see TV: Wannabe Candid Camera playing in DC this week – as union members seek to find “human sides” of the Dem contenders.  Headline from yesterday’s Washington Post: “Union Puts Democratic Candidates on Candid Camera” The report: “The Democratic presidential candidates will troop before another of the party's constituency groups here in Washington [Monday] at the convention of the Service Employees International Union, but this will be more than the ordinary candidate forum. The SEIU is one of the largest unions in the AFL-CIO, and its members have not yet endorsed a candidate for the Democratic nomination. This week's meetings will help determine whether any of the Democratic candidates receive the union's backing. The candidates will each speak to the members and will be seen in other ways. SEIU officials recruited a group of young filmmakers to travel with each of the candidates and prepare short videos designed to present the human sides of the politicians. The SEIU members will see Sen. Bob Graham (Fla.) talking about what his grandchildren call him (‘Doodle,’ and when he's really good to them, ‘Super Doodle’). They'll see Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) try to rave about how much he likes hot dogs. And they'll see Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) threading a microphone up through his shirt as one of the filmmakers asks him if he would drink a beer with them if they brought a six-pack to the interview the next day. ‘You're damn right I would,’ Kerry says. ‘I might drink more than one.’ ‘Good news,’ says the filmmaker. The candidates won't get anywhere with the SEIU leadership without a plan for expanding health care coverage, but union President Andrew L. Stern said that the films and other activities planned for the candidates will help his members gauge how well the Democratic contenders connect with voters. ‘We think it's very important that by the [time of the] elections, voters have a sense this is a candidate they would like to have dinner with, go bowling with,’ he said. ‘I think George Bush did incredibly well in the last election, and Al Gore had his problems.’”(9/9/2003)

 Yankee John Kerry finds tough going in the South as his Northeastern liberal reputation follows him to South Carolina. Headline from Sunday’s The State: “Kerry needs to shed liberal tag” Excerpt: “Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry is having a dickens of a time shedding his image as a Northeastern liberal from Massachusetts. It haunts him everywhere he travels in South Carolina, site of the first-in-the-South Democratic primary on Feb. 3. ‘The word Massachusetts keeps creeping into the conversation,’ said College of Charleston professor Bill Moore. ‘Massachusetts and liberalism are identified as one and the same.’ S.C. voters, more conservative than the Democratic electorate nationwide, see Kerry as a wealthy Northeastern politician. ‘That's all they know,’ said Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon. Consequently, his message of hope and opportunity gets lost in the process. ‘His image trumps his message,’ Huffmon said. Aware of the problem, Kerry made little mention of his home state as he formally launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination Tuesday in South Carolina. Selection of the state to kick off his campaign was no accident, campaign operatives say. Kerry needs to change his image and let folks here know he is on their wavelength, Huffmon says. And one way to do that is for the senator to distance himself from the ‘Massachusetts liberal’ label -- a moniker that doomed the presidential bid of another Bay State Democrat, former Gov. Michael Dukakis. ‘The interesting thing is, South Carolina would probably be more receptive to Kerry's message if it came from another person,’ Huffmon said. Kerry didn't help himself earlier this year when he told a California audience the Democrats could win without the South. He since has backed away from that. He now says he can win Louisiana, Georgia and perhaps Alabama. In an effort to change his image, Kerry chose Mt. Pleasant for his formal announcement, launching his campaign with the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown as a backdrop. He focused on his record as a decorated Navy veteran who served in Vietnam…Francis Marion University political analyst Neal Thigpen, a Republican activist, suggests it is somewhat unfair to tar and feather Kerry as a flaming liberal from Massachusetts. If you analyze the senator's entire voting record, you would find him to be ‘moderately liberal.’…’Just being from Massachusetts is a big problem,’ Thigpen said. ‘Somehow, he needs to remove the curse of being from the commonwealth. He is a very respectable candidate.’ The latest Zogby International poll of likely S.C. primary voters shows the race has not yet caught fire here. Four candidates are in a virtual tie for the lead: Kerry, U.S. Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. …Kerry needs a win in South Carolina. It would help him shed some of his Massachusetts liberal baggage and show he has traction outside New England. But it's a fine line he must walk:” If he goes too far to the right to court the South, he could fall ever further behind Dean in the more left-leaning Democratic battlegrounds of Iowa and New Hampshire.”(9/9/2003)

Least surprising report of the day: Dem hopefuls take turns blasting Bush’s Sunday night speech. Headline from yesterday’s Chicago Tribune: “Candidates offer sharp criticism over holes in Iraq plan” Excerpt from coverage by Trib national correspondent Jeff Zeleny: “The leading Democratic presidential candidates, already relentless in their criticism of the Bush administration's handling of postwar Iraq, said the president's address to the nation Sunday night did little to ease concerns about achieving stability in the region. ... ‘Other than telling the country that this will be expensive, the president did very little to demonstrate he has a true plan,’ said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, adding that the speech failed to answer several other questions. ‘How do we get others involved to take the target off the back of American soldiers?’ he asked. ‘How will we assure our soldiers they won't be overextended? How do we end the sense of occupation in Iraq?’ (9/9/2003)

…  Presidential footsteps II: Kerry wants to follow Washington. While Edwards tries to follow in Carter’s footsteps, Kerry has higher ambitions – although not all candidates with war records are treated equally. Headline from Sunday’s Boston Globe: “Candidates with war records are popular, but they don’t always win elections” Excerpt from report by Globe’s Anne E. Kornblut: “George Washington started the trend -- riding his military experience into the presidency in 1789.A few years later, however, John Adams started the countertrend. With no military experience, he occupied the White House from 1797 to 1801, even overseeing the development of the first Department of the Navy. Does military service matter in electoral politics? More to the point today: Will Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts gain any advantage by harking back to his Vietnam days? The historical record is divided almost evenly. While a total of 21 presidents have been elected after some kind of military service -- and in more than a dozen instances, both major party candidates have been veterans of some sort -- there are numerous instances when civilians have beaten veterans. Bill Clinton, who didn't serve in Vietnam, beat two respected veterans in back-to-back elections. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona, a decorated former Vietnam POW, lost the 2000 Republican primary to George W. Bush, who spent a brief period in the Texas Air National Guard. Bush then beat Al Gore, who had volunteered for Vietnam as a military journalist. Seventeen of the 43 US presidents never served in the armed forces, according to data compiled by historian Henry E. Mattox for the University of North Carolina. ‘A direct relationship between a heroic military reputation and election at the highest national level can be demonstrated explicitly in only a half-dozen cases over the past two centuries,’ Mattox wrote. At times of war or national crisis in the past, voters have turned to respected military leaders -- most obviously Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had commanded Allied forces in World War II. ‘When Dwight Eisenhower ran, [military service] was terribly important because we were locked in this Korean War that people were terribly frustrated by,’ historian Robert Dallek said. ‘Just the hint that Eisenhower was going to get us out of the war by saying he would travel to Korea was enough to give him an additional boost in the polls.’ Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant also parlayed his military success into electoral prowess. Eight other generals besides Grant and Eisenhower have become president, according to Mattox. In the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush all used their military service as a political asset. Another historical footnote: Almost every major US war to date has produced a future American president, according to Mattox's study. The central exception is Vietnam -- a gap that Kerry now hopes to fill.”(9/9/2003)

 … Will the new, improved cuddly Kerry image sell better than the aloof, stoic, patrician personality that he’s been using during the campaign? Headline from Sunday’s Miami Herald: “Kerry warms up his campaign with a new image, strategy” Excerpt from coverage – dateline: Derry, NH – by the Herald’s Peter Wallsten: “It was hardly an intimate lunch at Mary Ann's diner as Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts sat down to chat with six jobless New Hampshirites: Forty reporters, a scrum of TV cameras and a campaign crew filming video for an ad loomed inches away. But suddenly, to the excitement of reporters who had settled in for another predictably staged event along the road to the White House, there they were: tears welling up in Kerry's eyes. Camera bulbs flashed and pens scribbled as he wiped a drop from his nose. ‘That's really moving,’ Kerry said, his voice quivering, as he pondered the tale of Barbara Woodman, 46, a laid-off medical bibliographer who declared that, no matter what, her kids would go to college. ‘It's tough, it really is,’ Kerry added, comforting Woodman with a rub on the shoulder. One day later, in the otherwise staid environment of Thursday night's debate in New Mexico, there was Kerry, smiling and cracking jokes about President Bush. On his campaign plane earlier in the week, wife Teresa Heinz Kerry, outspoken philanthropist and heiress to the steak sauce fortune, handed out brownies and bragged about her baking prowess. This was not the John Forbes Kerry of conventional political wisdom: the aloof millionaire, Boston blue blood, devoid of humor and incapable of relating to the little guy. This is the new Kerry, the one that campaign strategists hope will be introduced -- or reintroduced -- in the coming months. The old Kerry has so far failed to connect with enough Democratic primary voters in key states where he has been campaigning for years. Until recently, it appeared that Kerry, 59, had banked on his biography alone to make his case for the presidency: his military service in Vietnam, his 20 years in politics, his foreign affairs experience in the U.S. Senate. It seems that his personality -- or at least the perception of it -- was getting in the way.”(9/9/2003)

Boston columnist attempts to advise Kerry: Says it's time to put down the hairbrush, heat up the campaign and lighten up. Notes that no matter what happens, the Mass Sen will still have houses in Georgetown, Beacon Hill, Idaho and Nantucket. Headline on Brian McGrory’s column in yesterday’s Boston Globe: “Where’s the beef, Kerry?” Excerpt: “John, put that hairbrush down and pull yourself away from the mirror for a second. We need to have a little talk. What's that, you're not sure you want to sit? You'd like to sit some of the time and stand some of the time? You're saying that by sitting, that in no way means you don't like standing? OK, but that's exactly what we need to address. You were supposed to be a maverick, a thoroughbred, galloping toward the Democratic nomination with all those glue horses in futile pursuit. But what's happened is, you're starting to look like a jackass. In New Hampshire, you're 12 points down in a Globe poll to a guy nobody knew back in May. Howard Dean? When you were railing on the Senate floor about huge national issues, he was, what, speaking to the Montpelier Elks? When you were fighting in Vietnam, he was, where, in a white coat learning how to give a flu shot? So how did this happen? All that stuff in your speeches about you being a courageous soldier with years and years of experience in international affairs -- can it. Can the impatient air of entitlement. Biography rarely wins an election, especially in modern times. Ask John Glenn. It gets you a seat at the table -- and in your case, a seat at the head of the table. But voters are fickle. They take your past for granted; they care more about their future and what you're saying about it. Can, too, the campaign of inevitability. The scariest aspect of the Globe poll wasn't that you're down by 12 percent in a state that's turning into a Boston suburb. It's that people believe Dean is as capable as you of beating Bush. All that blathers from your staff about Dean being from an insignificant state? You've heard of Bill Clinton, right? Before he was a New Yorker he came from Arkansas. Forget, as well, your creed that we can't afford a president who needs on-the-job training. Prancing around Washington with a Senate pin on your lapel is not the best preparation to live in the White House. In fact, the last senator to get there was John Kennedy; meantime, four of the last five presidents were governors. Hate to say it, but your resume is not your friend. It's early, you like to say, and in some ways you're right. But perceptions have already been formed by opinion leaders. Campaign contributions have already sculpted paths of little resistance. Heading into the final stretch, every candidate has been assigned a role, and yours is of the waffling patrician disconnected from the common man. So what to do? First, heat up. Dean looks angry, like someone just wrecked the car. You look confused, like someone just stole yours. Second, lighten up. This should be fun, running for president, one of life's great experiences, and win or lose, you're still going to have houses in Georgetown, Beacon Hill, Idaho, and Nantucket. Third, give us clear reason. Nearly every president had a short message. Richard Nixon was law and order; Jimmy Carter was honesty; Ronald Reagan was strength and optimism; Bill Clinton was economy and empathy; George W. Bush is -- well, I'm not sure, which is part of the point. Your slogan – ‘The courage to do what's right for America’ -- is one of the worst ever. Fourth, speak from your heart, not your memory. The public wants conviction, not know-it-all nuance…The voters not only know sincerity, they demand it. There's a lot of politics to be played in the next four-plus months, and you've proven in the past that you know how to play it well. The lip-lock between Dean and the national press will inevitably end, and be sure that some tearing down will begin. When that happens, it will again be up to you.”(9/10/2003)

… “Democrats court union with anti-Bush themes” – headline from yesterday’s Washington Times. Excerpt from coverage by the Times Stephen Dinan: “The Democrats seeking the presidency tried to win approval of the nation's largest and fastest-growing union yesterday by portraying President Bush as the worst option for union members and for the nation as a whole. ‘...   Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said the president's economic philosophy is failing for working-class and middle-class families. ‘They're tired of being trickled on by George W. Bush,’ Mr. Kerry said. ... In addition to the SEIU, the Democratic candidates met privately with leaders from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is the nation's second-largest union. The SEIU's leaders will meet [Wednesday] to decide whether they have enough information to make an endorsement. SEIU President Andrew Stern said the union has committed 2,004 members to work full time on politics for the nine months leading up to the November 2004 election, and plans to have 50,000 members volunteer to make phone calls and campaign door to door.”  (9/10/2003)

Kerry continues veterans/military theme with proposal to help ease the burden on reservists called to military duty. Excerpt: “Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at easing the financial burden of military reservists called up for active duty, a day after the Army told thousands of reservists that their time in Iraq would be extended to a full year -- weeks or months longer than some had expected. The Massachusetts senator's plan would give tax credits to small businesses to use for subsidizing the pay of workers who had been called to serve, and to hire temporary replacements. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees would get up to $12,000 in tax credits, while manufacturers with 100 or fewer workers could get up to $20,000 in tax credits. Half of the money would be for salary differential and half for replacement workers. ‘This tax credit is critical to immediately help the families of reservists while they serve our nation," said Kerry, a veteran who served in Vietnam.(9/10/2003)

“John Kerry Unplugged”: Kerry – apparently changing music tastes to appeal to younger voter group – scheduled to play guitar with Moby tonight. Headline from yesterday’s Boston Globe: “Kerry gets in tune for Moby gig…Classical-loving senator will play electric guitar in Boston concert” Excerpt from report by the Globe’s Joanna Weiss: “At a big FleetCenter fund-raiser in 1996, Senator John F. Kerry was serenaded by a group of baby boom all-stars: Joe Walsh; Crosby, Stills and Nash; and Peter, Paul and Mary (who called the senator "our own magic dragon"). For this year's presidential bid, Kerry, 59, is reaching out to a younger crowd, and playing the tunes himself. On guitar.  [Wednesday] at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, he'll share a bill with Moby. Yes, Moby, the environment-saving, animal-loving, war-hating electronic music sensation, and Kerry devotee. The senator from Massachusetts has ‘the best chance of beating George Bush,’ the smooth-headed star said in an e-mail to the Globe. This is Moby's chance to help: the tickets, marketed to young professionals, range from $75 to $100. It's also a chance for Kerry, who forged his political profile in the Vietnam era, to prove he can play convincingly to the modern music masses. And while the event is called ‘John Kerry Unplugged’ -- and Kerry has been known to favor Spanish classical fare and selections from ‘Cats’ -- his staff now says he plans to go electric. He'll sit in for one song with local band The Popgun Seven; probably a Springsteen tune, an aide said. Moby plans to play cover songs by Boston bands. Also, he says he has no sour feelings toward Boston, where, last December, someone punched him outside the Paradise Rock Club. As for the candidate's musical prowess, Moby is optimistic. ‘He seems to be quite good at most of the things that he does, so I'm sure that he'll be good on the guitar,’ he wrote. ‘Or at least as good as Bill Clinton is on saxophone.’”(9/10/2003)

Kerry vs. Dean: Wannabes find new area for battle as Kerry suggests he may break federal spending cap. Headline from this morning’s Boston Globe: “Kerry says he might exceed spending limit…Would follow suit if Dean rejects public financing” Excerpt from report by the Globe’s Michael Kranish: “Senator John F. Kerry said yesterday that he would break a federal spending cap, reject public financing for the presidential primaries, and possibly use his personal funds if Howard Dean's fund-raising strength leads the former Vermont governor to go beyond the federal spending limit. Dean sent a letter to the government in June saying he would abide by the limit, but is now considering exceeding the cap. ‘If Howard Dean decides to go live outside of it, I'm not going to wait an instant,’ Kerry said in an interview at his campaign headquarters. ‘Decision's made. I'll go outside. Absolutely. I'm not going to disarm.’ As recently as Aug. 31, the Massachusetts Democrat expressed indecision on the matter, saying only that he would ‘reserve the right’ to exceed the cap if Dean did so. No major Democratic candidate has rejected public financing and the spending cap since the voluntary program became law after the Watergate scandal. If Kerry and Dean exceed the cap, it would also enable them to break the spending limit of $729,000 in New Hampshire, setting off a financial arms race that could dramatically alter the way the campaign is run in the first-primary state, said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which studies money and politics. ‘It would probably signal the demise of the public financing system, at least as it is presently constituted,’ Noble said. ‘If the calculation is that you can't win if you take public funding and the limits that come along with it, the serious candidates are going to have to figure out a way out of that system.’ Kerry bristled when asked about the possibility that Dean may break the cap, pointing out that Dean had pledged in a letter to the Federal Election Commission that he would abide by the spending cap. The issue prompted Kerry to use some of his strongest language yet about Dean, criticizing the former Vermont governor for changing his positions on a variety of issues. ‘Somebody who wants to be president ought to keep their word,’ Kerry said. ‘I think it goes to the core of whether you are a different politician or a politician of your word or what you are.’ Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi said in a telephone interview that he didn't want to respond directly to Kerry's criticism of Dean. But Trippi said that ‘the facts have changed’ since Dean said he intended to abide by spending limits, observing that Dean has surprised people by collecting so many small donations from so many Americans. ‘I think a couple of million Americans giving $77 is totally within the spirit of our democracy,’ Trippi said. ‘I don't think writing a check to yourself or collecting bundled money is.’ He was alluding to the practice of prominent fund-raisers collecting contributions to one candidate from a number of associates…In the interview, Kerry was asked repeatedly whether he would use personal funds if Dean exceeds the cap. ‘Whatever's legal under the law,’ Kerry responded. He is married to one of the country's wealthiest women, Teresa Heinz Kerry, but there are restrictions that probably would prevent the senator from tapping her wealth. Kerry probably could tap half of their jointly owned assets, including a Beacon Hill townhouse that may be worth around $7 million. In his 1996 Senate race against William F. Weld, Kerry used jointly owned assets as collateral to pay for loans for campaign advertising.” (9/11/2003)

…  “Senator Quagmire” – subhead in yesterday’s “Best of the Web Today” column on James Taranto wrote: “Although Sen. John Kerry voted last October to authorize the president to use force in Iraq, as soon as it became clear that the president was actually going to act on that authority, Kerry joined his party's defeatist chorus. During yesterday's debate, journalist Ed Gordon asked Kerry to explain his vote in light of his subsequent opposition to liberating Iraq. Here is his answer, in full: ‘The vote is the vote. I voted to authorize. It was the right vote, and the reason I mentioned the threat is that we gave the--we had to give life to the threat. If there wasn't a legitimate threat, Saddam Hussein was not going to allow inspectors in. Now, let me make two points if I may. Ed [Gordon] questioned my answer. The reason I can't tell you to a certainty whether the president misled us is because I don't have any clue what he really knew about it, or whether he was just reading what was put in front of him. And I have no knowledge whether or not this president was in depth--I just don't know that. And that's an honest answer, and there are serious suspicions about the level to which this president really was involved in asking the questions that he should've. With respect to the question of, you know, the vote--let's remember where we were. If there hadn't been a vote, we would never have had inspectors. And if we hadn't voted the way we voted, we would not have been able to have a chance of going to the United Nations and stopping the president, in effect, who already had the votes, and who was obviously asking serious questions about whether or not the Congress was going to be there to enforce the effort to create a threat. So I think we did the right thing. I'm convinced we did.’ There actually is a simple explanation for Kerry's behavior: In October he believed supporting Iraq's liberation would be politically expedient; by the spring, he realized that opposing America's effort was much more appealing to Democratic primary voters. He can't just say he was changing his position for political reasons, so he is making the logically untenable claim that he's been consistent all along. Thus when asked to explain his thinking on the most important issue of the day, the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam, is reduced to incoherent blather. Poor John Kerry has sunk into a verbal quagmire.” (9/11/2003)

Service Employees International delays decision as Edwards gains – and Kerry stumbles – in the endorsement derby. Excerpt from report by AP’s Leigh Strope: “The largest union in the AFL-CIO decided Wednesday to delay making a presidential endorsement, although John Edwards surged from unknown to contender while John Kerry stumbled. Service Employees International Union officials said members weren't ready to commit to one of nine Democrats vying to challenge President Bush next year. An endorsement probably won't come until November, said President Andy Stern. Even so, the top contenders shuffled slightly after 1,500 state and local union leaders heard from the candidates Monday. Edwards, the North Carolina senator, catapulted into the top three, pushing out Kerry, the Massachusetts senator. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, the traditional labor favorite, remained on the list, Stern said. He would not disclose rankings and vote totals…SEIU members before Monday didn't know much about Edwards. But he ‘introduced himself powerfully, and moved from having almost no support to being one of the top three candidates that the members leaving this conference are interested in,’ Stern said. Several SEIU members said they liked Edwards' populist message and his John F. Kennedyesque good looks. In nearly every speech he gives, and Monday's was no different, he highlighted his working-class background as the son of a mill worker. Stern cautioned that Kerry, who has lost his front-runner status to Dean, still had a lot of support in the union, with the rankings reflecting just the views of the 1,500 leaders at this week's conference. Conference participants were asked to rank their two favorites before and after they heard the candidates. Many arrived already enthusiastic about Dean, and after hearing him, ‘their enthusiasm is unabated,’ Stern said. ‘I think Howard Dean is making a series of statements that are very important and powerful,’ he said. Gephardt, who has been plagued with concerns about his ability to excite Democratic voters, increased his support, Stern said, noting that members responded favorably to his fiery and passionate speech. He too emphasizes his blue-collar roots and his Teamster father in his speeches. Gephardt has staked his presidential ambition on support from organized labor, and has received 12 union endorsements so far. No other candidate has won backing from an international union. But Gephardt's support is mostly from trades and industrial unions, reflecting the common divide in organized labor between traditional, blue-collar unions and public and service sector unions. SEIU is the nation's fastest growing union and among the most liberal and racially diverse, making it an enticing prize for Democrats seeking labor support. Its members are janitors, nursing home workers, home health care workers, hospital nurses and government employees. Many are Hispanic. Gephardt, who stumbled in his 1988 bid, must convince leaders like Stern that the lectern-pounding, red-faced, emotional candidate of Monday is for real if he is to have a shot at a laborwide, AFL-CIO endorsement next month. It's a difficult task made even tougher by Dean, who is wooing labor leaders with the large crowds he has attracted and his successful Internet fund-raising. The wild card remains Wesley Clark. Stern said his union would take a serious look at the retired Army general who has been flirting with a run. Clark was invited to this week's conference, but was unable to attend. SEIU leaders hope to meet with him in the next week or two, Stern said. Meanwhile, Clark has promised to reveal his presidential plans by the end of next week.”  (9/11/2003)

Kerry to campaign for Davis next week in CA recall battle. The Boston Globe’s Glen Johnson reported that Kerry will campaign with Guv Davis, a fellow Vietnam veteran, in Los Angeles next Wednesday during a two-day fundraising swing through California.  (9/12/2003)

Accelerated Iowa campaign effort highlighted by four Dem wannabes taking to the TV airwaves. Headline in yesterday’s Quad-City Times: “Caucus field is opting for TV” Excerpt from report by the Times’ Ed Tibbetts: “There’s still four months to go before the Iowa caucuses, but Democrats running for president have begun filling the airwaves with television commercials. Four of the candidates are already on the air, and one says he’ll continue running commercials until the Jan. 19 caucuses. Experts say the advertising — which appears to be happening earlier than in past Democratic caucus races — is being prompted by the heavy slate of candidates, peer pressure and the proximity to Labor Day. And another says the ads are spurred by a desire to look presidential to political types beyond our borders. U.S. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass, John Edwards, D-North Carolina, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, all are advertising on television. In fact, Dean kicked it off with a $300,000 buy this summer. Edwards’ campaign says it will continue with its commercials right up to the caucuses. Like many of the happenings on the campaign trail this year, Dean appears to have been a catalyst for some of the activity. ‘Dean upped the ante by airing his ads,’ says Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University.” (9/14/2003)

And along comes Teddy – to campaign for Kerry. In yesterday’s Boston Globe, Glen Johnson reported: “Senator Edward M. Kennedy will return to the presidential campaign trail later this month when he visits Iowa to stump on behalf of his fellow Massachusetts Democrat, Senator John F. Kerry. The two will appear together Sept. 27 at rallies and forums focused on health care in the capital city of Des Moines, as well as Blackhawk (Waterloo) [Editor’s Note: That’s actually Black Hawk.] and Johnson (Iowa City) counties, two Democratic strongholds. Kennedy will also help Kerry kick off an ‘Iowa Barnstorm’ the following week, in which Kerry supporters in all 99 Iowa counties will meet in homes, libraries, theaters, and community centers to plan future campaign events. Kennedy himself was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1980. In recent weeks, he has increased his appearances on Kerry's behalf, hosting a Faneuil Hall rally in which Kerry publicly declared his candidacy and a fund-raising clambake at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.” (9/14/2003)

… “Candidates try to be hipper-than-thou” – headline on Mark Silva’s column in yesterday’s Orlando Sentinel. Silva reports other wannabes try to outdo Howie – jog with Edwards or jam with Kerry. Excerpt: “Everybody wants to be Howard Dean. He's the former governor of Vermont raising millions of dollars for his campaign for president from small donors logging on to his Web site. Here are some actual outtakes from the imaginary set of Being Howard Dean: * ‘Jog with John.’ Forty-four dollars and a little chain e-mail buys a headband with that inscription. That's $44 for the campaign of U.S. Sen. John Edwards, the jogging junior senator from North Carolina seeking the Democratic nomination. That's 44, as in 44th president. Buy one, and get four friends to donate $44 online, and the headband is yours. Or, if you want to skip the hard work of recruiting four friends, the campaign says, you can buy the headband for $220. Really. * Howard Dean has his "Meet-Ups," town-hall styled Internet salons for supporters. John Kerry has Meet-Ups, too, fourth Thursday of each month. Howard Dean played guitar at a blues club in Des Moines, Iowa, this summer. But Kerry already was playing guitar for a long time. ‘Kerry Unplugged’ is prominently featured on his Web site, complete with pictures of the senator from Massachusetts and his sunburst Gibson ES-137 guitar. See Kerry playing with Moby, and see Kerry practicing a routine he hopes to run on the Democratic field: Bruce Springsteen's ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.’” (9/14/2003)

Washington Post: Most Dem wannabes are haunted by their past records -- but Dean benefits since he’s the one without a voting record on the Bush agenda.  Headline from Friday’s Post: “Past Votes Dog Some Presidential Candidates… Democrats Defend Siding With Bush” Excerpt from report by Jim VandeHei: “Presidential candidate John F. Kerry is bashing President Bush's policies on Iraq, education and civil liberties. What he rarely mentions, however, is that his Senate votes helped make all three possible. The Massachusetts Democrat is not alone. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) -- who is calling Bush's Iraq policy a ‘miserable failure’ -- led the House fight last year to allow the president to wage the war without the international help the lawmaker now demands. Gephardt, then the House Democratic leader, also voted for the USA Patriot Act, which expands the government's surveillance powers, and for Bush's No Child Left Behind education program. He often criticizes the policies now. Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) is calling for Bush to enlist the help of the United Nations in Iraq, even though he, like Kerry and Gephardt, had the opportunity to vote against the war resolution and in support of one measure demanding U.N. involvement during last fall's congressional debate. Edwards is also calling for changes to the Patriot Act, for which he voted, and more funding for the education plan, which he voted to authorize. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) voted with Bush on all three, too. That these lawmakers voted with Bush on key issues is complicating their bids to win their party's nomination, as fellow Democrats demand explanations. As the campaign progresses, it also could make it harder for them to draw sharp distinctions with Bush on what are shaping up as among the biggest issues of the 2004 campaign, according to political strategists. Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman and Gephardt contend that their votes for Bush's agenda took place in much different political climates and were predicated on their beliefs the president would carry out each initiative in a different manner than he has. In Iraq, they say, they believed he would work harder to win U.N. assistance. On the Patriot Act, they believed the administration would carefully protect citizens' privacy and civil rights. And on education, they believed Bush would fully fund the program. Moreover, a large number of congressional Democrats voted the same way they did. ‘Your votes are your votes, and you need to stand and explain,’ Gephardt said. ‘You have to also describe changes you would like to now make and also be legitimately critical of where the administration has done something’ wrong. Still, their rivals are starting to use the votes against the lawmakers, especially Kerry and Gephardt. In Tuesday night's debate at Morgan State University, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) -- the only House member running for president who opposed the Bush agenda in Congress -- and others repeatedly accused their rivals of trying to have it both ways, voting with Bush in Congress and bashing him on the campaign trail, especially on Iraq. The most stinging rebuke came when Al Sharpton turned Gephardt's new favorite phrase against the Missouri lawmaker, saying it was a ‘miserable failure’ for Gephardt and other Democrats to have helped authorize the war. The biggest beneficiary of all this appears to be Howard Dean, who as a former Vermont governor did not have to vote for or against the president's agenda, party strategists said. ‘He does get a break, because he didn't have to lay it on the line with a vote,’ said Gerald W. McEntee, international president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. This has freed Dean to become Bush's biggest critic of the war and helped distinguish him from the Democratic pack by allowing him to ridicule Bush's domestic agenda without having to defend a series of votes.” (9/14/2003)

Kerry – practicing his southern strategy – tells South Carolina audience he wants to help historically black colleges thrive. Excerpt from report in yesterday’s The State of Columbia by AP’s Jennifer Holland: “Historically black colleges are an important part of America, Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry said Friday, and he wants to help the schools find the financial support to thrive. The U.S. senator from Massachusetts sat in a semicircle and talked with about 50 students at Benedict College, one of five predominantly black colleges in South Carolina, about his plans to pay for higher education. Kerry said he understands many minorities want to attend colleges where they can celebrate their heritage and share similarities with their peers. ‘They are extraordinarily valuable,’ he said. ‘We have to respect that.’ Kerry is one of nine Democrats vying for the presidential nomination who have made an effort to reach out to South Carolina's black population, which could make up almost half the voters in the state's first-in-the-South primary Feb. 3. While he didn't have a specific plan to support historically black colleges, Kerry said he would push money into science and technology research and increase spending on Pell Grants, a need-based grant program aimed at aiding low-income college students. Kerry also highlighted his plan for a tax credit to help middle-class families afford to pay for college. His proposal would apply to 100 percent of the first $1,000 spent on tuition and 50 percent of the rest, up to $4,000 a year. His plan includes a ‘service for college’ initiative, which would offer students the equivalent of their state's four-year public college tuition in exchange for two years of service. Students asked whether Kerry's plan would apply to private schools like Benedict College. He said students at private college would qualify for assistance. Kerry said he would pay for part of the plan by closing corporate loopholes that allow companies to avoid paying taxes and the rest would be paid for by some of the money the government would get back by repealing President Bush's tax cut. Some of Kerry's proposals sounded familiar to one of his Democratic rival's plans. U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina wants the government to pay for students' first year of college in exchange for community service.” (9/14/2003)

Kerry’s on both sides of the fence… again. In an AP article in today’s, written by Lolita C. Baldor, Dem wannabe John Kerry attempts to identify and separate himself from Michael Dukakis. Headline: “Kerry draws contrasts with Michael Dukakis”.  Excerpts: “… John Kerry knows Michael Dukakis. He worked for Michael Dukakis. But he says he's no Michael Dukakis. In a delicate balancing act, Kerry said he's thrilled to have the ultimate Massachusetts liberal - Sen. Edward Kennedy - campaign by his side in his race for the White House. But he carefully distanced himself from Dukakis, the last Bay Stater to seek - and lose - the presidency. (9/15/2003)

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