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2008: The Case For John Kerry – Run John, Run!

by Pamela Leavey

The Fix makes the case for John Kerry to run in ’08 today. Although Kerry adamantly refuses to to make no announcement until after the ’06 mid-terms, Chris Cillizza points out what makes Kerry viable in ’08. We’ve made that case on the Dem Daily, many times in the past.

Kerry has made no secret of his interest in a second bid for the presidency, emerging as a leading voice in the party calling for an exit strategy in Iraq and continuing to use the e-mail list he compiled during his presidential race to raise money both for himself and for a slew of Democratic candidates and party committees.

Run John, Run!” – Chris Cillizza, says. I could not agree more!

By far the strongest argument in Kerry’s favor at the moment revolves around fundraising. At the end of March, Kerry had roughly $14 million on hand — in three different campaign accounts — that could be used to jumpstart his presidential candidacy. The majority of that total ($8.5 million) sits in his presidential primary account, the same account he was able to raise $250 million for in his quest to become the party’s official nominee in 2004.

No other potential candidate in the Democratic field has shown the ability to raise money at that scale, and only two — Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Evan Bayh (Ind.) — look likely to have $10 million or more available to transfer to a presidential exploratory committee at the end of this year.

When it comes to collecting cash for other candidates, Kerry again is at or near the top of the pack. He has repeatedly tapped his e-mail donor list (3 million strong, according to aides) for congressional candidates and Democrats running for state and local offices. Recent appeals have brought in more than $100,000 for Senate candidates in Tennessee, Minnesota and Ohio, and better than $400,000 for a handful of Iraq war veterans seeking House seats. All told, Kerry has raised and donated more than $7 million to Democratic candidates and party committees through his Keeping America’s Promise leadership political action committee since the start of 2005.

Kerry’s aggressive fundraising for fellow Democrats not only produces chits that he can call in if and when he decides to run for president, but it also keeps that massive e-mail list up-to-date and effective should he decide to jump to the presidential later this year.

The second argument in Kerry’s favor is his high-profile on the war in Iraq. Kerry was attacked repeatedly by Bush and his surrogates during the 2004 campaign for his seeming lack of certainty on how best to conduct the conflict — typified by Kerry’s “I voted for it before I voted against it” comment about an Iraq war spending bill. But Kerry seems to have learned the lessons of that indecisiveness.

Beginning in the fall of last year with a speech at Georgetown University, Kerry has been advocating the partial withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. He recently took it a step further, calling for the majority of U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by the end of the year in a opinion piece that ran this month in the New York Times.

Kerry’s emergence as a thoughtful and forceful voice on Iraq has won him plaudits from many on the party’s left who opposed the war from the start. (It’s worth noting that Kerry has courted this segment of the party in other ways since his 2004 loss, most notably in his decision to cut a trip to Switzerland short in order to return to the Senate and organize an unsuccessful filibuster against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.)

If the war in Iraq remains at the forefront of voters’ minds in 2007 and 2008, Kerry would appear to be the Democrat best positioned (in terms of policy positions and his own personal experiences) to speak authoritatively on what needs to come next in the Middle East. Kerry’s own service in Vietnam could also be essential in leveling the playing field on the issue if Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who spent several years in a POW camp during Vietnam, emerges a the Republican nominee.

The final argument for a Kerry candidacy is that he alone among those looking at the race has already had the experience of running a national campaign. (For the moment, we’ll leave former Vice President Al Gore out of the ’08 discussion, although we’ve made the case for Gore ’08 in a previous post.)

Nothing can approximate the exhilaration, exhaustion and myriad pressures that go with running and winning the nomination and then going on to serve as your party’s standard-bearer in a presidential election. While any number of Democrats have been planning 2008 bids for the better part of the last year, it is impossible to adequately prepare a candidate for what is to come.

Kerry knows what’s in store should he decide to run again. And while he would certainly make mistakes in a 2008 campaign, he also would be able to avoid many of the pitfalls that could trip up his rivals for the nomination. During a recent interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kerry acknowledged: “I made some mistakes. I know what they are, and I take responsibility for them.”

Will Democrats offer Kerry a another chance at presidency? Polls continue to show him trailing Hillary Rodham Clinton but ahead of nearly every other potential candidate — no doubt a reflection of the near-universal name identification he built up during his 2004 race.

Kerry’s refusal to simply disappear into the halls of the Senate was greeted with skepticism in the immediate aftermath of his defeat, but through sheer persistence he has kept himself in the national spotlight for much of the last 18 months and emerged as one of the most recognizable leaders in the Democratic Party. That hard work — coupled with his continued fundraising success — keeps him relevant in the ’08 conversation.

The text of John Kerry’s speech at Georgetown University on October 26, 2005, referenced above, is available here, the transcript of his recent interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” is available here and more coverage from the Dem Daily on the interview is available here.

As Ron noted below, and I noted yesterday, Kerry is due to make a major policy address in Boston at Faneuil Hall on Saturday.

Cillizza makes a strong case for Kerry ’08, all of his points are valid and strong. Although it’s important to focus on the ’06 mid-term races and the issues on the table now, including withdrawal from Iraq, it’s hard to ignore the reasoning of why Kerry should run in ’08.

5 Responses to “2008: The Case For John Kerry – Run John, Run!”

  1. Go Kerry! I love reading articles like this one, because it’s exactly how I feel. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Andy

    Go Kerry is right! I feel the same way, and most of our readers do too!

  3. Al Gore is the man for 2008. Kerry never did anything for me. He felt too muzzled, too constrainted. What the people need to see from the Democrats is a unified message. Al Gore is not afraid to be progressive, and he’s the kind of visionary figure that would inspire moderates and progressives alike.

  4. Nick

    Some people feel the similar things as you have listed here about Gore and other potential candidates, but we don’t going looking for places to post it.

  5. Nick,

    Actually Gore was much more “muzzled, too constrained” and “stiff” during his first Presidential run in the 2000 election than Kerry was in his first run in 2004.

    I like Gore a lot but he would have some problems in another run now. Mainly due to the same passion that many liberals enjoyed him finally showing the last couple of years. The GOP would use clips of his rousing speeches the last couple years and his beard period after the 2000 loss to portray him as nuts and mentally unstable. Idiotic yes but we are dealing with the American public. Many of who have shown themselves repeatedly to be easily fooled, swayed and basically, clueless and stupid.