John Kerry is on the road barnstorming for candidates across the country in the critical mid-term elections. As election day rapidly approaches, so too is the speculation for another Kerry run for the White House. Fact is John Kerry has never stopped fighting for the issues he believes in. Instead of retreating quietly from the limelight, Kerry has pursued with a more of passion than ever, those issues and ideals that are at the center of what makes him perhaps the strongest spokesman for the Democratic party today.
Kerry has been adamant about not stating his intentions until after the mid-terms. On Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night, he didn’t skip a beat when Maher tried to nail him down when he prefaced a question with about ’08 with “When” instead of “If” — Kerry wasn’t buying it (watch the video here). The Boston Globe reports today that Kerry advisers see a 2nd presidential bid in Kerry’s future.
Yesterday , Senator John F. Kerry was in Iowa. Tomorrow and Wednesday, he’ll be in Nevada. On Friday, he’ll be in New Hampshire. After that, he’ll visit 11 more states, including South Carolina, before the Nov. 7 election.
With a frenetic pace of barnstorming and fund-raising on behalf of Democratic candidates, Kerry’s moves over the last several months have convinced his inner circle that he intends to launch another run for president.
Kerry himself insisted he has not decided whether to run. But more than a dozen longtime loyalists interviewed for this story said they had no doubt that Kerry would attempt what a host of Washington doubters think unimaginable: become the first Democrat in half a century to lose a general election and be renominated four years later.
“My impression is there’s no way he’s not going to run,” said a confidant who speaks with Kerry regularly and asked not to be identified.
Kerry will be spending at least 18 of the next 29 days campaigning for Democratic candidates across the country. He said in an interview on Friday that he “is concentrating his energies on the 2006 elections, in which the Democrats are increasingly optimistic that they have a chance at winning a majority in the House and possibly the Senate.”
“First things first,” Kerry said. “I haven’t made a decision yet, and I don’t have any specific timetable for it. My focus is the ’06 elections. I know it sounds weird to people, but we’ve got to do well here, win some seats, and I’m doing everything in my power to do that.”
The signs are out there however, within the Kerry camp that he is moving closer to another run. The question poised from many is “will he run again?”
Edward Reilly, a New York-based consultant who in the past six months has become one of Kerry’s closest advisers, rented an apartment in the Washington area less than two weeks ago as he devotes more time to the Kerry operation.
Reilly, a Newton native and veteran of other presidential campaigns, sought to downplay any significance to his move. Of Kerry’s plans, Reilly said: “He’s campaigning very hard from now until November for Democrats and that’s about as far as we’re going on this.”
There’s a rich pool of Democratic political talent in Massachusetts that provided the “core of Kerry’s 2004 campaign apparatus.” The Globe reports that “virtually all of those nationally tested operatives and strategists have signed on in advance for 2008 if Kerry decides it’s a go.”
Meanwhile, the Kerry fund-raising machinery is cranking up. Over the last two years, the Kerry campaign operation generated more than $10 million for various party committees and 179 candidates for the US House, Senate, state and local offices in 42 states, according to tallies kept by his staff. Plans are underway for an annual Dec. 11 fund-raiser in Boston to mark his birthday. (He’ll be 63). Robert Farmer , Kerry’s chief fund-raiser, came up from his home in Florida recently for a series of meetings in Boston.
Farmer called speculation about Kerry’s intentions “premature,” but said Kerry retains a national fund-raising network that is willing to back him if he decides to run for president.
“Should John decide to run, he will have the resources to compete,” said Farmer, who also ticked off the names of several prominent Democratic fund-raisers who would help.
“A lot of the people who helped in ’04 have encouraged him to take a look at running again,” Farmer said. “When you travel with him today, he’s like a rock star.”
The rock star effect is something that I noted here on the Dem Daily recently. When Kerry gave a speech at Pepperdine University a few weeks ago on faith and values, the reaction of the young Democrats club who hosted a reception after the speech was pure rock star. It was inspiring to see those young Democrats so fired up. They couldn’t get enough. Every student I spoke with after the event, said the same thing about a potential Kerry run — yes, they wanted him to run again.
Among the top Kerry fundraisers still firmly in the Kerry camp is Mark Gorenberg, a San Francisco venture capitalist who is also one of the Democratic party’s top fund-raisers. Gorenberg was in the thick of it in ’04, and he still is today.
A co-chairman of a Bay Area group, Win Back The House, that has raised money for House Democratic candidates, Gorenberg said Kerry drew by far the largest crowd and the most donations in June when he headlined one of their 12 events. “People came from everywhere,” Gorenberg said.
The Globe reports that “another on board is Clay Constantinou , chief New Jersey fund-raiser for Kerry and before that, for Bill Clinton and Michael S. Dukakis.”
Supporters in that state are planning a December event to raise money for Kerry, whether he uses it to run for president or Senate run, Constantinou said.
Constantinou and Farmer, like many of those interviewed, believe Kerry’s advantages include the fact that he has been thoroughly vetted by the news media and “can pass the commander in chief test.”
As I mentioned above, the issues and ideals that are at the center of what makes Kerry perhaps the strongest spokesman for the Democratic party today. The Globe notes:
Kerry has also become one of the most consistent and scathing critics of the Bush administration on an array of issues, particularly the environment, energy and foreign policy, and the war in Iraq. Last June he proposed, with Senator Russell D. Feingold , a July 2007 deadline to withdraw all US troops from Iraq. The amendment failed badly but marked a forward position for antiwar Democrats in Congress.
He also won plaudits for working on behalf of House candidates. “The question is was somebody willing to stand up back in the dark days when I needed help, and he was,” said US Representative Rahm Emanuel , chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
All told, Kerry “has four political committees with a combined $14 million cash on hand, but a portion of that will be pumped out to candidates or party committees in the crucial final weeks of the 2006 midterm elections.”
Of the total, $13.5 million remains in Kerry’s two presidential campaign committees, about $300,000 is in his political action committee, and only $100,000 is in his Senate reelection kitty, Amy Brundage , spokeswoman for Kerry’s political operation, said.
If Kerry has succeeded in holding together part of his national network of fund-raisers, he still has some work to do back home.
Two Massachusetts-based money men, Alan D. Solomont and Steve Grossman, have many friends among the potential ’08 field, and have not committed to helping Kerry if he runs again. Solomont led a $35-million fund-raising effort by Kerry’s 2004 team in Massachusetts.
He said he is preoccupied with raising money this year for Democratic congressional efforts and statewide candidates “On Nov. 8, after I take a bit of a breather, maybe I’ll think about 2008,” he said.
A former Massachusetts and national party chairman, Grossman has “promised to help raise funds for the Kerry birthday event in December but has made no commitments beyond that.”
Though still uncommitted in ’08, he said he has met with Kerry a few times and been “unbelievably impressed by his focus and discipline. . . . I would not write off John Kerry for ’08 despite the inclination of some people to do that.”
Over the course of the final weeks of the mid-term election cycle, “Kerry will visit Iowa, site of the first caucus state, and New Hampshire, home of the first primary, three times each. Nevada, which will follow Iowa with caucuses in 2008, appears twice on the itinerary.” I’ve heard rumors he’ll be back in California at some point this month as well. About a dozen Democrat have been mentioned as potential ’08 candidates, including Hillary Clinton and several other Senate colleagues. Some say Kerry has “faced a skeptical Washington establishment.” It’s time for the skeptics to get over it. No potential ’08 candidate is better positioned than Kerry. He’s got the fundraising machine in place, he’s got the largest internet supporter list of all of the potential ’08 candidates — some 3 million strong, and he’s fought stronger and harder than his Senate colleagues or any other potential candidate on all of the issues.
Charles E. Cook Jr. , publisher of the non partisan Cook Political Report interviewed for the Globe reports said, “I have been through 38 states since the last election and see no enthusiasm for another Kerry run.” I don’t know who Cook is talking to, but his statement sure as hell sounds partisan and jaded in my book. Cook described “a strong feeling among Democratic voters that they need to go with someone new, that he had his shot.” Right. Kerry is a better man, a better candidate for his ’04 loss and he’s proved that time and time again over the course of the past 2 years.
The skepticism inside the Beltway doesn’t faze him, Kerry said. “The Washington thing was the same the last time. The conventional wisdom consistently proves itself wrong,” he said. “If I decide to run, it will be because I believe I can win.”
Ronald Rosenblith , who has been in every political battle of Kerry’s career, added, “He could have folded up after he lost and said ‘I had a good run at it.’ But it’s the passion about the issues that drives him, and, if on Nov. 8, he feels as passionately as he does today . . . he’ll need to go at [the presidency] again.”
Skeptics be damned — Kerry is more ready than ever. As he barnstorms across America in the coming weeks working hard for a Democratic victory in ’06, Kerry is building up chits that will be pay off when the time comes. All this talk of ’08 is still premature, however, as Kerry himself says, nothing at this point is more important that the critical ‘o6 races. However, many will be waiting in the wings, for Kerry to say the word and few will hesitate to get on board the bandwagon — I know I’ll be one of them.
UPDATE: The Fix weighs in saying “All Signs Point to a 2nd Kerry Presidential Bid.”
Chris Cillizza notes something that I have contended myself for a long time, the “continued potency of Kerry’s e-mail list shows that while a re-run candidacy is largely dismissed in the nation’s capital, there remains energy for the 2004 Democratic nominee out in the hinterlands.”
To be able to repeatedly tap an e-mail list for other candidates reveals that Kerry may be more relevant than many political insiders believe.
How powerful is Kerry’s email list? Cillizza fills us in:
So far this cycle Kerry has raised $6 million for candidates via the Internet alone; he has raised $13.5 million total for candidates and campaign committees.
Just before the Sept. 30 filing deadline, Kerry sent an e-mail appeal to his list on behalf of several Democratic Senate candidates — former Navy Secretary Jim Webb (Va.), state Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), Rep. Ben Cardin (Md.) and former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). It raised $400,000 for the four candidates in just 72 hours.
In this cycle Kerry has raised $100,000 or more online for 11 Democratic candidates: Sens. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Reps. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Harold Ford Jr. (Tenn.), Missouri state Auditor Claire McCaskill, Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Webb, Iraq war veterans Tammy Duckworth (Ill.’s 6th District) and Patrick Murphy (Pa.’s 8th District) and retired Admiral Joe Sestak (Pa.’s 7th District).
UPDATE 2: Note to Tom Bevan on Real Clear Politics… We look forward to you eating some crow. You can spin it six ways to Sunday no potential ’08 candidate will be as tough or as strong as Kerry in ’08.