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June 01, 2004 - Image 27

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2004-06-01

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John Kerry is - gasp - running
for president
Sept. 4, 2003 as soon as the political landscape began
A fter riproaring shifting, Kerry was in trouble. His supporters
and rollicking aren't wedded to the man based on his poli-
through South cies or biography. And as the Kerry cam-
Carolina, Iowa, New paign has begun to realize, they are now
Hampshire, The Ameri- playing catch up with the pugnacious Dean.
can Courage Tour ended Last week, Jordan argued to The Los Angeles
last evening in Boston. Times that "no campaign has ever put a lock
No, this isn't one of on things in the summer. This thing will be
those Lynyrd Skynyrd settled somewhere in the snow." Kerry built
reunions. It's that hell- his candidacy around the perception of presi-
raising, firebreathing, Harley-riding junior dential inevitability and with the Dean insur-
senator from the Bay State, John Kerry. Lock gency expanding daily and the likelihood of
up your daughters, Brahmins of Boston, John a Kerry nomination shrinking, you'll be able
Kerry is on the loose and he's running to be to see the painful process of Kerry's support
the Democratic nominee fot president of the eroding beneath him. Without that coveted
United States. trump card of electability, the campaign is
The conventional wisdom of Washington now forced to undergo the wrenching process
politics is that the summer before the presi- of retooling Kerry's image. Tonight's Democ-
dential primaries is irrelevant. Take it easy. ratic debate in Albuquerque, N.M., which
Go to a few hog roasts in Iowa, vacation in will be aired on PBS at 8 p.m., will offer the
Hilton Head, S.C., make the perfunctory first opportunity to see the new Kerry
journey to the hamlets of New Hampshire. unscripted.
The race really starts after Labor Day. That's Who does John Kerry want to be? Is he the
when everyone joins the political animals man who can save the Democratic party from
and starts scouring the papers for the latest the liberals and restore the Democratic Lead-
tidbits on presidential politics. ership Council's unquestioned control over the
But a funny thing happened on the way to party's machinery. Is he the man running out
that moment of destiny when the anointment of a sense of obligation? A man who has
of Kerry was supposed to take place at the served his four terms in the Senate, always
2004 Democratic National Convention in watching the action from the back benches
Boston. While John Kerry's media wizards and now coveting the chance to set the policy
were busy getting the atmospherics just right, agenda for the nation. Or is he just a ward-
just as his pollsters were conducting focus heeling, back-slapping, baby-kissing pol who
groups to accentuate their candidate's posi- will contort and gyrate his positions every
tives and his wonks were crafting tax policy, which way for that elusive shot at the presi-
former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean built a dency? And as soon as John Kerry decides for
certifiable juggernaut. From a little-known himself, he can let the rest of us know.
New England governor with no national fol-
lowing and few connections to the Democratic Peskowitz can be reached
Party's most powerful interest groups, Dean at zpeskowi@umich.edu.
transformed himself into a legitimate presi-
dential contender with a massive war chest.
One of the most enjoyable political activi-
ties of the summer has been watching the
Kerry camp's animus toward Dean grow
steadily nastier. Speaking to The New York
Times after the May 3 Democratic debate in
South Carolina, Kerry campaign manager
Jim Jordan meekly said, "There's no secret
that we think Mr. Dean's rhetoric has been
hot and a little bit personal."
But as Dean's star began
its ascent during the lan-
guid summer months,
Kerry's team went on the
attack. In July, Jordan
unleashed an assault on -
Dean, calling him "an
unemployed doctor with no
responsibilities, and it
was easy to sit there and
take political potshots
from the outside." And
Jordan again to The New
York Times in August: "He
" has sold himself as the
straight-shooting candidate,
the truth-teller, the one who
will say what's hard and unpopular
In truth, he's a very crafty politician,
very calculating." Needless to say, Kerry is
now terrified of a crippling New Hampshire
loss at the hands of Dean. With an August
Zogby poll giving Dean a 21-percentage-
point lead over Kerry in New Hampshire, the
likelihood of a Dean triumph on Jan. 27
shifted from a faint possibility to a near cer-
From the beginning of the campaign,
Kerry and his advisers isolated his status as
the frontrunner. That's all well and good, but

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