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Kerry preparing to throw election again
Advisers see 2nd presidential bid

Globe & Mail  |  October 9, 2006
By Brian C. Mooney

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, who will spend at least 18 of the next 29 days campaigning for Democratic candidates, said in an interview 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."

There are signs within the Kerry camp, however, that he is moving toward a 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."

The rich pool of Democratic political talent in Massachusetts provided the core of Kerry's 2004 campaign apparatus, and 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."

At or near the top of the list is Mark Gorenberg , a San Francisco venture capitalist who is one of the party's top fund-raisers. 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.

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."

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.

Kerry currently 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.

Grossman, a former state and national party chairman, said he has promised to help raise funds for the Kerry birthday event in December but has made no commitments beyond that. In 2004, he shocked Kerry by signing on with Howard Dean's campaign.

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."

Complicating matters for Kerry, now in his fourth term, is that 2008 is also a reelection year. Several of his advisers anticipate that if he declares a presidential candidacy early next year, he will face pressure among Bay State Democrats, some who are eyeing his seat, to abandon a fallback plan of seeking another six-year term if a presidential exploration falls flat in 2007.

In the final weeks of this 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.

With about a dozen Democrats mentioned as potential '08 candidates, including Hillary Clinton and several other Senate colleagues, Kerry has faced a skeptical Washington establishment.

``I have been through 38 states since the last election and see no enthusiasm for another Kerry run," said Charles E. Cook Jr. , publisher of the non partisan Cook Political Report. He described ``a strong feeling among Democratic voters that they need to go with someone new, that he had his shot."

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." 

 

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