U.S. Senate office     Bills (Thomas) - 107th - 108th    John Kerry for President, Inc.
Images   Organization-Primary/General    Finances   Ads   IA | NH   P2000 page

First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, Sen. John Kerry was overwhelmingly re-elected to a fourth term on November 5, 2002.  Kerry is the ranking Democratic member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.>  (He served as chair during the year and a half long period of Democratic control of the Senate that began with the Jeffords' switch in June 2001).  He also serves on the Commerce, Finance, and Foreign Relations Committees and is ranking member of the Hispanic Task Force.  Through 2002 he chaired the Senate Democratic Leadership Steering and Coordination Committee. 

Kerry had considered making a presidential run in 2000, but ruled out a bid for the White House on February 26, 1999, stating that "the time is not right."  Throughout 2001 and through to November 2002, he indicated that he would likely make a White House bid, while avoiding any outright declaration in deference to his '02 re-election campaign. 

Kerry raised about $13.5 million for the race, demonstrating strong fundraising ability.  However, after the sole Republican contender failed to collect enough signatures to make the ballot, Kerry faced only Libertarian challenger Michael Cloud.  He swamped Cloud, who went on a six-day hunger strike at the end of the campaign in an effort to garner attention, by a 81% to 19% margin.  Kerry's re-election campaign spent some $8.6 million, $3.2 million of which went to pay off debts from his tight 1996 campaign against William Weld.  He finished with about $3.1 million in cash on hand and built up a direct mail list with about 200,000 names.

On December 1, 2002, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," the Massachusetts senator announced formation of an exploratory committee.  From the start, Kerry has been seen as one of the frontrunners in the crowded Democratic field, in large part because his service in Vietnam offers a basis upon which to stand up to President Bush on defense and security issues.  However, Kerry's support of the resolution on Iraq was not popular among some Democrats, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was able to use that issue, a blunt, plainspoken style, and an insurgent, Internet savvy campaign to build a very competitive challenge for the nomination.  Kerry's campaign has downplayed the buzz surrounding Dean, saying that their goal is to peak at the right time.  On September 2, 2003, in front of the USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, Kerry formally announced his candidacy declaring, "I believe that the courage of Americans can change this country."

Readers will be able to find out more about Sen. Kerry and his vision in a couple of books.  He has penned A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America (Viking Press, October 9, 2003), and helped historian Douglas Brinkley with material for Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (Viking Press, January 6, 2004) which is scheduled to be published less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Leading on Energy...
On January 22, 2002 Kerry became one of the first Democrats to present an alternative to the Bush administration's energy plan.  Delivering a major policy addresss, "Energy Security is American Security," he stated, "If we enact the entire Bush energy plan we will find ourselves twenty years from now more dependent on foreign oil than we are today."  Kerry called for a "national Strategic Energy Initiative," including increasing the amount of electricity from alternative and renewable sources to 20% by 2020, improving Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, reinvesting in public transportation, and tax incentives for efficiency improvements. 

Kerry was a leading opponent of efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  "It will never pass the Senate," he said in an August 1, 2001 statement. "You don't have to destroy a wildlife refuge to meet the energy needs of America," he told attendees of the California Democratic Party convention in February 2002.  When the energy bill came up in early March, Kerry and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) produced a bipartisan proposal to increase fuel efficiency standards.  The amendment would have required automakers to achieve an average of 36 mpg for their combined passenger car and light truck fleets by model year 2015, however, on March 13 the Senate voted in favor of a weaker amendment sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Kit Bond (R-MO).  Debate on the energy bill continued, and on April 18 Sens. Kerry, Lieberman, and other opponents of drilling in ANWR succeeded in putting a halt to the Administration's proposal as a cloture motion fell 14 votes short of the 60 required (S.Amdt.3132--46 to 54 vote).

...And Small Business Relief
From his position as chair of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerry sought to provide emergency economic relief for small businesses in the wake of the September 11 attacks.  By mid-December, the Kerry-Bond American Small Business Relief and Recovery Act, S.1499, had gained the backing of 63 Senators.  However, the Administration opposed the bill and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) blocked its consideration.  For a time Kerry even resorted to placing a hold on all non-judicial executive nominations, but he was unable to advance the bill.  Kerry and Bond managed to include some provisions in a defense bill.  Finally, they achieved a compromise with the White House, and on March 22, 2002 S.1499 passed the Senate by unanimous consent.  The estimated cost of the bill according to the CBO is $300 million.

Kerry has also been concerned about the shortage of professional nurses.  In 2001, he introduced several versions of a Nurse Reinvestment Act (S.706 and S.1597), and a bill (S.1864) eventually did pass the Senate and was signed into law in August 2002. 

Political Notes: On December 17, 2001 Kerry opened the Citizen Soldier Fund, a leadership PAC, to help Democratic candidates.  In addition to his visits to the politically important states of New Hampshire and Iowa, Sen. Kerry also made the rounds nationally, speaking to various Democratic and other groups.1  He touched upon the theme of the "citizen soldier" in many of these speeches.  For example, he concluded his remarks at the California Democratic Party convention on February 16, 2002 proclaiming, "I say it's time we joined together in our beloved country, all of us as Citizen Soldiers, committed to a cause greater than ourselves to ensure that no American is left behind."2

1. During 2001 his travels included Georgia Democratic Party JJ Dinner on March 3; Colorado Democratic Party JJ Dinner in Denver on March 24; Washington State Democrats' Annual Warren G. Magnuson Awards keynote speaker on June 23; League of Conservation Voters 12th Annual National Dinner keynote address in NYC on November 7, and San Diego Democrats JJ Dinner on November 26. During 2002, he spoke at the California Democratic Party State Democratic Convention on February 16; and plans to speak at Democratic Party of Wisconsin Jefferson Jackson Gala in Milwaukee on March 23 and the Florida Democratic Party 2002 State Conference in Orlando in April.

2. Note echoes of 2000 campaign rhetoric in the second part of this line.  Sen. John McCain frequently spoke about a cause greater than ourselves; one of Bush's major themes was "no child left behind." 

Strengths and Weaknesses
+ Hailing from Massachusetts, Kerry could gain a boost from the first-in-the-nation primary in neighboring NH.  In 1988, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis won the NH Democratic primary and went on to win the nomination; Sen. Paul Tsongas from Massachusetts won there in 1992, although Gov. Bill Clinton ultimately triumphed.
+ As a decorated Vietnam veteran, Kerry may be able to build a base among veterans, and to appeal to the patriotism of a broader audience in the same way that Sen. John McCain did in 2000.
+ Kerry was able to transfer leftover funds from his 2002 re-election campaign to his presidential campaign committee [11CFR110.3(c)(4)].
+ Kerry is the only presidential candidate to have appeared on the cover of American Windsurfer magazine (feature article in Vol. 5, Issue 5, July 1998).

- Kerry, who served as lieutenant governor under Michael Dukakis, will likely be stereotyped as a Massachusetts liberal.
- The Senate has generally not proven to be a good base from which to run a presidential campaign.

Readings and Resources
Todd S. Purdum. "Storied Past, Golden Resume, but Mixed Reviews for Kerry."  November 30, 2003.  [Third of "Challenging Bush" series].

Calvin Woodward.  "An ambition to lead powers Kerry through maelstrom of war and jarring career turns."  Associated Press.  October 9, 2003. (1,850 words)

Boston Globe's seven-part "John Kerry: Candidate in the Making" series:
John Aloysius Farrell.  "At the center of power, seeking the summit."  June 21, 2003.
John Aloysius Farrell.  "With probes, making his mark."  June 20, 2003.
Brian C. Mooney.  "Taking one prize, then a bigger one."  June 19, 2003. 
Brian C. Mooney.  "First campaign ends in defeat."  June 18, 2003. 
Michael Kranish.  "With antiwar role, high visibility."  June 17, 2003.
Michael Kranish.  "Heroism, and growing concern about war."  June 16, 2003.
Michael Kranish.  "A privileged youth, a taste for risk."  June 15, 2003.

Mark Z. Barabak.  "John F. Kerry: The Massachusetts Senator, A Decorated Veteran, Mixes Strong Liberal Credentials With Pro-War Stands on Iraq."  Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2003.   [Fourth of "The Democratic Hopefuls" series].

Laura Blumenfeld.  "Hunter, Dreamer, Realist: Complexity Infuses Senator's Ambition." Washington Post, June 1, 2003.  [First of "The Contenders" series].

David Nather.  "Kerry's Complex Record and His Pursuit of the Presidency."  CQ Weekly, April 26, 2003. ["The Road Up Pennsylvania Avenue" series]

Julia Reed.  "A Man in Full."  Vogue, March 2003.

Adam Nagourney.  "Antiwar Veteran Eager for Battle."  New York Times, December 9, 2002, page A22.  [First of weekly series on presidential prospects]. (1,936 words)

Joe Klein.  "The Long War of John Kerry."  The New Yorker, December 2, 2002.

Jonathan Miles.  "A Lighter Side of John Kerry."  Men's Journal, August 2002.

Sally Jacobs.  "The importance of being not so earnest." Boston Globe, May 1, 2002, page D1.

Paul Alexander.  "John Kerry: Ready for His Close Up."  Rolling Stone, April 11, 2002.

C-SPAN's "American Politics" ran a profile (about 56 minutes long, taped in Nov. 2001) of Sen. Kerry on Feb. 17, 2002.

Announcement Speech, Patriots Point, SC, Sept. 2, 2003.

Economic Speech, Whittemore School of Business at UNH, Durham, NH, Aug. 28, 2003.

Health care plan announcement, Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines, IA, May 16, 2003.

Speech on the Environment, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Boston, MA, Feb. 9, 2003.

Foreign Policy Speech, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, Jan. 23, 2003.

Economic Address, The City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland, OH, Dec. 3, 2002.

Democratic Leadership Council's National Conversation, New York, NY, July 29, 2002.

Florida Democratic Party State Conference, Orlando, FL, April 14, 2002.

California Democratic Party State Convention, Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 16, 2002.

"Energy Security is American Security," Center for National Policy, Jan. 22, 2002.

San Diego Democrats JJ Dinner, San Diego, CA, Nov. 26, 2001.

Photo caption: Sen. John Kerry at a May 9, 2001 rally on Capitol Hill.

Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action