Saturday, May 07, 2005

NY Times on Kerry

On the Go, but Not Running, Kerry Looks Like a Shhh!

WASHINGTON, May 6 - Ask Senator John Kerry if he will run again for president in 2008, and the answer comes back swift and sure: "I don't have any clue." But from a clean, well-lighted carpenters' union hall in St. Paul, where Mr. Kerry talked to 250 enthusiastic supporters about children's health care on Tuesday, a very different picture emerged.

Nurses, union members and former campaign volunteers threw Mr. Kerry softball questions, while a half-dozen College Republicans, including identical twins dressed up as "flip-flop" sandals, staged a protest in the parking lot. Inside the hall, parents who said they were unable to afford insurance shared tearful stories.

At one point, a 12-year-old boy with curly red hair and tortoise-shell glasses asked plaintively, "Do Republicans know what they're doing?"

The candidate - or noncandidate, as Mr. Kerry might say - cracked up. "Young man," the senator replied, "I'm taking you with me."

The big question, of course, is where Mr. Kerry is going. Six months after his loss to President Bush, Mr. Kerry, in a brief interview in St. Paul, insisted he wanted to "move on." Yet moving on has proved complicated.

More than an ordinary senator, less than a presidential nominee, Mr. Kerry is a politician betwixt and between. He has more than $8 million in the bank and an e-mail list of three million supporters, yet must still prove himself to fellow Democrats, keeping his presidential prospects alive even as he insists it is too soon to talk about 2008.

Mr. Kerry has made children's health care his signature issue; his stop in St. Paul was part of a national four-city swing this week to highlight his "Kids First" plan, which would provide coverage to 11 million uninsured children, a central theme of his presidential campaign.

He is expanding his political organization and wooing other Democrats, through the time-tested method of political courtship - money. He has given more than $3 million to various Democratic campaign committees, and on Friday night he held a fund-raiser in Boston for the 2006 re-election campaign of the woman widely regarded as his major rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.



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