Monday, October 10, 2005

Des Moines Register on Kerry in Iowa

Kerry stays visible with visit to Iowa

Democratic activists say he must make a strong case for their support if he decides to run for president.


October 10, 2005
U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts on Sunday thanked Iowa activists who launched his rise to the Democratic presidential nomination last year and used his role as party standard bearer to rally activists for 2006.

"You can't sit around and cry in your teacup and lament about it. You've got to take that frustration . . . and channel it," he told more than 300 Des Moines-area party faithful at a fundraiser for Democratic women.

"And we almost achieved it last time," he said, recalling record turnout by Democrats in his losing effort to unseat President Bush.

But Iowa Democratic activists, including some of his closest supporters in the lead-off precinct caucuses last year, say Kerry cannot expect their automatic support should he run for president a second time.

"I have a feeling that people have a hard time, after someone hasn't been able to pull it off, getting behind them again," state Rep. Janet Petersen of Des Moines said. "So if Sen. Kerry wants to run again, he's really going to have to make a case."

During the weekend visit to Iowa, Kerry set himself apart from former Vice President Al Gore, who annoyed some party loyalists in Iowa and elsewhere for losing touch after he lost the election of 2000.

Kerry's work to stay in the public eye, including his second Iowa trip since the 2004 election, was not lost on those who gathered at A Dong Restaurant to see him Sunday morning.

"What I admire is that Sen. Kerry has stayed visible unlike Gore," West Des Moines Democrat Avon Crawford said at the Des Moines event.

Kerry's come-from-behind victory in the 2004 Iowa caucuses set in motion a near-sweep of the subsequent primaries and caucuses. He narrowly lost the state to Bush in the November election.

In 2000, Gore won the caucuses and carried Iowa in the general election but did not return to Iowa until fall 2002.

Kerry returned to Iowa a month after the election last year, and he has twice since visited New Hampshire, where he won the 2004 presidential primary. Kerry also has contributed more than $5 million to Democrats around the country so far this year.

"It's the importance of my responsibility as a nominee and as a senator and as a public person not to turn my back on the invested effort of millions of Americans," Kerry said.

Kerry met privately with some of his key caucus campaign supporters after arriving Saturday evening. After the Des Moines fundraiser Sunday, he traveled to Cedar Rapids to speak at an event for a City Council candidate. He finished the day by attending a Johnson County Democratic Party organizing event.

Although Kerry's visibility and party involvement contrast sharply with Gore's after 2000, Kerry shed little light about whether he is planning to run again.

Instead, he said it is his duty to help prepare Democrats nationally for the 2006 campaigns.

"The bottom line is that this work has got to be done. Having been out there as a national candidate, I know what it means when you have legislators that are there for you. These are things that have to happen, and I'm going to fight to make them happen, period," he said. "I'm not going to worry about what people read into it."

Petersen, who was among about 15 people who dined with Kerry on Saturday, said she believed that Kerry's focus was solidly on 2006.

Des Moines developer Harry Bookey, who also met with Kerry on Saturday, said that 2008 will present new circumstances for the party, and that it's not clear whether Kerry would come out on top.

A factor that could complicate a second Kerry bid is Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, whom Kerry considered making his running mate last year and whom is considering a campaign for president in 2008.

"I still think Kerry would be an excellent president," said Bookey, who contributed $10,000 this year to both Vilsack's and Kerry's political action committees. "Whether the political dynamics are going to be there for him to win is something that I think only time will tell.


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