Saturday, July 29, 2006

Kerry: Don't Change Primary Calendar Iowa First

During his visit to Iowa yesterday, John Kerry said that the 2008 presidential primary calendar proposed by a DNC committee last week "risks complicating the nomination process."

"I'm in favor of Iowa as the first caucus and New Hampshire as the first primary," Kerry told The Des Moines Register after testifying in Iowa City at a Senate hearing on cancer research.

"Now if they stick something in between ... I think that's their choice," the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee added. "But it makes the system more complicated and probably slightly less democratic."

The Democratic National Committee will vote next month on a schedule that keeps the Iowa caucuses' leadoff role intact, but would insert a Nevada party caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire's primary. New Hampshire Democrats have threatened to push the primary earlier on the calendar if the contest's prestige appears to be in jeopardy.

Kerry stopped short of saying he would object to a final schedule that included a Nevada caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire, which the Democratic National Committee will consider when it votes on Aug. 19.

Kerry, the winner of the 2004 Iowa caucuses, was making his third trip to Iowa since the 2004 election.

He planned to campaign today for legislative candidates in Story City and Independence before headlining a Linn County Democrats' event in Cedar Rapids.

Kerry also won the New Hampshire primary in 2004 and is weighing a bid for 2008.

Kerry said he would assess after the November midterm elections whether he will run again. Kerry dismissed the significance of a Register poll published in early June, which showed him in third place among his potential rivals in the Iowa caucuses, trailing his former running mate John Edwards of North Carolina and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Clinton has said she is focused on her Senate re-election this year, while Edwards has said he is very seriously considering a 2008 campaign.

Kerry used a come-from-behind win in Iowa's 2004 caucuses to vault his campaign to a near sweep of the subsequent nominating contests.

He won 38 percent of the vote, but the Register's poll showed him the choice of just 12 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers.

"Every poll anywhere right now is meaningless," Kerry said. "You are talking to a guy who was 30 points down in Iowa for six months. I told you they were meaningless then. Right now, they are even more meaningless. People aren't focused on this."

Kerry has spoken out in the past about changing the primary schedule.


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