Kerry Playing Better in the South

The South was a problem for Democratic candidates in 2000 and 2004, but John Kerry is showing that things may be different in 2008. Check out this account of a recent visit to South Carolina:

Kerry finally plays well in S.C.

When U.S. Sen. John Kerry announced he was coming to South Carolina to talk about health care and raise money for the state Democratic Party, one could almost hear the groans from Greenville to Charleston.

What’s that liberal Yankee doing down here? We showed him two years ago what we thought of him.

South Carolina voters preferred President Bush by a wide margin, 58 percent to 42 percent.

Skeptics said the Massachusetts Democrat would be lucky to draw a dozen or so people.

Kerry had the last laugh when he hit the state late last month. The reception also seems to show the could-be presidential candidate will treat the state differently than in 2004.

Overflow crowds greeted Kerry at a Charleston town hall meeting and a Democratic rally in West Columbia. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley introduced him at the town hall gathering.

Party officials say they were not prepared for the response.

Some 400 people jammed into the Woodmen of the World hall in West Columbia to hear Kerry. An estimated 250 were turned away, organizers said.

“We ran out of food,” said Kathy Hensley, chairwoman of the Lexington County Democratic Party.

Hensley said she has not seen anything like the reception Kerry received in her 50 years around politics. “I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing.”

The senator had to tear himself away from the crowd, observers said. People followed him out the door to his car, hoping to shake his hand or get an autograph.

Almost two years after his presidential bid ended in defeat, Kerry has embarked on a cross-country campaign. He insists he’s not running for president. But everyone knows better.

Call it what you want. He’s testing the waters.

Charleston attorney Waring Howe Jr., a Democratic National Committee member, said Kerry is serious about it, “almost to the point you can expect he actually will” run.

In his S.C. visit, Kerry looked and acted like a presidential candidate — smiling, grasping for outstretched hands and offering thumbs up as he made his way through the crowds.

He took off his suit jacket and spoke from a small platform that somewhat cramped his style.

He attended private receptions and met with key party officials, seeking their support.

Some, like former S.C. Democratic chairman Dick Harpootlian, were not swayed. They still remember 2004, when Kerry kicked off his presidential bid in South Carolina, never to return again.

That angered Democrats across the state.

“He wrote us off after two months,” Harpootlian said. “His track record is not one that I want to see repeated.”

Nationally, Kerry came close to winning. He has said he would be in the White House today if 60,000 Ohioans had switched votes.

To which Harpootlian responded, “Yeah, if Napoleon had had B-52 bombers, we’d all be speaking French.”

Harpootlian said Kerry lost because he couldn’t connect with white Southerners. So, he wrote off the South.

Democrats need a candidate like Bill Clinton, one who has broad appeal, and can attract Southern voters, Harpootlian said. He’s leaning toward former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, he said.

“I think you’ll see a different campaign next time,” said James Dukes, Kerry’s S.C. director in 2004 who now is interim director of the state party.

Kerry plans to return to the state one more time before the Nov. 7 mid-term election.

Should he become a candidate in 2008, Kerry says he’ll treat S.C. differently.

Translation: He’ll pay more attention to us.

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  1. 1
    Indie Liberal says:

    Nice article, though it would have been better if the snark from the former DNC chairman was left out.

    As much as I like Gore, how come no one dumps on him for “writing us off?”

    It’s interesting that those know it all’s think that anyone but Kerry would have gotten a pass by the media, when they don’t understand that the media is GOP controled and own, that’s why the dem message isn’t getting out.

    If they think that Warner is going to wave a magic wand and command that the media be fair and balanced, voting machines will count accurately, then they are in for a rude awakening.

    I know I am rambling, but if they smeared Gore and Kerry, they will smear any Dem regardless of where they are from.

    BTW, Congratulations on the new blog Ron. 🙂

  2. 2
    Marcus says:

    Ya know I feel Lieberman’s loss was a very bad omen for Hillery. I feel her chances are much slimmer now. As a result I’ve begun to feel that like the early 90’s we’re a set up for a dark hoarse candidate as Clinton was.
    maybe Kerry could be that “Dark Hoarse”

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    So far Hillary has avoided harm for her position on the war. To be fair she has not supported Bush any where near as much as Lieberman has.

    Still, if the war continues to go badly (and it is hard to see much good happening in Iraq short term), it is certainly possible that this will hurt Hillary. Hillary Clinton and Lieberman may turn out to have something else in common. Liebreman was front runner in the polls well before 2004 due to name recognition, but didn’t succeed as a candidate. Perhaps Hillary will fizzle out as people really start choosing candidates.

    Hillary is sucking the money out of the process for 2008. It may be harder for real dark horse to win as Bill Clinton did, placing Kerry in an excellent position should Hillary fail to win. Hopefully by then the false claims that Kerry supported the war will have died away now that Kerry is taking the leadership in opposing the war.

  4. 4
    Nick says:

    Harpootlian accuses Kerry of not being able to connect with white southerners. Uh Dick, except for the Jimmy Carter in the anomoly year of 1976, no Dmeocratic nominee has won so much as 40% of the southern white vote since LBJ won 45% of the southern white vote in 1974. Even in 1976 a majority of white southerners cast their lot with an accidental president from suburban Michigan over a farmer from Plains. And Bill Clinton never got so much as 36% of the southern white vote? OKay so John Kerry didn’t get a lot of support from white southerners. But Dick, what Democrat nominee since the Kennedy administration has?

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