Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has promised an all-out floor blockage of the drilling legislation, and Kerry is thinking of waging a one-man filibuster, one that could go on for 20 hours. “Seeing him down there on the floor, working it on C-SPAN, would be pretty cool,” says an occasional Kerry campaign adviser. “If he pulled it off, it would be like Jimmy Stewart in ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.’”
Kerry is mulling a solo filibuster as part of his plan to position himself for a presidential run in 2004. Because he is a decorated Vietnam veteran, Kerry and his advisers are generally confident such a run would be well-received. But Kerry also feels that because he has had to serve in the shadow of his home state’s senior senator Ted Kennedy, the public is less aware of him than it should be. A solo filibuster on the major environmental issue of the day, before what surely would be national TV coverage, would certainly be one way to attract unprecedented attention.
One-man filibusters are rare. The longest in modern history was Strom Thurmond’s back in the 1950s when he took the floor for more than 24 hours to block civil rights legislation. If Kerry were to start one, he could not surrender the floor. To do so, even to a Democratic colleague, would risk ending the filibuster and any chance Kerry would have to make a lasting impression on voters.
But the biggest threat to Kerry’s solo chances is Daschle, who has his own presidential aspirations and wants to orchestrate a party-wide filibuster on ANWR drilling, not to mention kill any GOP plans to filibuster campaign finance reform — and he wants to do all this in such a public way that America will come to see him as an alternative leader to President Bush. Says a Democratic leadership aide: “When this session of Congress is over, Daschle wants America to look at Washington and see two men squaring off on everything: him and Bush. He wants to be the guy everyone turns to as an alternate to Bush when it comes to policy and political questions. If he reaches that point, he’ll be certain about his political future.”p> CROSSOVER CONSULTANT br> On person who may be involved in shaping Tom Daschle ‘s future is former Republican political consultant