Washington Prowler

Boston Bummer

A convention without momentum -- and Kerry acts weird too.

By 7.29.04

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Sen. John Kerry spent much of Tuesday night flipping between CNN and MSNBC, watching coverage of the party his party is throwing just for him.

After a number of his staff briefed him on the water taxi arrival in Boston (Kerry apparently complained that it wasn't a "sexy" boat he'd be traveling on and asked about something a bit more "manly"), he watched most of the prime-time speakers at the convention. One of the few that he passed on was Sen. Ted Kennedy.

"When he was coming on, the Senator thought that would be a good time to go over travel plans, scheduling and the like," says a Kerry staffer. "This wasn't a speech he felt he really needed to make time for."

Kerry did devote his focus to the keynote speech of Illinois senatorial candidate Barack Obama and the weirdness that was his wife's lecture. According to staff that were present in the room, Kerry was enthusiastic about both, cheering by himself and talking to the television as though both Obama and Terry Kerry could hear him.

"It was oddly touching, if not a bit affecting," says the staffer, who heard about the scene secondhand. "There was someone in the room actually taking notes of what he said to leak to journalists on the trip."

Both Kerry and his running mate John Edwards will have taken multiple dry runs inside the Fleet Center before actually taking the podium. Edwards did so in the early morning hours of Tuesday and again on Wednesday before delegates started filing in.

The reviews of the podium and the teleprompter system here in Boston have been abysmal. Speakers have complained about poor sight lines to the prompter screens, and difficulty reading scrolling text on the glass panels.

On Wednesday, reporters got laughs after Sen. Patrick Leahy stood befuddled at the podium after the teleprompter went dark. The Vermont senator had no hard copy of his remarks, so a printed version had to be handed to him onstage.

Privately, according to Democratic National Committee staffers, DNC fundraisers and leaders are concerned about the convention, and whether any of it is having a positive effect for the party.

"There hasn't been any polling; it's just a sense some of us have that this isn't going anywhere," says a DNC political staffer in Boston. "This has probably been the most tightly run convention in recent memory, but after the evening events, when we are meeting to discuss and go over the day, there are a lot of us who are shrugging our shoulders and saying, 'Great day, but so what.'"

By far, the most upbeat moments came with the Obama keynote, but much of that momentum, from the DNC's viewpoint, was killed by the speech of Teresa Heinz Kerry. "Believe me, that was not a speech any of us wanted," says the DNC-er. "If people thought Bill and Hillary were a package deal, they have no idea what they are getting with John and Teresa."

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