Washington Prowler

Hybrid Kerry

He had his chance. Now he’s running on fumes. And people aren’t running to him. Plus: Democrats to go hungry.

By 4.26.04

For all the excitement about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, it isn't translating into volunteers for his campaign. In fact, according to a Kerry campaign staffer in Florida, the Kerry camp is surprised by the lack of paid staff and volunteer crossover from other dead Democratic primary campaigns to theirs.

"We aren't getting a lot of young people coming on board to help from other campaigns, like Gephardt and Clark and Dean," says the Kerry staffer. "We don't know if it's sour grapes, lack of enthusiasm, or them just being fried from the primary season."

Kerry has made some strategic hires from other campaigns, particularly to fill regional positions. But he apparently has failed to get many Democratic worker bees' hearts racing.

One potential hire, a former Clark campaign aide, was recently offered a position by the Kerry campaign, but turned it down. She may end up working for MoveOn.org or might sign on to do some consulting for Howard Dean's new 527.

"I thought about Senator Kerry, but couldn't get into it. He just isn't my guy," says the former Clark staffer. "General Clark didn't turn out to be everything we hoped, but he was someone I could admire. Kerry just doesn't have what Clark or Dean has. I couldn't work for him."

According to a DNC source, the party overall is not having trouble finding volunteers to help with the convention or at headquarters. "But I know that in some areas, down south in Florida, and in the Midwest, Kerry is having trouble getting large numbers. He's banking on the unions sending him some help. By now, he should be turning volunteers away, but he has time to get things straightened out."

Toyota, the Japanese auto manufacturer, with a number of plants here in the United States, approached the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry several months ago about having it use Toyota's hybrid-fueled cars. But the campaign turned down the offer.

"We thought given the candidate's environmental position he would want to use them," says a Washington-based public relations staffer who handles issues for Toyota. "We knew the senator couldn't ride in one for security reasons, but that there might be other opportunities."

Toyota's approach is really only interesting now because it turns out Sen. Enviro Kerry, who wants to impose tougher and higher fuel standards that would gut the American auto industry, owns at least one gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle, and regularly used one on the campaign trail by choice, until the Secret Service required him to ride in one for protective reasons. Kerry claimed that technically his personal SUV was not even his, but his "family's."

When Kerry was called on the SUV last Thursday, Kerry said that, in fact, he had been thinking for a long time about having his campaign use a hybrid as a "campaign car." But his choice would be a Ford model, which is an American-made automobile.

"It just goes to show that it's all about being an opportunist and using double-speak," says a Bush campaign staffer.

The Democratic National Committee has been laughing off the stories about budget problems for its national convention in Boston. But increasingly too much information about the planning and the problems has been leaking out for the DNC to avoid the embarrassing fact that the convention is going to be pretty low-rent.

Word is that money is so tight for various state Democratic organizations and for the DNC that their requests for bids for parties and receptions are being turned down by a number of big-time party planners and caterers in Beantown.

"All of the money is being funneled into the campaign against Bush and the Republicans, there is no money for pyramids of shrimp or open bars with small batch bourbon," says a DNC fundraiser. "We'll leave those kinds of things to our corporate sponsors."

The lack of big-time money for big-time partying is coming at a critical time for Boston's Democratic Mayor Tom Menino, who had been promising the city a huge windfall from having the Democrats in town for a week. Over the past month, it has become apparent that any cash coming in will be more of the "light breeze" variety. Union shops -- from construction to video production -- are complaining that they aren't being given work. That instead, the DNC and the convention planners are going out of state -- a kind of state to state out-sourcing for cheaper labor.

Most embarrassing, from the Kerry campaign perspective, is that many of the decisions are now being approved by the campaign's own people who were placed on the convention committee to ensure their man's vision for his coronation go according to plan.

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