Sen. John Kerry was said by some volunteers and staffers in Wisconsin to be stunned by his poor showing in the Wisconsin primary. "We knew that Wisconsin was a weird state politically, but not this weird," says a Kerry staffer. "Tracking polls and everything we saw for the past week had us feeling like we were well ahead of [John] Edwards."
As it turned out, a few late endorsements of Edwards by local newspapers and almost constant attacks by Dean and Edwards on the frontrunner chipped away at Kerry's lead. "In the end, Edwards has a non-win victory because he came so close and Kerry has trouble. That's the spin," says the Kerry volunteer.
Kerry held a late-night meeting and conference call demanding to know why Wisconsin happened, according to another Kerry campaign source in Washington. "He wanted to know what happened to his victory. That's what it was called, 'his victory.' Like somehow he was entitled to it. Sometimes he forgets he's running against other people."
Almost immediately, talking points were developed for Kerry underlings and reporters were spun that (1) Edwards had won only one primary (South Carolina); (2) Kerry had won 15 of the 16 other contests, including Wisconsin; and (3) Kerry had a lock on the big prizes of Super Tuesday.
One byproduct of the Edwards close call in dairy country is that Kerry will be spending a lot more of his cheese to knock his senatorial colleague back. The Kerry campaign, which for the past two weeks had basically been ignoring Edwards and Dean and focusing on attacking the president, is now looking to spend millions in Ohio and New York and even California to keep a lid on any Edwards insurgency.
While Kerry has a large double-digit lead on Edwards in California, the Kerry folk believe Edwards has a shot to make inroads in Ohio, New York, and Georgia on Super Tuesday.
"There is enough of a rumble that we're going to have to deal with Edwards. It was something we were hoping wasn't going to happen," says the Kerry staffer in Wisconsin. "We have plenty of stuff to use on him. We oppo'd him at the same time we were doing research on Dean."
Former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean may be out of the presidential race, but he's apparently not through with politics in 2004. According to a Dean staffer, a number of the former candidate's most loyal staffers are traveling to the Washington, D.C. area this weekend to meet with former campaign chief Joe Trippi.
Trippi is said to have lined up a plan to utilize the more than 600,000 names the Dean campaign collected from fundraising and the Internet, and roll the activists into a "movement."
"We may be looking at a 527 similar to ones that have already been set up, or perhaps something different," says a Dean staffer who is expecting to attend the meeting. "We started something special and we want to keep it alive, but not necessarily for any of the candidates who are still in the race. This would be something unrelated to the Democratic Party, more about Dean and his ideals."
It isn't known if Dean will play an active role in what Trippi sets up, though it appears a major project would almost certainly have to have Dean's involvement and support.
In the meantime, Dean appears to have at least put off any decision on a third party run for president, based on feedback he has given many of his staffers in the past 24 hours. How serious he was about such a run is now unclear. It's also unclear whether Dean will endorse a candidate.
Earlier this month, Dean failed in his attempt to draw Sen. John Edwards into a kind of tag-team against Sen. John Kerry. Now it appears that it is Edwards looking to Dean to help him make life a little more difficult for Kerry. Dean is known to like Edwards more than Kerry, but no sooner were the final results in on Tuesday night than Kerry was calling Dean for support and to chat about the future. Dean was said by staff to be friendly but noncommittal.
"If I had to make a guess, I'd say Dean goes with Edwards, and he spins it this way: a debate between these two men [Kerry and Edwards] over the next three weeks is better for America, better for Democrats, better for the fall campaign," says a Dean staffer.
There he goes again. While campaigning in Wisconsin, Sen. John Kerry was approached by an AIDS protester, who tried to hand him material about the threat of AIDS. Kerry, in front of reporters, told the protester that he didn't need to be educated. "I wrote the AIDS legislation," Kerry said, then walked away.
Kerry, in fact, did not write any AIDS legislation. The 2002 landmark AIDS legislation, known as the Kerry-Frist Global AIDS bill, had little to no input from Kerry beyond his lending it a bipartisan coloring.
Democratic Senate staffers credit Sen. Joe Biden with doing much of the heavy lifting on the Senate side for Democrats. In the end, much of the bill that was passed came out of the House of Representatives' version of the bill.
"It's just another example of Kerry taking credit for basically putting his name on something," says a Democratic leadership staffer. "[Sen. Bill] Frist was the driving force on this, and Biden did a lot of work on it. Kerry was just there for the photo-op."
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