Washington Prowler

Kerry’s Abandoned Kids

Sen. John Pierre isn't the Music Man. Plus: Edwards wants Shrum back. Also: Dean woos Big Labor.

By 9.8.03

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UNFASHIONABLY LATE
While Sen. John Kerry will deny that he has little in common with former President Bill Clinton, there are a group of kids in Charleston, S.C., who would probably disagree.

Clinton was famous for running sometimes more than an hour late for events and meetings, keeping guests and sometimes foreign dignitaries cooling their heels. In the case of Kerry and his coterie, it's the little people -- literally -- who came in for rude treatment.

Several weeks ago, when the Kerry braintrust decided to shift the candidate's "official" announcement that he had been running for president for the past seven months from Boston to a Southern port city, they contacted several schools about getting their students to sing patriotic songs prior to Kerry's arrival on the scene.

"The idea was to have our future entertaining the crowd before their future president arrived," said a Kerry volunteer. "Senator Kerry would bound up on stage, thank the children, shake some hands, and then launch into the speech."

But the kids never made it on the stage. Due to the heat, and a delay in Kerry's arrival, the children who had been practicing for weeks for the event, were told they couldn't perform. Instead, Kerry arrived to an empty stage, devoid of youthful song.

Part of the delay, according to another Kerry campaign source, was due to Kerry and his wife's concern about their grooming and appearance before going on stage. As well, Kerry and his advisers continued to tinker and debate the content of his announcement remarks.

PRODIGAL DEMOCRATS
Senator John Edwards, whose own presidential campaign is floundering worse than John Kerry's, may be ready to bail out his senatorial chum. Word inside the Kerry camp is that wife Terry Kerry wants hubby adviser Bob Shrum off the campaign. "She's pissed that Senator Kerry wasn't more offensive minded earlier in the race and ceded control to [Howard] Dean," says a Kerry staffer in Washington.

Shrum, you'll recall, was an early adviser to Edwards, before jumping to Kerry's camp because Kerry was willing to give him a level of control Edwards wasn't willing to surrender.

Now that Edwards is buried in the back of the polls, and Kerry folks are blaming Shrum for their problems, perhaps Shrum will find solace with his old compadre from North Carolina.

Shrum's role in the Kerry camp is becoming increasingly less clear, as campaign manager Jim Jordan and adviser John Sasso have become more visible in Kerry's campaign offices. At the time Shrum jumped from Edwards to Kerry, the former Gore adviser was believed to have turned on his former client because of the Massachusetts Senator's offer to be an uber-adviser extraordinaire.

Instead, Shrum has become Kerry's scratching post. In the hours leading up to Kerry's announcement in South Carolina, unnamed Kerry staffers were telling reporters on the flight down that Shrum was refusing to show anyone other than Kerry the speech that had been written, and that Kerry had virtually nothing to do with the speech's content.

Shrum, meanwhile, was telling reporters on the record that Kerry had played an extensive role in the writing of the speech.

"The upshot is that Shrum isn't the most popular guy right now," says the Kerry staffer. "But that's nothing new for him. He probably wasn't the most popular guy in the Gore camp. But no one can deny that it was Shrum that got Gore to where he was back in 2000."

The same can't be said for Sasso, whose dirty tricks back in 1988 got him fired for a time as chairman of Michael Dukakis's ill-fated presidential campaign.

At any rate, Edwards has let it be known through intermediaries that Shrum would be welcomed back should there be a parting of the ways with Kerry.

DEAN BE LABORED
Lost amid all the reports about Rep. Dick Gephardt's recent successes in gaining organized labor endorsements was a private meeting Democratic front-runner Howie Dean recently had with United Auto Worker leaders in Michigan. While Gephardt might have organized labor's state support, polls show that Dean has a stronger following among rank and file union members in Iowa than any other Democratic hopeful at the moment.

Perhaps that's why some of the quiet endorsements in Iowa are sending shock waves through the Gephardt campaign. In the past couple of weeks the presidents of two statewide construction unions personally endorsed Dean. "It's scaring the hell out of us," says a Gephardt staffer just back from the campaign trail. "Our people are supposed have these guys buttoned down by now, and they are out there endorsing other people."

Dean may not end up with the full backing of the UAW, but he and his staff are sending a clear message to the insiders of the race -- Kerry and Gephardt at least -- that they can play ball with the big boys ... and win.

That message became all the more clearer during Thursday's debate in New Mexico, when Dean came off as downright moderate in his tone compared to the rest of the Democratic field which was running far to the left to outflank him.

"He's spent the past five months establishing his liberal bona fides; he's satisfied the base, now he's going after the middle," says a former Clinton campaign adviser. "He's completely played these other guys. That performance on Thursday probably got him a couple of million in fundraising from moderates around the country who had never seen him. Suddenly he doesn't look or sound so radical. Kerry and those guys have a lot of catching up to do."

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