WHO WILL CARRIER SOUTH CAROLINA?
For several months, presidential campaign staffers of Sen. John Kerry had been planning on their man standing before "Old Ironsides" in Boston Harbor when formally announcing his candidacy for the highest office in the land.
But over the past few days, adviser Bob Shrum has pressed for a more political and "in your face" approach to the announcement. "He [Shrum] wants a more aggressive speech, a more aggressive setting," says a Kerry aide in Washington.
So now plans are for Kerry to announce in front of the USS Yorktown down in South Carolina on September 2. In an early draft of his remarks, Kerry takes a direct shot at Bush, ridiculing him for his spring speech from the deck of an aircraft carrier, and disparaging the president, claiming that that appearance was a metaphor for his entire administration, all staging, no substance, all fiction, no facts.
"It's going to be a tough, bare-knuckle speech," says the Kerry aide. "It's going to establish the senator as the front runner, the straight talker and put people like [ex-Gov. Howie] Dean behind him. We're sure of it. The competition is going to see us shift into a whole new speed after September 2."
Kerry's announcing in South Carolina is a bit surprising in that everyone expected him to stick close to home and reinforce his strength in the Northeast. But Shrum is looking past the early "excite the base" days and is seemingly looking to take on the Bush Administration from the get-go in a state where Kerry is beginning to focus some of his campaign energy.
"Kerry is a frontrunner in New Hampshire. He's doing okay in Iowa. Now he's looking at raising his profile down south," says the Kerry aide. "If we push [Sen. John] Edwards back a bit down here, we probably push him out of the race altogether."
Edwards has staked out South Carolina as his do or die state in deterring in how far he takes his presidential aspirations.
DAMSEL IN DISTRESS
Someone who isn't pushing her aspirations very hard is former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. Last week she met with Sen. John Kerry, amid swirling rumors that she was looking for a way out of her increasingly troubled presidential campaign.
Braun is working with a skeleton staff in Illinois, and though she has been pressing for endorsement from women's groups, it's not clear where she thinks her campaign can go with little to no incoming cash, and little visible support from Democrats.
According to a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, word was Braun meet with Kerry to discuss what he would be willing to do for her should she step aside and endorse his candidacy. "Her campaign has always been about what she could get out of it," says the Black Caucus member. "She wants back into government and the only way is through her backing of a winner."
Braun denies that she is shutting down her campaign, and one of her aides was claiming that within days two women's groups -- the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus -- would endorse Braun.
TOOMEY OR NOT TOOMEY
Very quietly, conservative Republicans in Pennsylvania are asking the White House and the Republican National Committee to put word out that party loyalists will not suffer any adverse repercussions from backing Rep. Pat Toomey, who is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the GOP primary.
"The only way Toomey has a serious shot is if the national party lets it play out," says a Republican political consultant not involved in the Pennsylvania race. "Toomey has a very good shot of winning that seat if he wins that primary. He can do it. But the state party people, the local people, need to know they won't suffer adversely if they help Toomey financially or materially down the road."
Toomey, who is being backed by the Club for Growth and a number of other conservative groups, is fighting a slightly uphill battle against Specter. And while the White House has quietly made it known that it is not troubled by a challenge to a sitting Republican senator, it has tried to distance itself from this particular race.
The thinking with Toomey is that he will run well in pro-gun, pro-life and rural segments of the state, similar to Sen. Rick Santorum, who is also quietly advising Toomey.
Specter is raising money and expects to receive some White House support, though not close to what other candidates are receiving from this White House.
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