Washington Prowler

Kerry the State

One John's lock on New Hampshire. Another John's troubles in Iowa. Plus: Democrat Radio follies.

By 1.16.03

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FEELING AT HOME
Sen. John Kerry has solidified his position in New Hampshire by hiring Ken Robinson, executive director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party since 1999. Robinson's hiring would appear to ensure that Kerry has at least laid the ground work to line up much of the Democratic establishment in the state to back him.

Robinson worked on former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen's re-election campaign in 1998, then took the party top slot in the aftermath. Robinson will also bring along Nick Clemons, another Shaheen staffer. "It goes without saying that much of the current state party will probably line up behind Kerry to some degree," says a Granite State party official. "They'll at least try. We're assuming that at some point Shaheen will endorse him and help him campaign."

But for all the talk of New Hampshire being so small, there sure are a lot of political operatives. Sen. Joe Lieberman moved quickly to shore up staff for his run. As reported by The Prowler last November 26, Lieberman had quietly been asking former in-state volunteers and staffers from the 2000 presidential campaign to hold off on committing to another Democratic candidate until he made a final decision. Quite a few of them did just that. Lieberman has brought on board several longtime New Hampshire operatives: Peter Greenberger, who worked for the state Democratic party.

Some Democratic hopefuls, while not pulling out of New Hampshire, have already begun sending signals that they are moving on to the next battleground state now that Kerry is seemingly big-footing the competition.

The last week has seen Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Dick Gephardt and Lieberman making noises about South Carolina's primary and their chances there.

"I think everyone assumes that Kerry is going to be the clear favorite in New Hampshire," says a DNC staffer. "But Lieberman shouldn't be overlooked and he won't allow himself to be overlooked. But for a lot of the other guys, South Carolina is going to be the one that maybe shakes out the second tier of candidates.

Meanwhile Edwards has to be wondering just what he has to do to get some traction in Iowa. He's been spending money there, buying up mailing lists from the state Democratic party, traveling to the state for speeches at party fundraisers, and still he can't get his political team together. "He's had a tough run of luck," says the DNC staffer.

The latest bad news came on Tuesday when the state party's executive director, Jean Hessburg, passed on becoming political director for Edwards' Iowa campaign. Edwards had earlier in the week lost out to Gephardt for other talent. Hessburg had only been on the job since last March, and she said her decision had nothing to do with Edwards, but party insiders predict she will end up with someone's campaign before everything is said and done.

The fact that Edwards was interested in Hessburg is telling, given her ultra-liberal background. Prior to landing in Iowa, she ran the left-wing People for the American Way. "It just shows how desperate Edwards is to have a top-flight operation there," says the DNC-er. "He doesn't need to win Iowa, he doesn't need to win New Hampshire, but he has to have a good showing in both places to remain viable going into the rest of the campaign season. And in Iowa, it's all about your grassroots organization."

LOOKING FOR MR. BIG MOUTH
The Democratic National Committee has budgeted more than $500,000 to develop an alternative radio voice to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. That's in addition to a small investment the party made in Democracy Radio, a private business that is trying to develop "progressive" syndicated talk radio. Gee, whatever happened to NPR?

"You have to look at the situation from [DNC Chairman Terry] McAuliffe's perspective," says a DNC staffer. "He's sitting there and sees Limbaugh and Hannity and Fox News, and what do we have? Donahue."

The money that the DNC has set aside, according to the DNC-er, was intended to develop a radio show, perhaps broadcast from the DNC, that could be made available either through syndication or through public broadcasting systems. "This wouldn't be for profit, simply for politics," says the party staffer.

One name bandied about for the radio show, of course, was McAuliffe pal Bill Clinton. Another possibility was Jesse Ventura, but he was deemed too unreliable to tout a progressive message. "We'll probably have to go back to Hollywood to see if there's anybody out there who'd be interested," said the DNC aide.

The imagination runs wild with likely names. There's Barbra and Alec and Martin and Meathead. In fact, Martin and Meathead has the ring of an act that could take off.

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