ANOTHER MIKE TO THE RESCUE
With rumors swirling Wednesday night that former Clinton pit bull spokesman Mike McCurry might be joining the Kerry campaign as a senior adviser and perhaps even spokesman, there was also talk of mounting concern inside the campaign that its candidate’s numbers were weakening.
“All of our internal numbers are good. That’s b.s.,” says a Washington-based Kerry adviser. “Everyone wants to help us win. Most of these folks are coming to us wanting to help. We’re not going to them. It’s not desperation at all.”
But for two weeks, Kerry and some of his senior advisers have been frustrated that their message on Iraq and the U.S. economy has fallen flat, and that subordinate spokespeople aren’t getting the job done in the war of words with the Bush campaign.
“[Kerry] has flattened out,” says a Democratic political consultant in Washington. “The campaign might not be saying it, but Democrats are concerned. Those people that are coming to the campaign offering help aren’t doing it to jump on a winning bandwagon, they’re offering to help because they see the beginnings of a leaky ship.”
It isn’t clear where the McCurry rumor started, but he would be a welcome addition for the “Boys on the Bus.” McCurry built up a strong reputation among national political reporters during his time in the Clinton White House, as both a tenacious defender of his boss, and a helpful conduit of information, off the record briefings, and background remarks for reporters in need of a story.
“Neither campaign has someone like McCurry right now, and he’s the kind of guy who could make a difference,” says the Democratic consultant. “Reporters love him, and Kerry would like his attitude. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a reaction to [Karen] Hughes coming back for Bush.”
The difference is that Hughes never had a strong or particularly warm relationship with the press.
CAN’T BUY ME LOVE
Sen. John Kerry is said by several advance staffers to have been visibly upset at the reception he received at the VFW convention on Wednesday in Cincinnati. “He was upset after the speech, visibly upset when he was out of public view,” says a Kerry adviser, confirming the story.
Kerry was greeted by polite applause in the large auditorium, with many VFW members sitting with their arms crossed and not applauding at all. A few VFW members stood in the rear of the room with their backs turned to the dais.
Kerry appeared thrown by the reception, giving a flat, sometimes-meandering speech that was intended to be a strong rebuttal of President Bush’s announced troop pullback in Europe and Korea.
Two things apparently changed Kerry’s aggressive stance. First, before going onstage, Kerry was informed that NATO officials in Brussels had essentially backed the Bush proposal as being sound and in line with NATO’s own troop deployment plans. Second, according to an advance staffer, the candidate had been told that he would be received at the very least warmly, based on feedback the campaign had received from VFW officials.
“He’s not used to not getting a warm reception,” says the advance staffer. “He can handle the Bush hooligans we get, but when he’s told he’ll be greeted well, he expects that to be the case.”
Apparently Terry Kerry’s money can’t buy the candidate that kind of love.