LET THEM EAT RIBS
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry thinks he has a gravitas problem. “He thinks he has too much of it, and he thinks that’s a problem,” says a former campaign staffer.
To counteract his perceived perception that he is too serious and weighted down by the vagaries of intellectual and physical prowess, Kerry’s staff has had him using humor in his stump speeches.
For example, over the weekend, while talking about health care reform, Kerry cracked that he would not delve into too much detail. No one in the audience appeared to see the humor.
As well, Kerry told a reporter that he enjoyed going out for beers with the fellows, knocking back a few and whooping it up. “It’s not easy humanizing a guy like Kerry,” says the former staffer. “You have Vietnam, and you have friends who can speak to his private life, but Kerry himself is not a great advocate for himself in that regard. He’s just too stiff and patrician.”
Just how serious a problem it is, and how desperate the Kerry campaign is to try to shatter the stiff myth, was again apparent during Kerry’s swing through Jacksonville and Orlando on Tuesday. Both are areas that are thought to be Bush strongholds, though in 2000, Gore made a race of both in the general election.
So Kerry’s staff decided their man needed to spend some time down and dirty with the everyday folk. They asked Rep. Corrine Brown, the Democrat who represents the Jacksonville congressional district, to do some research and find a local hole in the wall that Kerry could visit.
“They said it had to be a place where Senator Kerry could appear to just make an impromptu stop, nothing planned,” says a Democratic National Committee staffer doing work in Florida. “The campaign had a bunch of people scrambling for the right spot.”
That spot turned out to be a Jenkins’ Quality Bar-B-Que franchise. Kerry, who arrived at the restaurant with Brown in tow, made a point of ordering some ribs (on the house, as it turned out), asked to look at the kitchen, then announced to all that none of the workers had health insurance! With that, he and his contingent of staff and reporters left. Kerry the everyday guy barely touched his ribs. Perhaps because there wasn’t a knife and fork and silk napkin around.
“That they have to stage these things, and then he can’t even perform isn’t a good sign,” says a Democratic media consultant in Washington, D.C. “You’d think they’d have learned from that cheesesteak fiasco in Philadelphia, where Kerry didn’t even know what the sandwich was. Just give up and let him be who he is.”
LIVING WITH HIS STORY
Bill Clinton handed in his 900-page book (more than 1,400 pages in draft form) to his editors at Knopf, just making the deadline the publisher imposed for the late June publication it has planned.
Clinton has made much of reading excerpts to friends over the phone the past few months, but one person who apparently has not seen everything Clinton has written is his wife.
“She just hasn’t gotten to it,” says a former Bill Clinton staffer. “At least that is what he is saying. He is telling people that now that it is done, she’ll read it with an eye for possible edits.”