Former Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan likes a winner even if the man she’s supporting helped make her a loser. Later this week Carnahan will endorse Sen. John Kerry, who in 2002 declined to campaign for her and failed to financially support her campaign to win a full term in the Senate.
Carnahan’s decision to back Kerry in her state February 3 primary is based in part on Kerry’s consistent use of attorney general John Ashcroft as an applause line in his campaign. Carnahan’s husband Mel succeeded Ashcroft as governor of Missouri and defeated Ashcroft in the 2000 Senate race in Missouri despite his death in a plane crash three weeks before the election.
Mel Carnahan and Ashcroft disliked each other, but the 2000 campaign furthered the bitterness after it became clear that Carnahan had won due to widespread voter fraud. The final insult came when Jean Carnahan was appointed to the seat of her dead husband.
Kerry, who now leads in most of the polls for the February 3 primaries, had targeted Missouri as a state to make some inroads when it appeared that South Carolina was out of his league.
Former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean had reached out to Carnahan for support but was rebuked.
Carnahan was apparently influenced by the decision of St. Louis mayor Francis Slay, who also has announced his intention to endorse Kerry. That endorsement ensures that much of the Democratic establishment in the Missouri’s urban centers will support Kerry.
Apparently tired of being challenged on supporter Michael Moore‘s assertion that President Bush was a “deserter,” Wesley Clark‘s campaign is considering hiring a private investigator to look into Bush’s activities in Texas and Alabama during his National Guard service way back when.
At least one other campaign is said to be considering sending opposition researchers down south to look into Bush’s record.
In the past, campaign staffers for both Clinton and Gore had tried to make hay of the rumors that Bush had somehow taken advantage of his family name during that period. Despite of months of effort, they failed to develop anything substantive.
“We have former Clinton staffers on board who say there’s nothing to this,” says a Kerry staffer, “but we know it’s going to come up again and since nobody has a clear sense of the story right now we have to at least look into it.”
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With most every poll showing Howie Dean trailing John Kerry leading into next week’s primaries — in some cases, Dean is running third or fourth behind John Edwards and Wesley Clark — his campaign is looking at what he would have to do to grab enough delegate support to play a role in a brokered Democratic convention.
“If we can’t be the clear-cut winner, we want at least a hand in who that winner will be,” says a Dean adviser in Washington. “We’re not just going to let guys like Kerry or Edwards have it easy after [Super Tuesday] March 2.”
Given the lack of a clear-cut frontrunner, talk of a brokered convention has begun in Washington. Should Edwards and Clark win primaries next week, that talk will only intensify.