A TENNESSEE VOLUNTEER
Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. spurned entreaties by allies of Rep. Dick Gephardt and endorsed Sen. John Kerry for the Democratic presidential nomination. Kerry didn’t have to work hard for the Tennessean’s nod, which is all the more surprising when you consider the two don’t know each other very well. In that case, it also speaks volumes about where Gephardt stands with his House colleagues and where his campaign may be headed.
According to a Kerry campaign staffer, Ford and the Massachusetts Democrat spoke on the phone several times and met at least once recently when both were in Washington while Congress was in session.
Kerry had asked for Ford’s support about a month ago. “Ford was noncommittal. He seemed to be pondering just how serious Gephardt was in his campaign, and whether or not he would have a role in it,” says a Ford staffer. “Gephardt also asked for his endorsement, but when it was apparent there was little in it for Ford, it was easy for another candidate to come in and get his backing.”
Ford is now expected to help Kerry raise money in Tennessee and is already working on generating support inside the Congressional Black Caucus. Surprisingly, Ford was not contacted by the Rev. Al Sharpton. “The Rev never approached us,” says the Ford staffer.
Ford was scheduled to introduce Kerry at least at one appearance in Tennessee in the next couple of days. Kerry is currently making his first serious swing through the South, to Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee. He was at a Democratic party fundraiser in Montgomery last night.
Ford’s jump to Kerry is the latest blow to Gephardt’s attempts to line up his own caucus’s support for his campaign. With Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi still refusing to throw her support behind him, his campaign, which is floundering in Iowa and New Hampshire, is already looking like an early loser in the primary season.
THE NEW JUDGMENTALISM
Look for major movement, at least from the White House side, in the nomination of federal judges. “The president promised that many of the openings in the federal judiciary would at the very least have nominations,” says a White House political staffer.
The nominations, which will most likely number at least 40 and fewer than 150, should keep the Senate Judiciary Committee busy for quite a while.
The plan, according to the White House source, is to force Senate adversaries into picking and choosing individual nominees out of clusters that in the end will probably add up to more than 200 when combined with current nominees held up in committee. The larger the pool, in other words, the harder it will be for Democrats to obstruct movement toward confirmation. So one would think.
Sen. John Kerry plans on spending some of those millions he’s been raising on national TV advertising. Camera crews recently followed Kerry around New Hampshire, filming him hugging little old ladies and trying to look anything but French.
“We can have TV up and running within the next two months,” says a Kerry campaign source. “But it’s doubtful Kerry would put anything on the air before this summer.”
When we reported that former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean was wooing the gay, lesbian, and transgendered community, we didn’t know if it would become a campaign theme. But last night Dean was in San Francisco, pushing gay civil and marital rights. Dean also planned on slamming Republican Senator Rick Santorum. “We know that will be a guaranteed applause line,” says a Dean staffer.