2004: John Kerry

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

AMERICAN HISTORY REFERENCE

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: JOHN KERRY

John Forbes Kerry was the 2004 Democratic Party presidential nominee, where he challenged the incumbent and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. Kerry, born in 1943 like his opponent, he was a patrician, attending St. Paul prep school and then Yale University and Boston College Law School. Kerry had been a decorated Vietnam veteran, who then decided to oppose the war joining the anti-war movement and testifying in front of Congress against the war. Kerry, a lawyer by trade was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts in 1984. Kerry first announced his intentions for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination after his resounding senatorial reelection in November 2002. Then on December 1, 2002 during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kerry announced he is planning to form a presidential exploratory committee. [1] Kerry’s pre-campaign started strong leading in early polls and in fundraising.

 

Kerry made his formal campaign announcement on September 2, 2003 at the “USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina,” where he declared; “I believe that the courage of Americans can change this country.”[2] By the fall of 2003 however, Kerry’s campaign was faltering while Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was securing his front-runner status.[3] Kerry was lagging in the national and New Hampshire polls, falling to the single digits and not receiving any significant endorsements. In November 2003, Kerry fired his campaign manager Jim Jordan. Fellow Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed him and informally advised Kerry on his campaign, and suggested that Kerry add Mary Cahill, who had his been his chief-of staff to be Kerry’s new campaign manager. Kerry then ramped up his campaign fundraising to compete with both Dean and Bush, including lending his own funds by taking a mortgage on his Beacon Hill Massachusetts home. [4]

 

Kerry refocused his campaign on his strengths particularly his foreign policy expertise as a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, and his decorated military service in the Vietnam War. [5]In the field of Democratic candidates, Kerry appeared the most moderate in his position on the issues, which was a contrast with his liberal Senate voting record. [6] Kerry attempted to look presidential at all times during the campaign. Kerry’s background however, from an elite family, that was not necessarily wealthy, made him appear as an elitist removed from the populist message and middle-class voters he was trying to appeal to and remained an obstacle throughout the entire campaign. [7] What helped Kerry the most was Dean’s campaign problems in the weeks before the primaries were set to begin. [8]

 

Kerry surged in the polls prior to the Iowa caucus, held January 19, 2004 on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The man Kerry saved in Vietnam Jim Rassmann came to Kerry’s defense despite the fact that they had not been in contact since 1969. Rassmann flew to Iowa and recounted Kerry’s “heroics” during the war cementing Kerry as the war hero.[9] In a surprise victory, Kerry won the Iowa Caucus with nearly 38 percent of the vote; Senator John R. Edwards, second with 32 percent of the vote; Dean came in third, winning 18.6 percent of votes.[10] Kerry starting using the “Comeback Kerry” slogan[11] and after the Iowa caucus Dean became a non-factor, because at his post-caucus rally he “screamed” over the loud crowd, which was caught on video and replayed on TV and online, and became known as the “Dean Scream.”[12]

 

The momentum for Kerry continued into the New Hampshire primary held on January 27, 2004 where Kerry won 39 percent of the vote.[13] Kerry became the frontrunner because Democratic voters viewed him as the more electable candidate able to run and possibly win against Bush.[14] Kerry participated in the sixteen Democratic primary debates held in the “invisible” primary campaign period.[15] The first primary was held on April 9, 2003 with the last one on February 29, 2004. It was during the last two debates on January 22, 2004 in Manchester, New Hampshire and then on January 29, 2004 in Greenville, South Carolina where Kerry appeared as the eventual Democratic presidential candidate.[16]

 

The next obstacle was “Mini-Tuesday” or Super Tuesday I on February 3, 2004, where seven primaries were held. Kerry won a majority including Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico and North Dakota. Only two other candidates won that night Clark won Oklahoma; Edwards won South Carolina. Lieberman dropped out of the campaign after losing Delaware. Afterwards it was smooth sailing for Kerry, who won the remaining Democratic primaries, with the exception of Vermont, which Dean won after he withdrew from the race. On March 2, Kerry won nine primaries on “Super Tuesday II,”[17] he was at this point considered the presumptive candidate and his rival President Bush called to congratulate him. Kerry clinched the Democratic Presidential nomination on March 11, 2004 by accumulating the necessary 2,162 delegates.[18]

 

Edwards was Kerry’s main competition especially among young voters, but he could not garner enough delegates to be actual be a threat to Kerry, because he only won one state South Carolina.[19] Edwards withdraw from the Democratic Presidential race on March 3, 2004 and his speech he praised Kerry. Kerry in return called Edwards a “valiant champion of the values for which our party stands.”[20] Most of the Democrats withdrew their candidacies after Kerry clinched the nomination, only Dennis Kuninch remained in the race through right before the convention withdrawing on July 22.

 

The time between the clinching the nomination and the national convention formally nominating a candidate, which launches the general election is a difficult time for a candidate as it was for Kerry.[21] The major issues and battles between Kerry and Bush were defined in those months. The major problem with the Kerry campaign was the lack of clearly defined campaign message. The campaign two major issues were national security and the economy. The War in Iraq was a major issue, and Kerry could not separate himself from the president. Kerry had endorsed and voted for Bush’s invasion into Iraq, and in the campaign he did not express regret or renounce doing so, and did not run against the invasion instead he chose to argue only against Bush’s implementation and execution of the war.[22]

 

Kerry’s Senate voting record was overanalyzed and he was accused of not support funding for the troop in Afghanistan and Iraq. Kerry was defined as a flip flopper both for his vote for the Iraq War and then after opposing it and for the excuse he made for voting to fund the troops only when the bill was attached to an amendment cutting the Bush tax cuts, for which he then opposed after the bill failed to pass. During a March 16 address at Marshall University Kerry explained; “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”[23] The quote helped attribute the flip-flopper label to Kerry that the Bush campaign used to their advantage and defined Kerry the whole campaign.[24] Additionally, despite Kerry’s Senate experience, the Bush campaign also attacked Kerry as too inexperienced to helm the War on Terror and national security in the age of terrorism. Kerry’s response was “If George Bush wants to make national security the central issue of 2004, I have three words that I know he understands — Bring. It. On.”[25]

 

Kerry tried to keep up his campaign’s momentum from the time he clinched the nomination until the Democratic convention by fuelling the ongoing media speculation about his choice of running mate. Towards the end of June, Kerry at first announced a short list of potential running mates that consisted of Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Dick Gephardt, and Gov. Tom Vilsack.[26] Then on July 6 Kerry announced that he chose Edwards as his running mate for the Democratic ticket where their new slogan became “stronger at home and more respected in the world.” Choosing Edwards did not give Kerry’s campaign boost at the polls or otherwise, and neither did Edwards bring much in terms of potential votes. [27]

 

The Democratic National Convention convened from July 26-29 at the Fleet Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico served as the chairman. The convention nominated on Kerry (Massachusetts) for President the first ballot, and Edwards (North Carolina) by acclamation for Vice President.[28] The main issues focused on were terrorism and the war in Iraq, health care, taxes, and economic revival. Since Kerry’s military service was a key part of the campaign and the persona the campaign was selling, it was also a central theme of the convention.[29]  On the last night of the convention July 29, 2004, Kerry delivered his address accepting the Democratic Presidential Nomination. Keeping to the military theme Kerry commenced his speech and accepted the nomination by stating; “I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty.” The key quote of his acceptance speech was “the future doesn’t belong to fear, it belongs to freedom.”[30] The convention failed to give Kerry that usual post-convention “bounce” in polls; instead, he fell behind Bush after a slight lead heading into the convention.[31]

 

In August 250 Swift Boat veterans formed the 527 group, Swift Vets and POWs for Truth and they launched their attack on Kerry’s military service and discharge. The group conducted a full media assault that also included a best-selling book “Unfit for Command”[32] and television commercials, but the movement gained the most momentum through the internet.[33] The group claimed that “Kerry’s phony war crimes charges, his exaggerated claims about his own service in Vietnam, and his deliberate misrepresentation of the nature and effectiveness of Swift boat operations compel us to step forward.”[34] The organization used their ads to question both Kerry’s record as a Vietnam War hero and ability to be the “commander-in-chief,” and subsequently attacked Kerry’s Congressional hearing testimony on the Vietnam War. The Kerry campaign was unsure how to respond and never directly attacked the allegations. Instead elements were attacked including the group’s funding from Republicans related to the Bush campaign, and some targeted accusations on Kerry’s record. In the end, Kerry mostly discontinued mentioning his war record that was previously a major selling point.[35]

 

Kerry won or tied in all three presidential debates, but in the end, it did not help him enough to win the election. The first debate was held on September 30 at University of Miami, was moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS and focused on foreign policy.[36] Kerry was the apparent winner, Bush’s demeanor and facial expression lost him the debate, he spent most the time expressing his annoyance, sighing and scowling. Bush also seemed tired after spending the day visiting hurricane victims, whereas Kerry rested for the big debate.[37] The second debate was held October 8 at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri and was moderated by Charles Gibson of ABC News.[38] At the town meeting styled debate, the candidates answered questions on both domestic and foreign policy. Bush attempted to make light of the “scowling” criticism, but still appeared angry in comparison to Kerry, and it appeared again as if Kerry won or at least it was a draw.[39] The third and last debate was on October 13 at Arizona State University was moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS News, and focused on domestic policy and the economy.[40] The debate was considered a draw, mostly because of the controversy Kerry caused when responding to a question on gay rights, purposely pointing out that Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary Cheney was a lesbian. What made the comment even more of a campaign issue was Kerry’s campaign manager Cahill and Edwards backed up Kerry.[41]

 

Kerry received a boost in his poll numbers from the debates, because in all three he appeared more presidential, but he still trailed Bush.[42] The poll bump, however, did not last long; the campaign’s October Surprise made an appearance on October 29 in the form of a new Osama Bin Laden tape threatening the United States and aired by the Al-Jazeera news channel. In the eighteen-minute tape Biden both takes responsibility for the September 11 terror attacks and condemns the Bush administration’s response.[43] The tape turned the tide of the campaign in Bush’s favor, in the first poll after the tape’s release; Bush had a 6-point advantage over Kerry that did not let up as the election approached. Election Day was four days later on November 2, 2004 resulting in Republicans George W. Bush was reelected president and Richard B. Cheney was reelected vice president with 286 Electoral College votes to Kerry and Edwards 251 Electoral College votes.[44]

 

SOURCES:

 

Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Sen. John F. Kerry, D-MA.” George Washington University, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/kerry.html

 

Bossie, David N.. The many faces of John Kerry: why this Massachusetts liberal is wrong for America. Nashville: WND Books, 2003.

 

George W. Bush: “Presidential Debate in Coral Gables, Florida,” September 30, 2004. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=72770

 

George W. Bush: “Presidential Debate in St. Louis, Missouri,” October 8, 2004. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=72776

 

George W. Bush: “Presidential Debate in Tempe, Arizona,” October 13, 2004. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=63163.

 

Ceaser, James W., and Andrew Busch. Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

 

CNN Reporters, “The Debates,” CNN, America Votes 2004, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/special/president/debates/

 

Denton, Robert E. Jr. The 2004 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective. Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publisher, 2005.

 

Fournier, Ron. “Big Wins for Kerry, Edwards Out,” March 2, 2004, ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=123501 (Accessed May 20, 2014)

 

Kerry, John F. “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Boston,” July 29, 2004. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, (Accessed May 6, 2014), http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25971

 

Leip, David. “2004 Presidential Democratic Primary Election Results.”  US Election Atlas.

http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?f=0&year=2004&elect=1

 

Federal Elections Commission Electoral and Popular Vote Summary

http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2004/tables.pdf (Accessed, April 24, 2014)

 

“Bin Laden: Al Qaeda motivated to strike U.S. again.” October 30, 2004. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/10/29/binladen.tape/index.html (Accessed, May 24, 2014)

 

O’Neill, John E., and Jerome R. Corsi. Unfit for command: swift boat veterans speak out against John Kerry. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub, 2004

 

Troy, Gil, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel, eds. 2012. “2004 Overview” History of American presidential elections, 1789-2008. New York: Facts On File. https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/21st-century/2004-overview/  (Accessed, April 24, 2014)

 

Wikipedia contributors, “2004 Democratic National Convention,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Democratic_National_Convention (Accessed May 6, 2014).

 

Wikipedia contributors, “United States presidential election, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed April 26, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004

 

Wikipedia contributors, “Swift Vets and POWs for Truth,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed May 6, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swift_Vets_and_POWs_for_Truth

 

[1] David N. Bossie, The many faces of John Kerry: why this Massachusetts liberal is wrong for America. Nashville: WND Books, 2003, p. 262.

[2] Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Sen. John F. Kerry, D-MA.” George Washington University, (Accessed, May 15, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/kerry.html

[3] James W.Ceaser and Andrew Busch.. Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005. p. 71.

[4] Wikipedia contributors, “United States presidential election, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed April 26, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004

Ceaser and Busch. Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 70.

[5] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 97.

[6] Ibid., p. 99.

[7] Ibid., p. 97.

[8] Ibid., p. 100.

[9] Ibid., p. 97.

[10] Wikipedia contributors, “United States presidential election, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed April 26, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ceaser and Busch. Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 71.

[13] Wikipedia contributors, “United States presidential election, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed April 26, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004

[14] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 99.

[15] Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel, eds., “2004 Overview” History of American presidential elections, 1789-2008. New York: Facts On File, 2012, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/21st-century/2004-overview/

[16] Wikipedia contributors, “United States presidential election, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed April 26, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004

[17] Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel, eds., “2004 Overview” History of American presidential elections, 1789-2008. New York: Facts On File, 2012, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/21st-century/2004-overview/

[18] Wikipedia contributors, “United States presidential election, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed April 26, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004

[19]Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 97.

[20] David M. Halbfinger, “THE 2004 CAMPAIGN: THE MASSACHUSETTS SENATOR; From a Tuesday in March, Kerry Looks to November,” March 3, 2004, (Accessed May 25, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/03/us/2004-campaign-massachusetts-senator-tuesday-march-kerry-looks-november.html

[21] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 107.

[22] Ibid., p. 128.

[23] “Kerry discusses $87 billion comment,” CNN, September 30, 2004, (Accessed May 8, 2004), http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/09/30/kerry.comment/

[24] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 109.

[25] Ron Fournier, “Big Wins for Kerry, Edwards Out,” ABC News, March 2, 2004, (Accessed May 20, 2014), http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=123501

[26] Wikipedia contributors, “United States presidential election, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed April 26, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004

[27] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 110.

[28] Wikipedia contributors, “2004 Democratic National Convention,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Democratic_National_Convention (Accessed May 6, 2014).

[29] Robert E. Denton, Jr. The 2004 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective. (Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), p. 31.

[30] John F. Kerry, “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Boston,” Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, July 29, 2004 (Accessed May 6, 2014), http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25971

[31] Wikipedia contributors, “2004 Democratic National Convention,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Democratic_National_Convention (accessed May 6, 2014).

“No Convention Bounce For Kerry,” CBS News, February 11, 2009, (Accessed May 25, 2014), http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/08/02/politics/main633561.shtml

Susan Page, “So why did Bush, not Kerry, get the bounce?”. USAToday.Com, August 3, 2004, (Accessed May 25, 2014), http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-08-02-poll-cover_x.htm

[32] John E. O’Neill, and Jerome R. Corsi, Unfit for command: swift boat veterans speak out against John Kerry. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2004

[33] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 119.

[34] Wikipedia contributors, “Swift Vets and POWs for Truth,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed May 6, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swift_Vets_and_POWs_for_Truth

[35] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 120.

[36] George W. Bush: “Presidential Debate in Coral Gables, Florida,” September 30, 2004. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=72770 (Accessed, April 24, 2014)

[37] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 128.

[38] George W. Bush: “Presidential Debate in St. Louis, Missouri,” October 8, 2004. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=72776. (Accessed, April 24, 2014)

[39] Wikipedia contributors, “United States presidential election, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed April 26, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2004

[40] George W. Bush: “Presidential Debate in Tempe, Arizona,” October 13, 2004. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=63163

[41] Ceaser and Busch, Red over blue: the 2004 elections and American politics, 2005, p. 131.

[42] Ibid., p. 132.

[43] “Bin Laden: Al Qaeda motivated to strike U.S. again,” October 30, 2004, CNN, (Accessed May 24, 2014), http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/10/29/binladen.tape/index.html

[44] Federal Elections Commission Electoral and Popular Vote Summary, (Accessed, April 24, 2014)

http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2004/tables.pdf

 

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