2004 presidential primary race, John Kerry showed the persistence
and competitiveness that longtime observers say are hallmarks
of his life and career.
After being dubbed a clear front-runner in early 2003, Kerry's
campaign floundered badly, falling behind feisty former Vermont
Gov. Howard Dean, who berated Kerry for his vote to give President
Bush authorization to wage war in Iraq and capitalized on Democratic
In November, trailing by more than 30 points in the polls in New
Hampshire, Kerry shook up his campaign, firing campaign manager
Jim Jordan and installing Mary Beth Cahill, the former Kennedy
chief of staff.
As Dean continued to show overwhelming strength in the polls and
with fundraising, Kerry reportedly threw himself wholeheartedly
into the race, adjusting and improving as he went. He also focused
much more on the contest in Iowa.
It was there, with its first-in-the-nation caucuses in January,
Kerry mounted a dramatic comeback.
Chicago Tribune national correspondent Jill Zuckman described
"He was long-winded, so he shortened his speeches. He was
distant, so he started talking to voters in personal terms. Seen
as privileged, he surrounded himself with fellow Vietnam combat
veterans. Seen as arrogant, the senator from Massachusetts demonstrated
humility, often embracing voters and telling them, 'I love you.'"
In the days before the Iowa caucuses Kerry appeared to be moving
up in the polls but most pundits thought the battle would be between
Dean's on-the-ground organization and the organized labor support
for U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt.
Three days before the caucuses, Jim Rassman, the fellow Vietnam
vet Kerry rescued from the waters of the Mekong River, showed
up voluntarily and began campaigning by Kerry's side, telling
crowds, "I owe this man my life."
San Francisco Chronicle writer Carla Marinucci called Rassman's
appearance "a moment that reshaped the presidential campaign
of the Massachusetts senator."
On caucus night in Iowa, Kerry won a decisive victory with 38
percent of the vote. He was followed by the candidate who would
soon become his lone viable Democratic challenger, Sen. John Edwards,
N.C., who earned 32 percent of the vote. Dean came in third with
The Iowa win catapulted Kerry to victory in New Hampshire, followed
by a string of primary wins. He ended up only losing Oklahoma
to retired Gen. Wesley Clark, South Carolina to its native son
John Edwards, and Vermont to its former governor, Dean.
the once-crowded Democratic field began to evaporate in Kerry's
wake. Gephardt of Missouri dropped out immediately following his
fourth-place finish in Iowa. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman withdrew
Feb. 3 following a disappointing showing in seven states. Clark
was the next candidate to go on Feb. 11, following defeats in
two southern primaries. Dean, once considered nearly invincible,
ended his campaign on Feb. 18 following a third-place finish in
Edwards, who pressured Kerry with close second-place finishes
in Iowa and Wisconsin, held on claiming that, as a southerner
and a beltway outsider, he was the best candidate to take on President
Edwards, who for the most part ran a congenial campaign, painted
Kerry as a Washington insider who had hurt American workers with
his support of free trade agreements. As Edwards tried to delineate
differences, Kerry countered by emphasizing similarities in policy
positions and by highlighting his war record.
The North Carolinian continued to present himself as a Kerry foil.
A trial attorney by profession, he touted his modest upbringing
as the son of a mill worker in the rural south and his rise to
success by working to pay for college and law school.
Edwards also employed a Clintonesque ability to make strong emotional
connections with voters. Time magazine correspondent Nancy Gibbs
wrote that Edwards "could establish rapport with a saltshaker."
Meanwhile Kerry, the sometimes-diffident and aristocratic New
Englander, continued to win elections. On March 2, Kerry finished
off Edwards with a ten-state, Super Tuesday, rout. Edwards withdrew
the next day, pledging to support Kerry.
Edwards' personal appeal and regional roots have made him, throughout
his primary campaign and afterward, a much-discussed candidate
for the vice presidential slot on the Democratic ticket. Edwards,
who appeared annoyed at the speculation during his campaign, has
reportedly indicated he would welcome the invitation.
For his part,
Kerry has said he wants to make the decision on a vice president
well ahead of the July Democratic convention in order to solidify
early support for the ticket.
By Jason Manning, Online NewsHour