The Note

The Washington Times' Charles Hurt reports on Kerry's (semi-)firm anti-death penalty stance, making him the first major-party presidential candidate in over 15 years to assume such a strong stance against capital punishment. LINK

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star reports that Kerry blasted Bush's political tactics in the Richard Clarke affair. Calling his attacks "almost hysterical" instead of answering questions. Dick Gephardt also toured KC with Kerry, while in the background Bush backers yelled "Flip-flop Kerry!" LINK

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Mannies Notes that Gephardt has turned into Kerry's "nuts and bolts man," introducing him at rallies, shaking down fundraisers and defending the presumptive nominee against all comers. John Sweeney is quoted as saying that Labor would "love" to see Gephardt as Kerry's Veep. LINK

From ABC News' Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

ST. LOUIS, March 28 — While not quite as catchy as "It's the economy, stupid," Sen. John Kerry's first full fledged post-vacation campaign events were peppered with Clintonian themes and phrases.

Appearing alongside former rival Rep. Dick Gephardt in St. Louis (coincidentally at World's Fair Pavilion, where Gephardt proposed to his future wife Jane 38 years ago), Kerry chucked the "Real Deal" stump that has served him well and insisted, "We're going to have a middle class tax cut and we're going to put Americans back to work."

After promising to deliver 10 million new jobs in the first term of a Kerry administration, the candidate struggled to boil down the more complicated elements of his economic plan, losing the crowd at times only to gain them back with red-baiting lines such as, "You're working off the difference while they're walking with the money," in place of standard bearers such as "Bring it on."

And, with surprising brevity, Kerry topped a less-detailed explanation of his health care plan by saying, "George Bush doesn't have a plan, I do."

At a Saturday night fundraiser in St. Louis, Kerry tipped his hat to Gephardt, who implored his lifelong supporters to open their checkbooks for Kerry, who said, "I have my way, I will be finding some way, somehow that this man continues in public service."

Overtly continuing the Clinton theme Sunday, Kerry complimented the guitarist at New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, Noting he too is a guitar player then suggesting, "Maybe we ought to get someone up here who plays the sax and me together."

The crowd erupted in cheers as Kerry joked, "I can't think of who that saxophone player might be."

Much to the dismay of his traveling press corps, even Kerry's rare press conferences are getting tighter. Holding his first availability in 14 days on Saturday, the Senator appeared with Rep. Gephardt for a total of 10 minutes and 10 seconds, which included statements by both men.

At the conclusion of the six-question presser, Kerry said over a shouting press corps, "New discipline."

Somewhere senior Kerry adviser Bob Shrum, who is traveling with Kerry for the first time in weeks, was smiling.

Kerry jumps off the trail next week following a four-city fundraising swing through California.

Kerry will undergo one-hour outpatient surgery Wednesday to repair a tear in the sub-scapularis tendon in his right shoulder. The surgery requires general anesthesia and will be performed by Dr. Bert Zarins, orthopedist to the New England Patriots and Boston Bruins.

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