ABCNEWS' Ed O'Keefe is on the trail with Sen. John Kerry as he runs for president. For the latest report, scroll down.
Kerry beats back questions about campaign, dog puppet
Nov. 12 — Senator Kerry began his Veterans Day in Arizona, still feeling ripples of campaign manager Jim Jordan's dismissal. He ended the day in California, on a couch next to Jay Leno, after being mocked by a sharp-tongued dog puppet, though making an impressive (albeit late) national television appearance.
The day started with a simple message, quickly overtaken by internal events made external. And in between, the candidate ever sharpened a strategic and rhetorical end game. Such is the new reality of a campaign struggling to collect its dirty laundry tossed suddenly into public view.
On Tuesday, after dropping by a pre-parade breakfast, Kerry rallied 150 faithful at a Phoenix meet-up. "We deserve, and Veterans deserve, a president who doesn't just go to Arlington and lay a wreath on Veterans Day," he said. "We need a president who protects the interests of veterans every day."
The Senator then faced the Arizona press, which asked one question about vets and five on his campaign's viability. Not 30 minutes before the Gibbs/Chidlow departure announcement, ABC News asked Kerry if he anticipated any further staff changes. He responded, "I can't tell you what will or won't happen at all. I'm just going to keep moving. I'm not doing the staff. I'm running as a candidate and I have great confidence in Mary Beth Cahill and Governor Shaheen — complete confidence. They'll make whatever decisions they'll make."
Following the brief avail, Kerry made his way past a gigantic Uncle Sam air balloon, several high school groups, and a military jeep to his spot in the parade cue. Eyeing Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano, Kerry walked over for a short chat.
The Senator began the conversation saying, "We've been having a little trouble lately." Napolitano calmly replied, "What are you going to do? These things happen."
As Kerry shuttled back and forth, working both sides of the two-mile Central Avenue parade route, news of the tendered resignations of campaign spokesperson Robert Gibbs and Deputy Finance Director Carl Chidlow trickled out.
Shortly afterward, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, er, beg you're pardon, Senator John F. Kerry's campaign made another significant staff change: communications ace Stephanie Cutter joined the Kerry camp, departing her plum post as DNC 2004 Convention Communications Director.
At the conclusion of the Cutter announcement, Kerry added simply, "I am sorry that Robert and Carl are leaving the campaign but I am grateful for their hard work and extraordinary contributions."
Ever the trooper, Kerry headed to California, where he appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and held a fundraiser in Los Angeles. Playing second fiddle to "Ross the Intern" and "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog," Kerry, dressed in blue jeans and a leather jacket, rolled (literally) into the broad studio on a Harley.
While blunt political strategist Triumph assessed, "The poop I made in the dressing room had more heat than John Kerry," the Massachusetts Senator performed well under the constraints of short-answer-only television.
Leno asked about the staff shake-up, to which Kerry, who obviously takes his morning dose of Howie Kurtz seriously (LINK), offered, "It's kind of a Grady Little/Pedro, eighth inning thing. Sometimes you've got to go to the bullpen."