Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry woke up under the watchful eye of the U.S. Secret Service today, fresh evidence of his front-runner status as a contender for a run at the White House.
Armored government vehicles pulled up outside his Boston home just after midnight, and agents took up post positions to keep the senator under their protection 24/7, so long as he is running for president.
The Kerry campaign had not publicly reported any threats or incidents in which the candidate was in danger, and Secret Service headquarters in Washington confirms that the request for Kerry's protection went through normal channels.
A committee of five leaders of Congress reviews the need and the Secretary of Homeland Security approves the expensive process of assigning plain clothed agents, cars, and radio communications gear in a smaller version of the PPD, Presidential Protection Detail, around President Bush.
A candidate must meet some — but not all — of the following criteria from which the committee recommends that protection begin: Must be an announced candidate; Must be actively campaigning on a national basis; Must be registering in opinion polls; Must be winning 10 percent of the vote in two consecutive primaries or caucuses; Must be receiving matching funds; Must be receiving at least $2 million in contributions; Must have the committed support of at least 10 percent of the convention delegates.
Kerry clearly fits the bill.
In addition, John Edwards' campaign said today he also will receive Secret Service protection.
There are pluses and minuses that come with the Secret Service presence. Life for travelers on the Kerry campaign gets a little more complicated now, with skilled agents as drivers and possibly less contact between the candidate and boisterous crowds at rallies and speeches.
Campaign staff, reporters and camera crews traveling on the Kerry bandwagon get special passes for access around the senator.
But the sight of speeding motorcades and men-in-black agents clearing the way for the candidate also lends a new polish to ragtag campaigns with only volunteers coordinating the movements.
And the guessing game has begun: what sleek Secret Service codename will be assigned to Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry?
Traditionally, Democratic candidates are labeled with short distinctive names starting with "D" — Jimmy Carter was Dasher, and later Deacon, his wife Dancer — while Republicans are "R" — Ronald Reagan was Rawhide and Nancy was Rainbow.
Codenames also have a history of subtle commentary on the "protectee." President John F. Kennedy was Lancer, wife Jackie was Lace. Presidential children have been labeled Dynamo, Panda, and Tumbler — that was George W. Bush when he was famous only as the son of Timberwolf (Bush41) and Tranquility (Barbara Bush).
Suggestions for the Kerrys started pouring into ABCNEWS as soon as Secret Service protection started. For the Vietnam veteran: Dogtag, Swiftboat, Detached, or Cam-e-little playing off the Camelot legend of that other JFK. For Teresa Heinz Kerry, it was inevitable the ideas would note her Heinz family connection: Fifty-seven, or Ketchup.