Dennis Kucinich on the Campaign Trail

ABCNEWS' Melinda Arons is on the road with Representative Kucinich. For the latest report, scroll down.

Kucinich faces insurance employees

Nov. 12 — Congressman Kucinich, who never gives a speech without bashing insurance companies (signature line: "Insurance companies make money NOT providing health care") and touting his plan for a universal single-payer system, took the unusual step Tuesday of speaking to a group of employees at the Principal Companies, a huge insurance company known in Des Moines simply as "The Principal."

Though the crowd was cordial and there were several supporters present, including one who works for Principal and volunteers for the campaign, Kucinich finally got the question everyone was anticipating: "This is an insurance company that provides millions of people with health care plans. What happens to us if there's a single-payer system, and how are you so sure Medicare for all will work when it often doesn't work now?"

Kucinich, whose tone was the calm and deferential one reserved for appearances he makes when introducing himself to undecided voters (as opposed to the fiery battle cries he delivers to avowed supporters), tried to appease the audience by explaining that with the new system the government would need workers with the skill set of the insurance company employees, so there would be a place for them, and that although they might not be happy with the results of the single-payer system, his presidency would work to reduce environmental damage that he says costs the insurance industry money because of the higher number of claims being processed.

It's a tough sell in insurance industry-heavy Des Moines, even among Democrats like the questioner. The logic is essentially, elect me and my health care policy will shut you down, but there might be fewer beach erosion housing claims in 50 years.

While not convinced, the man who asked the question seemed pleased that Kucinich didn't dodge it, and Kucinich thanked him for asking it, as he always does when faced with more confrontational queries The Congressman spent the rest of the day visiting with veterans at the Des Moines Veterans Hospital and giving speeches at Drake University and Grandview College.

As for the latest shake-ups in the Kerry campaign, Kucinich took the Dean line, saying with a chuckle "I can hardly keep track of what's going on with own staff … .I couldn't comment on another campaign."

Kucinich fields marriage proposals

Nov. 11 — Congressman Kucinich has had an interesting week since Wednesday night's joke about looking for a special someone to join him in the White House. He told ABC News, "I've been getting marriage proposals slipped to me! One woman at the rally in Bellingham Friday had a huge sign that said 'Marry Me.'"

The Congressman seems genuinely surprised and amused at the response, and for now is unsure whether he'll pay any heed to the contest trying to find him a mate, wary of detracting from the seriousness of the candidacy while intrigued by the opportunity for the publicity his campaign craves.

Over dinner at the Minneapolis airport en route to Des Moines (hot water with lemon, two pieces of dry wheat toast accompanied by his ever-present plastic bag of granola), Kucinich went on to talk about how difficult it is to maintain a relationship with the schedule of a Congressman-cum-presidential-candidate, but that he would absolutely be open to having more children: "I'm in great health and I absolutely love kids." Kucinich has a daughter Jackie, 21, with whom he is very close but who does not appear on the campaign trail.

But whatever void a lack of romance may leave, perhaps campaign cash can fill it. Kucinich had a special spring in his step Monday due to some fundraising success last weekend in the Bay Area, which brought in around $100,000. He wrapped up the trip with a press conference and speech to students at San Francisco State University on sustainable energy, calling for a national commitment to creating renewable energies akin to the nation's devotion to the space program during the Kennedy administration.

On the endorsement watch, Kucinich has picked up actor Joaquin Phoenix, actress Shelley Morrison (Rosario on "Will & Grace"), and Dave Mathews Band drummer Tim Reynolds. Possible endorsements coming down the pipe include actor Casey Affleck (brother of Ben) and perhaps the entire Dave Matthews Band. Willie Nelson has scheduled a benefit concert for Kucinich in Austin on January 3. According to the AP, "The Ohio congressman, a long shot in the Democratic race, outpaces his eight rivals in endorsements from the entertainment industry."

Kucinich will appear with veterans at his events tomorrow and will visit Des Moines' Veterans Hospital tomorrow in honor of the holiday.

Kucinich campaign appeals to base

Nov. 10 — 7:30 pm Welcome to Temple and Evening

8:00 pm Invocation, Meditation and Prayer

8:40 pm: Performance of "Tantric Gospel" by the Radical Spirit Band

11:00 pm Collective Visualization Process

You might be thinking we've mistakenly printed the evening schedule at Canyon Ranch, but no, it's just some of the program notes from Dennis Kucinich's Saturday night fundraiser at a private home in Marin County. And you won't find any un-p.c., manifest destiny-tinged titles like "Pioneers" among this group. Organizers described fundraising levels as Prophets ($2000), Trailblazers ($1000), Visionaries ($500), Change Agents ($250), and Soul Allies ($100).

So if Kucinich-watchers ever had any question as to whether the Congressman is actually into all that so-called "new age" stuff, they need look no further than the last two days, where Kucinich spoke like a spiritual guru trapped in the suit-wearing body of a politician throughout a jam-packed schedule of speeches and fundraisers in Seattle, Marin County and Santa Cruz.

While Seattle offered the usual fare of well-received, populist-themed speeches to audiences like U Dubb students, King County Democrats (Washington Senator Patty Murray also spoke but did not appear with or mention Kucinich), and local labor groups, the bay area events felt more like a Berkeley class of '69 reunion, with the campus green replaced by sprawling homes built into the cliffs of Marin County. To the attendees of Saturday night's fundraiser, where guests took their shoes off at the door and asked questions like "How do we bridge the paradigms?", Kucinich is a dream candidate who speaks their language. Indeed, the Congressman sprinkled his usual stump speech with enough new age flavor it seemed he might start to meditate right there, with such passages as, "A singer speaks that we are all made of stars. The concepts of [names three philosophers I couldn't determine] all speak to the energy of the stars being within us, and we then are also of the energy of the stars." When speaking about inner knowledge later on, he said to event host (and former Timothy Leary cohort) Ram Dass, "On my way here I could hear you calling me."

But if Kucinich got a warm welcome in Marin, it was outdone in Santa Cruz, where crowds at folk singer Michelle Shocked's benefit concert screamed out "We love you!" and pamphlets on world peace, ecological harmony and veganism sat alongside campaign materials. As the Santa Cruz Sentinel says, the area is "Kucinich country": the city council recently voted for a resolution to impeach President Bush.

Kucinich tried out several new themes this weekend. Using his anger over Democratic candidates' answers at last week's Planned Parenthood forum that they'd support the draft for 18-year-old women as a teeing-off point, Kucinich warned his Vietnam-sensitive baby boomer audiences about new recruitments for draft boards across the country, and insisted the draft be eliminated altogether. And while never admitting he might not win the nomination, he encouraged supporters to donate despite concerns about his electability because he's the only one who can "keep the other candidates honest," referring not-so-subtlely to Dean's backpedaling on campaign finance. Also, Kucinich's childhood keeps getting tougher and tougher. Taking a page from John Edwards, he is now speaking in depth about his impoverished childhood in Cleveland to prove he can connect with voters. In Santa Cruz yesterday he revealed that hearing gunshots day and night was routine in his neighborhood, and that as a five-year-old he suffered from a terrible stutter.

But perhaps the most prevalent theme of the weekend was singing. Kucinich has taken to joining in on the performances by local supporters who kick off his speeches at every stop, including renditions of "To Dream the Impossible Dream," campaign theme song "Imagine" (sung at one event by a 15-year-old girl on stilts wearing a blue shimmery dress and an Uncle Sam hat) and "This Little Light of Mine."

Calling out on opting out

Nov. 7 — Congressman Kucinich is spinning Dean's flirtation with opting out as proof that under the sheep's clothing of a radical reformer, people will see a wolf just as susceptible to corporate interests as Bush and the other Democratic candidates, with Kucinich left standing as the only true progressive untainted by corporate donations.

In a statement Kucinich said, "Howard Dean has called for the people to take back America. His attempt to kill public financing will take back America — for the corporations … By ending his commitment to public financing, Dean unwittingly supports the worst fears of the American people that there's really no difference between Democrats and Republicans on the most critical issues affecting the very nature of our democracy. We all know that the current campaign finance system is not perfect. But the answer is not to roll back three decades of progress and return to pre-Watergate standards."

The campaign has even put a mock-up of Dean's posters on its homepage saying "Welcome Former Dean Supporters" with the altered tag line of "The Doctor is Out" at the top (LINK).

As for Dean's imminent coup of SEIU and AFSCME endorsements, Kucinich would only say he hopes that it means Dean is moving toward supporting universal single payer healthcare.

Kucinich talks about finding a running mate

Nov. 6 — In a first for his campaign, Rep. Kucinich may just have been the most talked about candidate in the spin room last night after the Planned Parenthood Candidates Forum in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Responding to the question about what role the candidates' significant others would play in their administrations, the twice-divorced Kucinich had a bit of fun with the notion of being a bachelor president: "Maybe Fox wants to sponsor a national contest!" Over the roar of laughter, Kucinich went on to describe his perfect mate: dynamic, outspoken, dedicated to world peace and universal single payer health care (more laughs from the audience). He finished off with "If you're out there, call me!"

After the forum, when asked if the campaign was setting up an 800 line or Web site section to field potential suitors, Kucinich laughed and told ABC News "I don't think anyone's going to call." Staffers were just happy their boss finally let his guard down and showed his sense of humor, often on full display at more intimate speeches but usually buttoned up at formal group events like debates.

Kucinich also talked about being a dedicated father to his daughter Jackie despite his divorce from her mother, and said he carries a picture of her with him and keeps it on the podium to remind him of his "responsibility to her."

Kucinich rocks vote, aims to rock boat

Nov. 5 — For perhaps the first time in this campaign, Congressman Kucinich and General Clark were on exactly the same page: they, or at least their consultants, think that young voters really like black mock turtlenecks circa 1991.

When asked if he picked his outfit to attract young voters, Kucinich responded, "I'd just say I keep trying to clean up my act," and that he now knows what it feels like for women who show up to events in the same dress.

But despite several candidates' confrontation with Dean last night, the man with whom Kucinich had the most bitter words was not a fellow candidate on the stage, but a journalist in the spin room. Kucinich supporters, angry that their candidate had been canceled by CNN's Paula Zahn show while five other candidates were interviewed, started insisting to Time columnist and CNN commentator Joe Klein that CNN interview Kucinich.

Klein pointed out that he wasn't a CNN producer and had no say in the matter, but went a step further to explain that were he to make the decision, which he does when it comes to his column, he would never dedicate space to Kucinich. Kucinich himself confronted Klein in front of reporters and the altercation became heated. Klein walked away as Kucinich was mid-sentence.

Later Klein told ABC News he wouldn't dedicate one line to Kucinich because "I think he's cluttering the stage and his position on the most important issue out there, which is the war, is totally ridiculous." Campaign spokesman David Swanson would only state the campaign's standard line on the media: "Members of the media should communicate to the public all of the candidates' positions and let the voters decide."

Kucinich didn't seem to let the harsh exchange dampen his mood. Usually bitter after debates over getting stiffed on time, he said tonight was "just wonderful." He also may nab another celebrity endorsement soon. Actor Casey Affleck (brother of Ben) was heard saying he was leaning toward supporting Kucinich. And then there was John Edwards' wife Elizabeth, who as usual stopped by to say hello with a hug and a "Good job tonight, Dennis."

Scalia joins Kucinich campaign (not what you're thinking)

Nov. 4 — There's a new addition to the cast of characters behind the Kucinich campaign: Derek Scalia. But he couldn't be further from the conservative Supreme Court justice with the same last name.

Scalia is one of the student coordinators for Kucinich at Franklin Pierce College, the 1,500-student, 40-year-old campus in tiny Rindge, New Hampshire, where last night the Congressman became the first presidential candidate ever to speak on the campus. A junior at Pierce, Scalia chose the remote school specifically because he wanted to be in New Hampshire for the 2004 primary. He started paying attention to Kucinich a year ago, before Kucinich himself knew if he would run, and says that for the first time in his life he agrees 100 percent with his candidate. He thinks Socialism got a bum rap when it got unfortunately entangled with Communism and is quick to point out that the only time he's ever aligned himself with Justice Scalia in any way is when he uses the name to gain admittance to the Supreme Court chambers to hear cases in which he's interested. Just your average male college junior, Kucinich-style.

Kucinich will put off filing for the New Hampshire Primary as well as other planned events in the state Tuesday in order to fly home to Cleveland and vote in the city council and mayoral elections there. He will return to New England to attend the Rock the Vote forum. The tension was palpable Monday between the New Hampshire staff, desperate to get the candidate to as many Granite State appearances as possible, and the national team, who doesn't want it to appear as though Kucinich is neglecting his responsibilities at home.

Kucinich attends Natural Law Party event (once OSU game ends)

Nov. 3 — Congressman Kucinich spent the weekend in his comfort zones of Ohio and California, two of the places he's called home, surrounded by dedicated supporters.

Saturday night Kucinich attended an Ohio Natural Law Party fundraiser in his honor, arriving late because he couldn't tear himself away from the Ohio State student union, where students were watching the Buckeyes beat Penn State by one point in the game's last minutes. The fundraiser had the feel of a spiritual retreat (complete with the relaxing music one might hear while enjoying a seaweed wrap at the spa) trapped in the setting of an insurance convention.

In a cavernous Columbus Convention Center conference room, party founder John Hagelin and others lauded Kucinich for being "the leading light of natural law in politics at this time." An outsider trying to determine what exactly Natural Law members stand for would have been hard-pressed to understand Hagelin, a quantum physicist who likes to draw parallels between scientific principles and politics, but the gist lies in Hagelin's belief in "holistic unity," the idea that we are all one, that all conflicts can be solved in non-violent ways, and that "we can quell violence and terrorism through fields of meditation."

The information booths outside the conference room bespoke the so-called "new age" thinking Kucinich is often criticized for espousing, and included a booth denouncing "The Seeds of Deception: Genetically Engineered Foods," two shoeless Asian women performing Falun Dafa (a form of Tai Chi), and a bookstand selling such titles as "The Wicca Prayer Book," "The Wisdom of Trees" and "Oracle of the Goddess," among others.

Kucinich locks down during toy gun incident

Oct. 31 —Congressman Kucinich was in Washington Thursday. Locked in his Rayburn office while the toy gun perpetrators were hunted down, he kept busy firing off missives to the Bush White House.

First, Kucinich released a statement bashing Bush's visit to his home state, saying "Ohio needs more than a politically expedient trip. We need jobs." But what about that growth spurt the economy is enjoying and its potential to take the air out of the Democrats' argument that the president is weak on the economy?

Kucinich congressional chief of staff and spokesman Doug Gordon told ABC News, "The number one priority is jobs and it's still not clear that this growth will provide any sustainability … you need a long term plan and tax cuts to the wealthy is not a long term plan, nor is throwing $87 billion to Iraq. There are plenty of issues out here this president's weak on."

Next, Kucinich blasted Bush for not taking up the Russian Federation's offer to provide use of their Ilyushin-76 Waterbomber aircraft, currently off the coast of California, for assistance in putting out the wildfires ravaging that part of the country.

Kucinich calms down for breakfast

Oct. 28 — Kucinich kicked off day two of this week's New Hampshire visit with a primary rite of passage, the Politics and Eggs breakfast at the picturesque Bedford Village Inn, where recent speakers include Dick Gephardt and, last spring, Karl Rove. The audience, made up mostly of local business people, was different than the usual groups of supporters and union workers Kucinich is used to, and the tone of his speech was accordingly more somber and calm, less populist and impassioned.

What about the issue of that Dean ad Kucinich swore he would not let go of and planned to announce legal action about soon? No mention of it today. But the campaign was eager to talk about a string of new endorsements, most prominently actor and activist Danny Glover.

Kucinich wants to debate Dean; picks up Granite Greens' endorsement

Oct. 28 —Congressman Kucinich spoke to a group of about 20 SEIU members in Concord, New Hampshire, on Monday. Many of the attendees were highly receptive to his ideas but wary of his electability. He seemed relaxed and on-message in the intimate setting, and made a rare departure from his usual insistence that he will be the nominee by admitting the campaign was about keeping issues on the table: "If I don't get the nomination [but I had a strong showing in New Hampshire], New Hampshire will have sent a message."

Kucinich was asked if he had the choice to debate any of the other candidates, who would it be. Without blinking an eye, and perhaps indicative of the recent tension between the two, he replied, "Howard Dean. I'd like to debate him about the war, I'd like to debate him about health care, I'd like to debate him about the economy, I'd like to debate him about trade."

Kucinich also picked up the New Hampshire Green Party endorsement Monday in Concord. The Greens aren't considered an "official" party in the state and are small in number. However it's fairly easy for them to vote in the primary as Democrats; if they're independents they only have to declare they're Democrats on the way in, and undeclare on the way out.

Kucinich focuses on New Hampshire and Dean ads

Oct. 27 — Congressman Kucinich focused on two things this weekend: making New Hampshire a priority, and getting Howard Dean to stop airing an ad there claiming he was the only one to oppose the war. Kucinich had events all day and late into the evening in New Hampshire Friday and cancelled his appearance at the peace rally in Washington on Saturday to appear in person at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO meeting in North Country.

The Kucinich of last week would surely have gone to Washington for the rally, where he would have enjoyed high billing and addressed thousands, but the new Kucinich is reflecting some within the campaign's feeling that making one's case before a couple hundred Granite Staters is more important than preaching to the anti-war choir. The union membership-card-waving Kucinich got several standing ovations for his pledges to bring the troops home from Iraq and to cancel NAFTA and the WTO.

At the AFL-CIO event, Kucinich tried in vain to accomplish his main goal this week: getting the Dean ad off the air. Like a political reporter waiting to ambush Dean for an exclusive interview the governor never agreed to, Kucinich lingered in the lobby of the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield, New Hampshire Saturday morning, waiting to talk to Dean about the ad he's running in which Dean accuses his opponents of not doing anything to stand up to Bush during the march to war last year. In Kucinich's eyes such a comment is just about the worst thing one could ever say about him, and adds insult to the injury of Dean having already stolen a great deal of Kucinich's anti-war thunder. Dean greeted Kucinich with a cordial "Hi, Dennis" and they huddled for about 10 minutes, with a few muffled "I understand's" and "I appreciate that's" audible on Dean's part, but no resolution.

Kucinich addresses SEIU, scores last minute seats to World Series

Oct. 24 — In his first time actively campaigning in Florida, Congressman Kucinich spoke to the Service Employees International Union about some of his, and his audience's, favorite issues: corporate greed, immigration and health care.

He wasted no time in bashing Wal-Mart for its run-in with the law while speaking about immigrants' rights, saying, "Rather than rounding up 300 sub-contracted cleaning workers, we oughtta round up 300 of Wal-Mart's executives and put THEM in jail!"

Actor Danny Glover, active in the Immigrant Workers' Freedom Ride effort, was also on hand. Although he didn't know Kucinich would be speaking, when asked by ABC News if he would consider endorsing Kucinich he said, "Yes, I would. I've always though Kucinich represents the voice within the Democratic party which speaks for workers … it was refreshing to see him here."

Is a formal endorsement in the works? Glover said he hadn't endorsed anyone else yet but hadn't heard them all speak yet.

Despite a 5:30 am departure time Friday, the baseball nut Congressman scored last-minute World Series tickets for himself and deputy campaign manager (and constant companion) Paul Costanzo, an opportunity he felt was not to be passed up no matter how early the wake-up call.

Arriving as the sixth inning started, Kucinich started to tell his staff who he was rooting for when he stopped himself and said, "Is Melinda in the car?" Realizing I was indeed and ever the politician, he would only say this: "I have friends who are Yankees fans, I have friends who are Marlins fans, and I agree with my friends."

The AP compares Kucinich to a preacher in their write-up of his rolled-up-shirtsleeves approach to the SEIU: LINK

Kucinich strategizes his attacks

Oct. 23 — Kucinich has shied away from launching any major attacks, mainly because it's simply not his nature and he feels uncomfortable doing so. One could also speculate it's because he doesn't wish to burn bridges with the potential nominee. Instead Kucinich favors attacks on the party in general and on the other candidates as a group for voting for the Iraq resolution, voting for the $87 billion, supporting the existence of U.S. troops in Iraq, and not promoting universal health care.

The closest the Congressman has gotten to attacking specific candidates is at debates or forums, specifically Howard Dean for not advocating universal health care and Dick Gephardt for standing with the president on the Iraq resolution, the latter of which Kucinich identifies as the key reason the Democrats lost seats in the interim election.

Though Kucinich is certainly not close with any of his opponents, he probably has the warmest relations with Al Sharpton and John Edwards. Edwards' wife Elizabeth counts herself as a Kucinich fan and has made a special effort to seek him out at debates to say hello.

The Kucinich campaign is trying to reinvigorate its New Hampshire operation, which has lagged in recent months after an initial flurry of activity. With a spruced up organization including new offices and staffers, the campaign hopes former volunteers who have strayed will "see the light."

Says New Hampshire press secretary Richard Hendrick, "At the town hall meeting tonight you could see people getting born again."

Hendrick admits, however, that Kucinich can't survive a poor finish in New Hampshire: "We absolutely need a surprise. We cannot come in 7th or 8th … .if you deliver a surprise you get a big injection of cash and the media start paying attention. If you don't it's much, much harder. It's harder to do than in Iowa because if you do better than expected there, people can discount it as not being a real primary, but in New Hampshire it's the real thing."

Still, Hendrick says Kucinich is "gonna stay in it 'til the last man's standing," and feels optimistic that it's early enough in the race to be able to deliver such a surprise come primary time.

Kucinich had an action-packed day in New Hampshire Wednesday, including homeless shelter visits, store tours, a town hall and an evening reception, but the event the campaign was most excited about was one where most of the attendees can't even vote: a speech at Concord High School, where Challenger astronaut Krista McAuliffe once taught.

Why spend valuable campaigning time with a group where only a handful can vote? Hendrick says, "Dennis is so enthusiastic, he probably doesn't think enough about election politics, but he's just really interested in connecting with these people." The campaign is even considering launching a "Virgin Votes for Kucinich" effort to mobilize first-time voters.

Kucinich’s 4-Day Tour Comes to an End

Oct. 17 — Kucinich wrapped up his four-day announcement sweep by participating in an activism forum at Howard University and attending a party in his honor.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, a longtime friend and colleague who is supporting Kucinich's candidacy and co-sponsored his universal health care bill, was by the candidate's side the entire evening.

About 200 supporters, including one dressed in a George W. Bush costume carrying a sign that read "Need work in 2004 … will work for oil or other corporate interests" greeted the Congressmen at the party and a live band played John Lennon's "Imagine," the campaign's theme song.

In his introduction of Kucinich the silken-voiced Conyers, known as the "Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus," asked the rowdy audience, "This crowd is so worked up … can I run as his vice president?"

The audience jumped to their feet and cheered wildly, including Kucinich himself.