Kerry Bows Out of 2008 Race
- January 24, 2007
Kerry Bows Out of 2008 Race
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat
who narrowly lost the presidency to George Bush in 2004, announced
today that he would not proceed with a second bid for the White House
because he preferred to use his position in the new Senate majority to
press for an end to American involvement in Iraq.
"We came close, certainly close enough to be tempted to try again,
there are powerful reasons to want to follow that fight now," Mr.
Kerry said, invoking his 2004 race, at the conclusion of a 30-minute
speech attacking Mr. Bush's Iraq policy on the floor of the United
States Senate. "I've concluded that this isn't the time for me to
mount a presidential campaign. It is the time to put my energy to work
as part of the majority of he Senate and do all I can to end the war."
Mr. Kerry's announcement of his political plans, if unveiled in an
unorthodox place, was not a surprise, notwithstanding his early
statements that he would run again for the White House. He was in
effect bowing to a Democratic Party that was clearly unreceptive and
that had turned its attention to new candidates, in particular
Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New
York, who got into the race over the past week. Many Democrats had
said they expected Mr. Kerry would ultimately decide not to run after
assessing how much strength he had in his party; as it is, most of his
aides from the 2004 campaign have moved on.
Still, his decision sent ripples across the political waters,
answering one more question about what the final Democratic field
might look like. More than that, it appeared to bring to completion a
candidacy that for Mr. Kerry never completely ended after Election Day
in 2004. That day began with exit polls showing him heading for a
resounding win aides were addressing him as Mr. President and
ended with him making a concession call to Mr. Bush. That experience,
friends said, left Mr. Kerry bitter and frustrated and eager for a
Fitting enough, he used his time on the Senate floor today to deliver
a 30-minute speech that recounted his own history as a Vietnam veteran
who returned from war nearly 40 years ago to become an opponent of the
conflict. His voice cracking with emotion, he drew frequent contrasts
between the two wars as he made a case against Mr. Bush's foreign
policy in the Middle East and said that he thought he had a
responsibility to make sure that the next president did not have to
deal with cleaning up this war.
"The fact is, what happens here in the next two years may irrevocably
shape or terribly distort the administration of whichever candidate is
next elected president," he said, adding: "I don't want the next
president to find that they have inherited a nation still divided and
a policy destined to end as Vietnam did."
Mr. Kerry's speech drew tributes from fellow Democrats, including his
Massachusetts colleague, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who had been
pushing Mr. Kerry to make a decision. Another Democratic senator
running for president, Joseph Biden of Delaware, said: "My initial
reaction to Senator Kerry's decision is one of extreme sadness. John
Kerry is a major voice in American politics and the country would be
much better off today if he were President."
Mr. Kerry, 63, intends to run for a fifth term in the Senate in 2008,
an aide said.
The senator, in his rounds around the country since the election, has
argued that he came close to winning in 2004 and would be a better
candidate, with extra experience, in 2008. Mr. Kerry had turned his
attention to the 2008 presidential race almost from the moment he
conceded defeat to Mr. Bush in November 2004. After being daunted in
the 2004 race as being equivocal on the war in Iraq, he had emerged as
one of his party's leading opponents to the war, and had renounced his
original support for the war resolution that caused him so many
problems in the last election.
But Mr. Kerry faced severe obstacles in trying to capture his party's
nomination for a second time. For one thing, many of his supporters
had made clear that they would not join him again should he try to
run, with many blaming him for making mistakes in 2004 that cleared
the way for Mr. Bush to win even as he was saddled with an unpopular
war and a public that had turned largely against him.
Mr. Kerry faced a unusually strong field of Democratic contenders,
including Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and his running-mate from 2004, John
Edwards, the former senator of North Carolina, who has also been
running since 2004 but has by all appearances done a much better job
than Mr. Kerry of disassociating himself from their failed campaign.
But Mr. Kerry's hopes for a resurrection were probably most damaged by
what he said was a botched joke told while campaigning on behalf of
congressional candidates in the final week of 2006 race. Republicans
seized on what he said was a dropped word to try to say he had
delivered a joke at the expense of American troops fighting in Iraq.
Mr. Kerry responded by getting off the campaign trail and out of
public view, at the urging of Democrats who thought that the White
House might use this last-minute blunder to try to turn the campaign
back to their advantage.
For many Democrats, the remark was a reminder of instances of
ineptness by Mr. Kerry as a campaigner, including his often troubled
attempts to explain his changing views on the war in Iraq. Most
famously, he said that he voted for an $87 billion war appropriation
"before I voted against it," a piece of videotape that Republicans
quickly turned into a defining caricature of the Democratic candidate.