Of all the Democratic presidential candidates preparing for
today’s New Hampshire primary, Sen. John Kerry of
Massachusetts may be feeling the greatest upswing in campaign
momentum. After a victory in the Iowa caucuses last week and
continued strength in national opinion polls, Kerry is moving into
the position of a Democratic frontrunner.

Amita Madan

Although Kerry downplayed his high standings in the Iowa caucus
entrance polls, those same polls rightly predicted his victory. In
a Newsweek poll conducted by Princeton University, Kerry has risen
from a favorite among 5 percent of surveyed Democrats on December
11 to a 30 percent favorite last Thursday.

“Not so long ago, this campaign was written off,”
said Kerry after the Iowa caucuses. “But you stood with me
… so we can take on George Bush and fight the special
interest groups and give American back its future and its
soul.”

Kerry’s success comes on the heels of aggressive
campaigning and a largely undecided democratic electorate. He uses
his own symptom of prostate cancer as justification for expanding
the health care system of federal employees to all Americans.

He also holds a “Service for College” initiative to
help students pay for higher education and is the only candidate
with formal plans for renewable energy and environmental
preservation.

Although he voted with his fellow Senatorial presidential
candidates in favor of invading Iraq in September 2002, he now is
heavily campaigning against America’s prolonged involvement
in Iraq, and the domestic consequences of the occupation.

“It is long since time in America, the only industrial
nation who has yet to recognize that health care is not a privilege
for those who can afford it but a right,” Kerry said.
“I am running for president to restore a concept called
fundamental fairness.”

Candidates like retired general Wesley Clark and Sen. John
Edwards of North Carolina have similar policy plans for health care
and education, largely based on refuting President Bush’s
current policies.

But the Democrats have also been careful in their campaign
appearances not wanting to portray themselves as Washington
“insiders.”

Kerry has also resolved to “scrub the tax code” to
prevent tax breaks from being presented to interest groups who
donate to presidential campaigns.

The finale in Kerry’s most recent speeches has dealt with
what he calls the failures of President Bush. “And when you
add up all the deficits of the country it will become clear that
the one man who deserves to be laid off is George W. Bush,”
Kerry said.

A similar sentiment was echoed in his victory speech in Des
Moines, “We’re coming. You’re going. And
don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

While seeking to avoid a reputation as an “insider,”
Kerry has used his five terms and 20 years as a senator to
highlight his policy-making experience. The endorsements of a
number of unions, including the International Association of
Firefighters, greatly boosts Kerry’s standing with a
constituency whose favored candidate, Rep. Richard Gephardt of
Missouri withdrew from the race last week.

Kerry draws support from a similar audience due to his plans to
repeal tax cuts for high-end wage earners while maintaining cuts
for the middle classes. “I think when he gets up in front (of
a large crowd) he comes across as a little stand-offish,”
said John Rasmussen, a member of the Iowa Association of Fire
Fighters. “In smaller groups it’s a lot different.
He’s emotional and connects with people.”

But Kerry’s leading status in polls has not come without
criticism, the bulk of which has been received from the media and
other candidates who question his charisma and inconsistency on
issues.

“I question if (the fact that Kerry is dull) is what
people actually think or if it’s just what they’ve been
told,” said Stephanie Pilat, Rackham student and member of
Students for Kerry. “I realize he is seen as not being fiery
but I guess that’s not something I’ve seen.”

“I think he does get fired up but he has to stay in
control,” said Dawn Van Dyke President of Iowa Students for
Kerry. “Passion is a part of human emotion and a presidential
quality is keeping that under control.”

On the campaign trail, Kerry has used his experience in the
Vietnam War to build support for his national defense policies. He
has also criticized Bush for his lack of knowledge of warfare and
the prolonged involvement in Iraq. “I look forward to
reminding them (Bush Administration) that I know something about
aircraft carriers,” Kerry said. “And if George W. Bush
wants to run based on national security … bring it on!
Let’s make ‘mission accomplished’ a
reality.”

Edwards, the runner-up in Iowa, has enjoyed an 8 percent growth
in the Newsweek poll and other candidates have remained virtually
the same. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean has slipped down to
12 percent last Thursday.

Democratic candidates ’04

Fourth-term senator, former lt. governor of Massachusetts,
prosecutor.

Health care:

  • Plans to allow all American access to federal employee
    system.
  • Creation of a patients’ Bill of Rights in order to reduce
    medical errors.

Education:

  • $4,000 credit for higher education.
  • “Service for College” plan offering 4 years of
    college tuition in exchange for 2 years of public service.

Foreign Policy:

  • n Set an international minimum wage and negotiate
    “fair” trade agreements.

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