- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Six months after losing the presidential election, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry has not disappeared from public life like Al Gore did in 2001, but instead has kept a high public profile and even has begun to build the legislative record he lacked going into the 2004 campaign.

This week he is on the West Coast, using his newfound national celebrity to endorse a candidate for Los Angeles mayor and raising money for the Washington state Democratic Party.

In the Capitol, meanwhile, the man who Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said was geared towards investigations rather than legislation during his first three Senate terms now is putting a concerted effort into becoming a legislative figure.

He already has passed major parts of his military families’ bill of rights, on which he campaigned last year, and is leading a national grass-roots effort for children’s health insurance.

“He’s been incredibly active. To me, it looks like he picked himself off the mat and kept going,” said Kenneth Baer, a former Gore speechwriter and Democratic communications consultant. “He’s, in fact, been probably more active since than he was in his 18 years before.”

Donna Brazile, who was Mr. Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, said Mr. Kerry is in a different situation because he had a public job to return to, while Mr. Gore’s defeat left him totally out of government. She said that gives Mr. Kerry an opportunity to build himself into “one of the leading voices of the Democratic Party.”

From Mr. Kerry’s standpoint, said spokesman David Wade, the campaign fight goes on.

“He’s going to continue to fight for the principles of the campaign,” said Mr. Wade, who was also a campaign spokesman. “It’s very clear that when an incumbent president wins by the smallest margin an incumbent president has ever won an election by, it’s perfectly clear Americans want some changes in government.”

Mr. Kerry has become a leading figure against Mr. Bush’s nominees, including recently rallying Rhode Islanders from among his 3-million-person e-mail list to lobby that state’s Republican senator to vote against Mr. Bush’s pick for ambassador to the United Nations.

Ron Faucheux, a political analyst, said there’s a risk in taking such a public stand.

“The problem he has from the general public’s standpoint is any time he opposes a Bush appointment or a Bush policy, a lot of people will see that as sour grapes, as opposed to standing up courageously, like other Democrats would get credit for,” Mr. Faucheux said.

But he said the other route would open Mr. Kerry up to charges like those Mr. Gore faced in early 2001 that he was abdicating the role of leader. “That’s the dilemma of a losing presidential candidate. It’s a fine line.”

Mr. Wade said Mr. Kerry’s decision is clear.

“John Kerry is who he’s been his entire public life — he’s a fighter, and he’s someone who doesn’t lick his wounds and go away,” he said.

Mr. Kerry took some heat last year from Democrats for having about $11 million left in his federal account from last year’s election, but he has mended fences by spreading $3 million among the Democratic National Committee and the House and Senate Democratic campaign committees, as well as $250,000 to Democrats in Washington state contesting a close governor’s election.

He also has given to Democratic senators up for re-election in 2006, including Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Maria Cantwell of Washington.

“If he spreads [money] the way he’s spreading it, he can also help with the rebuilding process,” Miss Brazile said.

While Mr. Kerry is taking all the steps a Democratic leader would take to run again in 2008, both history and the mood among Democrats in early primary states are against him.

“There’s kind of a thud,” said Arnie Arnesen, a political talk-show host and former Democratic candidate for governor in New Hampshire, who said her state’s voters gave Mr. Kerry a primary victory a year ago, “but most people were holding their nose.”

Mr. Wade called it “wildly and absurdly premature” to speculate about 2008.

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