- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2003

In the face of increasingly resounding votes of no confidence from the Democratic Party’s financial base, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry has twice recently dipped into his personal assets to keep his campaign operating.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Kerry lent his cash-strapped campaign $850,000. Last week, he borrowed more than $6 million against the Boston home he jointly owns with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, whose half-billion-dollar inherited ketchup fortune is essentially off-limits to her husband’s presidential campaign. Both loans will be used in an attempt to resuscitate Mr. Kerry’s flagging campaign during the pivotal early caucus and primary contests in Iowa (Jan. 19), New Hampshire (Jan. 27) and South Carolina (Feb. 3). By declining as much as $5 million in taxpayer-provided matching funds, which he would otherwise be entitled to receive at the beginning of next year, Mr. Kerry will now be able to use his own money to surpass the state-by-state spending limits that come with matching funds.

Considered early this year by many Democrats, including several of his rivals, to be his party’s front-runner, Mr. Kerry began 2003 by demonstrating his prowess as a proven fund-raiser. He raised a relatively impressive $7.5 million during the first quarter, leading the Democratic pack. However, Mr. Kerry then raised successively smaller amounts during each of the next two quarters. In the third quarter, when former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean raised nearly $15 million, Mr. Kerry’s campaign failed to reach the $4 million barrier. With Mr. Kerry’s staff now declining to project what his fourth-quarter fund-raising totals will be — generally a bad omen — campaign experts have been surmising that the fourth quarter could be even worse than the third. Considering Mr. Kerry’s plummeting performance in the polls, nobody should be surprised that his campaign coffers had become empty.

The descent has been startling. Among Democratic voters across the nation, a January CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll showed Mr. Kerry (16 percent) running in a virtual dead heat with Joe Lieberman (17 percent), while Mr. Dean registered 5 percent. Earlier this month, however, a CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll revealed Mr. Dean leading retired Gen. Wesley Clark, 22-17, with Mr. Kerry at 7 percent and Mr. Lieberman at 10 percent. A national Zogby poll conducted Dec. 15-17 had Mr. Dean at 28 percent and Mr. Kerry at 4 percent, while Rep. Dick Gephardt and Messrs. Lieberman and Clark were bunched around 7 percent.

Mr. Kerry’s immediate challenge seems to be denying Mr. Clark the second spot in the Jan. 27 primary in New Hampshire, where Mr. Kerry’s political fortune has undergone a particularly dramatic reversal this year. A Research 2000 poll conducted in March showed Mr. Kerry leading Mr. Dean by 27 points (38-11) in New Hampshire, which is bordered by both Massachusetts and Vermont. A Dec. 17-18 Research 2000 poll had Mr. Dean leading Mr. Kerry, 41-17, with Mr. Clark at 13 percent. December polls in New Hampshire by Zogby and Suffolk University showed Mr. Kerry leading Mr. Clark by 3 and 2 points, respectively, while Mr. Dean led Mr. Kerry by 30 and 23 points.

In Iowa, recent polls by Zogby and the Pew Research Center show Mr. Kerry in third place, trailing Messrs. Dean and Gephardt. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, where Mr. Kerry announced his presidential candidacy in a speech in front of an aircraft carrier, a Dec. 17-21 poll by American Research Group shows him registering an imperceptible 2 percent. That was 14 points below Mr. Dean, who led the poll, and 10 points below Mr. Clark and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Perhaps most indicative of Mr. Kerry’s plunge, a November poll of Massachusetts Democrats for the Boston Herald revealed the Boston brahmin was trailing Mr. Dean in his home state by a solid 33-24 margin.

With numbers like these, even if Mr. Kerry could somehow get his hands on his wife’s $500 million fortune, it probably wouldn’t be enough to resurrect his dying campaign.


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