Just one of 100 again, Sen. John Kerry remained far from the spotlight yesterday on his first workday back in the Senate after losing his bid for the presidency.
No longer the Democratic candidate, but rather just the junior senator from Massachusetts, Mr. Kerry granted interviews to hometown reporters and joined the depleted corps of Democrats as they elected the party’s Senate leaders. His colleagues thanked him, congratulated him and wished him well.
“Every time his name was mentioned, there was enthusiastic applause. Literally, every time his name was mentioned,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat.
Democrats met in a closed-door session to choose their leadership team for next year in what is certain to be an uphill struggle for the party. Not only did Democrats lose their second straight presidential election on Nov. 2, but the Republicans increased their numbers in the Senate and the House.
In January, the Republicans will control 55 Senate seats to 44 for the Democrats with one Democratic-leaning independent.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, a former vice presidential candidate who lost in 2000 and a one-time presidential aspirant who fell short in the 2004 primaries, spoke from experience in offering Mr. Kerry words of support.
“He has a lot to be proud of, and I hope he’ll find what I did — that it was great to have the U.S. Senate to come back to,” Mr. Lieberman said.
Senators predicted that Mr. Kerry would find an expanded role as he eased back into his old job.
“Obviously, he brings some experience, and people are interested in what he has to say,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, pointing out that nearly half the country, if not quite enough to elect him president, voted for Mr. Kerry. President Bush received 60.5 million votes to Mr. Kerry’s 57.1 million.
Mr. Kerry didn’t make any remarks on the Senate’s pending legislation, nor did he deliver any speeches at the party meetings. He met privately with Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, the former minority leader who, like Mr. Kerry, lost on Nov. 2. Mr. Kerry also thanked other Democrats one-by-one for their support.
Not since George McGovern lost a bid for the presidency in 1972 has a senator returned to the Senate as a defeated presidential candidate, according to the Senate Historical Office.