College Dems Celebrate Kerry’s Bid for President

After a disastrous midterm election season for their party, Sen. John F. Kerry’s (D-Mass.) announcement this week that he will toss his hat into the 2004 presidential ring has given Harvard Democrats reason to celebrate.

“It was not the happiest of seasons to be a Democrat,” says Michael B. Firestone ’05, campaigns director for the Harvard College Democrats. “Kerry’s announcement gives us something to look forward to.”

Mary N. Naam ’05, who worked on Kerry’s successful senatorial re-election campaign this fall, says she’s pleased because her candidate has a record of speaking his mind.

“Kerry has a lot of integrity and really cares about the state and the country,” she says.

After winning re-election without any competition on the ballot—the first Massachusetts senator to do so in 80 years—Kerry will spend a fourth term in the Senate. And if he manages to move down Pennsylvania Avenue, he would be the only president since another Massachusetts senator—John F. Kennedy ’40—to be elected president without first serving as a governor.

Although he announced the formation of an exploratory committee Sunday night, and says he will file the papers necessary to raise money this week, an official declaration of candidacy could be months away.

College Dems President R. Gerard McGeary ’04 says Kerry’s prospects are helped by his career accomplishment and by the Democrats’ national convention being close to home. The party recently named Boston its host city for 2004.

He adds that Kerry can overcome his relative obscurity nationwide, compared to a potential competitor such as former Vice President Al Gore ’69.

“If you remember, Bill Clinton came out of nowhere in ’92,” he says.

Robert L. Grenzeback ’06, who worked on several Democratic campaigns this year, predicts Kerry will run a strong race, whether or not he will have to contend with Gore.

“Kerry has a bit of an edge with the primary in New Hampshire, will probably carry Massachusetts and can carry the country,” Grenzeback says.

Institute of Politics Director Daniel R. Glickman calls Kerry an “exceptional” candidate whose outstanding military career in Vietnam is another asset other presidential candidates may lack.

Kerry’s main objectives in the coming months, Glickman says, will be to raise money and cultivate a message that Democrats will rally around.

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has already announced his candidacy. Gore, the 2000 nominee, and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are expected to disclose their plans after the winter holidays. Outgoing House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri is also expected to announce soon whether he plans to run.

—Staff writer Maria S. Pedroza can be reached at