NEW ORLEANS--Joe Malone '78 is a hero here.
When he introduced himself to the Republican National Convention Wednesday as the guy that's going to beat Sen. Edward M. Kennedy '54, the Superdome erupted. Nothing would make Republican happier than to send Teddy Kennedy back to Hyannisport.
If the "I" word is "liberal" and the "t" word is "taxes," then the "k" word is Kennedy. Conservatives believe Kennedy symbolizes everything wrong with the Democratic party in the 1980s.
The GOP delegates haven't forgotten Chappaquiddick. The Massachusetts delgation, following Malone's address, began chanting "Where was Ted?" in mocking reference to Kennedy's taunting of the Republican nominee, "Where was George?"
Anybody bold enough to challenge the liberal leviathan gains instant respect. Of course, this isn't the first time a Republican has pledged to send Teddy Kennedy into retirement: Ray Shamie tried in 1982, but collected less than 40 percent of the vote.
Now Malone, who headed Shamie's 1984 campaign against Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), is taking another shot at the senior senator from Massachusetts, and Malone maintains Kennedy can be beaten.
"Forty percent of the people in Massachusetts will always vote for Senator Kennedy, there's another 40 percent that will never vote for him," Malomne says. "That leaves 20 percent to work with in the middle, and I'm getting a great response."
"[Kennedy's] almost taking this election for granted," Malone said. "Even Tip O'Neill says you can't take voters for granted--you have to ask them for your support."
And if that means visiting every grange hall and veterans group in the Commonwealth, Malone says he is up to the challenge. "There's an opportunity to make a difference every day," he says.
Malone is convinced that Kennedy's visibility and high name recognition is beneficial to the Republican's own campaign. "The fact that Ted Kennedy's image is so set in people's minds allows me to talk more about Joe Malone than having to educate and inform them about Ted Kennedy," Malone says. "I don't have to spend a half-a-million dollars to let the voters of Massachusetts know that Ted Kennedy is an ultraliberal--they know it already."
If Malone is right, Kennedy has won re-election in the past not because people share his ideology, but because they share a "cultural bond to the Democratic party." This time, Malone says voters will back him because, "I'm the first generation candidate, I'm the one from Waltham, I'm the one who understands the concerns of working men and women. Ted Kennedy's out of touch with those people."
With a son of Brookline, Massachusetts running for president, turnout on election day should be high. But Malone says he can win even if Bush loses.
"I don't see there being any great coattail effect that Mike Dukakis is going to provide for Ted Kennedy," Malone says, noting that a Republican was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1960, with John F. Kennedy '40 heading the Democratic ticket.
"And Jack Kennedy was a heck of a lot more popular than Mike Dukakis is," Malone adds.
Malone says he has already raised $200,000, and predicts he'll raise and spend at least $1 million by election day. He expects Kennedy to spend as much as twice that amount.
Malone says Kennedy raised a lot of money, hoping to frighten away any competition, because he is uncomfortable "working crowds, standing at factory gates and asking people for their support. He has over the last 25 years become more and more of a Washingtonian. He deals with bureaucrats every day, he deals with other politicians, he deals with lobbyists, but he's not dealing with real live men and women."