Kerry's victory lap, continued
By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit
|ON CNN TV|
CNN-USA's political team brings you updates and analysis all evening, following Thursday's efforts by the Kerry camp to consolidate support among Democrats on the Hill and President Bush's trip to New York for a September 11 memorial ceremony and fund raising.
CNN's Bob Franken on John Kerry's criticism of President Bush.
CNN's John King on President Bush's defense of his economic plan.
CNN's Brian Todd on the likelihood of John McCain as a running mate for John Kerry.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry continues his victory lap across Washington on Thursday, meeting with congressional Democrats and Sen. John Edwards, whose March 3 withdrawal from the '04 Democratic primary secured Kerry's place in history.
Also Thursday, President Bush had planned to fulfill his Labor Day pledge to name a "manufacturing czar" to oversee the creation of jobs. Sources said Wednesday that Bush was preparing to nominate Tony Raimondo, CEO of Behlen Manufacturing Co., a metal-fabricating firm in Columbus, Nebraska, as the new assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing.
But White House officials scuttled that plan Wednesday night after Kerry's campaign raised concerns about the labor record of the CEO's factory in China.
Kerry's happy dance began in earnest Wednesday when he met with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, his once formidable rival, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who reportedly walked out of the meeting Wednesday night with his job intact.
The bottom line at all these powwows? Money. Kerry needs it badly, and he needs each of these guys to help him raise it. Like, now. But Kerry also is seeking to deploy surrogates aggressively on the campaign trail this year and is planning to talk with members of Congress about that as well.
Still a couple dozen delegates short of the '04 nomination, Kerry meets Thursday morning with the Congressional Black Caucus, followed by a meeting at the Library of Congress with the full House caucus. (GOP leaders refused to give the Democrats a room in the Capitol.) He'll lunch with his Senate Democratic colleagues and then meet in the afternoon with Edwards and about 100 of his former rival's donors at the St. Regis Hotel.
Rep. Robert Menendez, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he's looking forward to hearing Kerry discuss his commitment to helping his party's uphill climb to take back the House this fall.
"I'd love to hear that he's going to work with us, so that when he becomes president he's using his pen to sign legislation passed by a Democratic majority, rather than vetoing legislation passed by a Republican majority," Menendez said.
"We think it's critical for his future, because if you're a Democratic president of a Republican Congress, you'll just have four years of battle."
Menendez, who like many House members had endorsed Dean, said primary politics are irrelevant now.
"There's a hunger here for success that's so enormous, that whatever the issues were, I think they're extinguished at this point," he said.
Kerry likely will stop at both House and Senate stakeout locations Thursday. He'll appear, possibly with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt on the House side and with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle to talk about the economy on the Senate side.
Another job loss?
The Kerry campaign's criticism of the president's record on jobs seems to be having some impact.
Sources said Bush had planned to make Raimondo's appointment to the Commerce Department on Thursday morning. Raimondo, who is also chairman of the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri, was traveling to Washington on Wednesday night for a ceremony that looks unlikely to take place.
Kerry's campaign was criticizing Raimondo's appointment well before the president was scheduled to announce the move.
"After losing 2.5 million manufacturing jobs, George Bush has finally realized there's a problem. It's too little, too late," Kerry said in a statement. "Mr. President, putting another bureaucrat in the Department of Commerce isn't going to get people back to work. This is like the quarterback losing late in the fourth quarter promising he can turn the game around by hiring a new water boy."
Notably, the White House apparently worked more closely with Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson on Raimondo's appointment than it did with Nebraska's senior Republican lawmaker, Sen. Chuck Hagel, chairman of Bush's '04 re-election bid in that state. Hagel was "astounded" Wednesday when he heard news of the pending nomination, his spokesman, Mike Buttry, told the Omaha World-Herald.
"As far as we know, no official announcement has been made. No one ever contacted our office about this," Buttry told the paper.
This is even more curious, given that Hagel's longtime communications director, Deb Fiddelke, is working on legislative affairs in the Bush White House.