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John Kerry wins in 2004?

MAC161

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Just a random AH scenario, initially sparked by reading up on Gary Hart due to FAM, and noting the friendship between him and Kerry. Not looking to go utopian with it, only wanted to explore the possible results.

Some starting points:

What would've had to change for Kerry to win? Bush gained the WH with 35 EC votes instead of 2000's 5, and his PV margin was larger in '04, so which would be easier to shift to the Dems? (Current very rough idea is Kerry winning Arizona, Iowa and New Mexico)

How does a Kerry win affect the Iraq War, Afghanistan, and the "War on Terror", in the short and long term? Earlier withdrawal, or just scaled down?

What happens with Edwards, down the road (presuming he's picked for the VP slot as in OTL)?
 

History Learner

Well-known member
Just a random AH scenario, initially sparked by reading up on Gary Hart due to FAM, and noting the friendship between him and Kerry. Not looking to go utopian with it, only wanted to explore the possible results.

Some starting points:

What would've had to change for Kerry to win? Bush gained the WH with 35 EC votes instead of 2000's 5, and his PV margin was larger in '04, so which would be easier to shift to the Dems? (Current very rough idea is Kerry winning Arizona, Iowa and New Mexico)

How does a Kerry win affect the Iraq War, Afghanistan, and the "War on Terror", in the short and long term? Earlier withdrawal, or just scaled down?

What happens with Edwards, down the road (presuming he's picked for the VP slot as in OTL)?
IIRC, Bob Mueller and some other senior officials in the DoJ/FBI were threatening to resign over the Stellar Winds program; that big of a scandal going forward in an election year might just be enough to swing it, I think. Also, I just want to say for the record thank you for not including Katrina because it always irks me how it gets brought up in 2004 related questions despite at least a year of butterflies lol.
 

Jackson Lennock

Well-known member
If you flip ~60,000 votes in Ohio - John Kerry wins the election 272 to 266, but loses the popular vote 50.6% to 48.4%. All you really need is for the Democrats to invest more resources or do a slightly better job of persuading people in that state to vote for them.

But Kerry will have a 55 to 45 Republican Senate and a Republican-controlled House. It'll have been more a rejection of Bush than of the Republican Party.

Kerry would end up spending the next few years as a weak President whose agenda is mostly comprised of dealing with what Bush left him with after the first term and the crises Bush had to deal with in his second term. He'll have had no leeway to pursue his own policy agenda.

Also, for all we know John Edwards resigns in scandal.
 
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MAC161

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Published by SLP
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If you flip ~60,000 votes in Ohio - John Kerry wins the election 272 to 266, but loses the popular vote 50.6% to 48.4%. All you really need is for the Democrats to invest more resources or do a slightly better job of persuading people in that state to vote for them.

But Kerry will have a 55 to 45 Republican Senate and a Republican-controlled House. It'll have been more a rejection of Bush than of the Republican Party.

Kerry would end up spending the next few years as a weak President whose agenda is mostly comprised of dealing with what Bush left him with after the first term and the crises Bush had to deal with in his second term. He'll have had no leeway to pursue his own policy agenda.

Also, for all we know John Edwards resigns in scandal.
If there are enough votes EC and otherwise (in Ohio, or elsewhere as I started with) for Kerry to win, would there be enough coattails in any of the Senate or House elections to (slightly) shrink the GOP majority? Case in point: Edwards gave up his Senate seat to run for VP; what are the chances Bowles (or somebody else, if there're sufficient butterflies for it) wins and keeps it for the Dems? Or Daschle in South Dakota? Castor in Florida? And if Kerry wins, who's likely to replace him in a special election?

With the mention of Katrina, I wonder how Kerry's response might differ from that of Bush's. Same with the '07-'08 economic crisis. What other ones (presuming the butterfly effect isn't strong enough) would he (likely) have to face, following an '04 victory?
 
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allthepresidentsmen

Active member
If there are enough votes EC and otherwise (in Ohio, or elsewhere as I started with) for Kerry to win, would there be enough coattails in any of the Senate or House elections to (slightly) shrink the GOP majority? Case in point: Edwards gave up his Senate seat to run for VP; what are the chances Bowles (or somebody else, if there're sufficient butterflies for it) wins and keeps it for the Dems? Or Daschle in South Dakota? Castor in Florida? And if Kerry wins, who's likely to replace him in a special election?
Dems could flip FL, SD and KY if Kerry does better overall. At maximum. That gets the Dems to 48 seats.

If Kerry wins I see the MA legislature changing the rules to stop Romney from appointing a replacement; someone like Stephen Lynch replaces him in all likelihood.
 

MAC161

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Dems could flip FL, SD and KY if Kerry does better overall. At maximum. That gets the Dems to 48 seats.

If Kerry wins I see the MA legislature changing the rules to stop Romney from appointing a replacement; someone like Stephen Lynch replaces him in all likelihood.
How might the House look? There was a net change of only three seats, to the GOP, in OTL; with a Kerry victory, would that still happen, be increased, end in an even exchange of seats, or (seems least likely) shift a couple in the Dems' favor?
 

Jackson Lennock

Well-known member
If there are enough votes EC and otherwise (in Ohio, or elsewhere as I started with) for Kerry to win, would there be enough coattails in any of the Senate or House elections to (slightly) shrink the GOP majority? Case in point: Edwards gave up his Senate seat to run for VP; what are the chances Bowles (or somebody else, if there're sufficient butterflies for it) wins and keeps it for the Dems? Or Daschle in South Dakota? Castor in Florida? And if Kerry wins, who's likely to replace him in a special election?
I don't see a reason why Kerry wins by much more than a narrow win. He wasn't an inspiring candidate, and the Bush campaign people were ruthless and effective.


With the mention of Katrina, I wonder how Kerry's response might differ from that of Bush's. Same with the '07-'08 economic crisis. What other ones (presuming the butterfly effect isn't strong enough) would he (likely) have to face, following an '04 victory?
There probably wouldn't be much of a difference. Maybe there'd be more focus on climate and LGBT issues, but that seems like it'd be on the margins. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much of a difference.



Dems could flip FL, SD and KY if Kerry does better overall. At maximum. That gets the Dems to 48 seats.

If Kerry wins I see the MA legislature changing the rules to stop Romney from appointing a replacement; someone like Stephen Lynch replaces him in all likelihood.
What was the composition of the legislature at this point? If they don't have a supermajority, Romney could just veto the bill.




If the GOP gets similar margins in 2006 as it did in 2002 (a 4.8% win in the popular vote nationally), that's a 12.8 point swing (Democrats won by 8 points in 2006 OTL). Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington could go Republican. If the Republicans win by a margin like in 1994 or 2010 (6.8% both years) or like Democrats in 2006 (8%), then that's a 14.8 or 16 point swing. Senate isn't the same as house, but GOP probably ends up with a supermajority after the 2006 and 2008 elections, since 2004 was a poisoned chalice.
 
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allthepresidentsmen

Active member
I don't see a reason why Kerry wins by much more than a narrow win. He wasn't an inspiring candidate, and the Bush campaign people were ruthless and effective.

What was the composition of the legislature at this point? If they don't have a supermajority, Romney could just veto the bill.

If the GOP gets similar margins in 2006 as it did in 2002 (a 4.8% win in the popular vote nationally), that's a 12.8 point swing (Democrats won by 8 points in 2006 OTL). Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington could go Republican. If the Republicans win by a margin like in 1994 or 2010 (6.8% both years) or like Democrats in 2006 (8%), then that's a 14.8 or 16 point swing. Senate isn't the same as house, but GOP probably ends up with a supermajority after the 2006 and 2008 elections, since 2004 was a poisoned chalice.
True, but Kerry did run a good campaign. At the beginning of 2004, the general expectation was that Bush would win by at minimum Biden 2020 margins in the EC, correct?

Massachusetts Dems held a veto-proof majority.

How 2006 goes is honestly a tossup. Katrina was a preventable mess; if Kerry handles it well then the main crises would be after 2006. It would be quite a red year, but Dems would most likely hold onto all their key marginals (MN, MI, etc).
 

Jackson Lennock

Well-known member
A big question is Supreme Court nominations especially when Rehnquist dies as that would shift the Supreme Court from 5-4 conservative to 5-4 liberal.
That seems like something for the other thread, but I'll bite.

If it's a 55-45 Senate or worse for Kerry, it's more likely that moderates and centrists get put in.

If Kerry tries to put up Sotomayor, he might not have the votes. Wood or Kagan (especially Kagan) might get through. I'm reminded how OTL Lawrence Tribe pressured Obama *not* to nominate Sotomayor because he didn't think she'd be persuasive to Kennedy, and supported Kagan or Wood instead.

O'Connor wanted to go, but there might be a lot of pressure on her to accept a promotion to Chief Justice. I don't think she takes it, but OTL she felt enough of a sense of duty to delay her retirement by six months while they filled the Rehnquist seat.

Garland and Cabranes seem like the safe choices for Kerry. If he gets a liberal in, it'd be Kagan or Wood I think.
 

oliveia

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This was the thread that convinced me to get SLP, since someone linked me it and it pained me that I couldn't respond right away. One of my old timelines was a Kerry '04 victory, the Dethroning of Dubya (since then I've gravitated more towards the fascinating Howard Dean, so "Kerry's Choice" is back on the backburner forevermore).

Just a random AH scenario, initially sparked by reading up on Gary Hart due to FAM, and noting the friendship between him and Kerry. Not looking to go utopian with it, only wanted to explore the possible results.
Fun fact, Gary Hart was considering a 2004 presidential run. Don't know if Kerry talked him out of it, though Every Day is Extra does mention one presidential hopeful that I will mention later.

Some starting points:

What would've had to change for Kerry to win? Bush gained the WH with 35 EC votes instead of 2000's 5, and his PV margin was larger in '04, so which would be easier to shift to the Dems? (Current very rough idea is Kerry winning Arizona, Iowa and New Mexico)
Honestly, the '04 race was super close. Others have mentioned the planned walk-out from the DOJ and some of the FBI over the unconstitutionality of the TSP--Cheney and co. wanted to continue it, whereas the senior officials of the DOJ thought it was incredibly illegal and wrote letters of resignation. Would've rivaled the Saturday Night Massacre.
But even then, you don't need to completely dismantle the Bush Administration in a massive walk-out to get Kerry the win. You just need the Kerry campaign to run slightly, slightly more competently. Not to say that Kerry responded incompetently to the SBVT (contrary to popular belief, Kerry actually did a lot to fight those claims--in Every Day is Extra, he specifically blames the talking heads for ignoring the naval record that he allowed the DOD to publish, since that only circulated in the newspapers and news channels are a different beast entirely). Get a muzzle for Edwards so he doesn't bring up Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter in the VP debates, which avoids Kerry's mention of it (J.E. Smith's Bush mentions that these moments were integral in such a tight race--"the Lesbian Bump").
Other good PODs involve Cheney refusing to run for a second term (he very nearly got away with it. Bush called him back in, though--Bush was vetting Frist for the slot). Without Cheney, Rumsfeld would resign after the Abu Ghraib photos were revealed to the public. Hell, another POD would be getting Rumsfeld to resign anyways, screw Dick Cheney and everyone else! Dick Gephardt as VP would fill a similar niche (that was the POD of "Kerry's Choice"), since he was pro-gay marriage and as such would avoid the Lesbian Bump. Graham was also being vetted for a slot next to Kerry, but I think his weird Baghdad-on-the-Backburner anti-Iraq position would cause a lot of confusion on the ticket.

How does a Kerry win affect the Iraq War, Afghanistan, and the "War on Terror", in the short and long term? Earlier withdrawal, or just scaled down?
Depends on his Secretary of State. Conventional wisdom sides with Holbrooke, who is to Secretaries of State as Bob Graham is to Vice Presidents. I don't actually know Holbrooke's positions beyond him being a Democratic FoPo darling. I think, personally, that Joe Biden would get the State slot--he was a close friend of Kerry's (and was that aforementioned friend Kerry called to back down from a presidential run), and had his own visions for the Middle East. That being said, I don't think Kerry's gonna get out of Iraq or Afghanistan, but by the end of his term(s) he'd probably be far closer to the pull-out than Bush was. No '06 troop surge or anything.

What happens with Edwards, down the road (presuming he's picked for the VP slot as in OTL)?
I hate John Edwards, but had he been on the ticket he'd be golden. Edwards most famous scandal was entirely because he was on the campaign trail in '08 (his mistress was a staffer), so he'd probably not be indicted for misuse of campaign funds had he actively been the VP in '08, on Kerry's ticket.

If there are enough votes EC and otherwise (in Ohio, or elsewhere as I started with) for Kerry to win, would there be enough coattails in any of the Senate or House elections to (slightly) shrink the GOP majority? Case in point: Edwards gave up his Senate seat to run for VP; what are the chances Bowles (or somebody else, if there're sufficient butterflies for it) wins and keeps it for the Dems? Or Daschle in South Dakota? Castor in Florida? And if Kerry wins, who's likely to replace him in a special election?
The best states for a swing back are Kentucky, South Dakota, and Florida. If Edwards isn't on the ticket, he'll pull a Marco Rubio and return to the senate race in North Carolina, and probably win that. House probably won't swing too much, to be honest.

On Massachusetts, as others have mentioned, Beacon Hill would whip Romney into shape. Not only would they remove Romney's ability to appoint a Senator, they did it the moment Kerry secured the nomination. Crowded primary ensues, on both sides. In "Kerry's Choice," I put Lynch in Labor so I could have one less head to keep track of. Democratic primary has a few major heads--Marty Meehan, Ed Markey, Barney Frank, and maybe some other familiar faces like Coakley etc. GOP primary probably goes to Lt Gov Kerry Healey, but I could see Charlie Baker or Sheriff Frank Cousins mounting a challenge. In "Kerry's Choice" I have the election be between Markey and Healey, with Healey losing because of her somewhat divisive stances attacking gay marriage (although in '05, gay marriage was still divisive, a bare majority of Democrats and Independents supported it). Just my two cents, though. If the matchup was, say, Frank vs. Cousins, Cousins would take it (thus making all of Massachusetts' black senators be Republicans).

With the mention of Katrina, I wonder how Kerry's response might differ from that of Bush's. Same with the '07-'08 economic crisis. What other ones (presuming the butterfly effect isn't strong enough) would he (likely) have to face, following an '04 victory?
In real life, Kerry used Hurricane Katrina to talk about the needs of healthcare reform. I imagine he'd do much the same as President, which brings up the interesting KerryCare dilemma. I don't think John'll get his whole vision out, but he won't be whipped by the GOP either.
Why? Majority Leader Bill Frist. He was a massive proponent of Obamacare, so come 2005 I imagine that he'd be glad to go to the negotiating table with Kerry (especially with the across-the-aisle assistance of almost-HHS-secretary Daschle). Keep in mind that some parts of Kerry's reforms (mostly the modernization of healthcare technology) had broad bipartisan appeal. Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton were agreeing to similar measures at around the same time.
On the Recession, it's a bit hard to predict, I think. There was a 2005 bill that would've helped regulate the housing industry (co-written by Barney Frank of Dodd-Frank Act fame), that had bipartisan support (the other co-writer was Mike Oxley, a Republican representative from Ohio) but was allowed to die because everyone knew Bush would veto it. Kerry, though, wouldn't have. This absolutely wouldn't have been enough to stop the Recession, but it might dull its effects just enough for Kerry to eek out an electoral win (especially if the Republicans nominate a less-than-perfect nominee... for example, George Allen).

If the GOP gets similar margins in 2006 as it did in 2002 (a 4.8% win in the popular vote nationally), that's a 12.8 point swing (Democrats won by 8 points in 2006 OTL). Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington could go Republican. If the Republicans win by a margin like in 1994 or 2010 (6.8% both years) or like Democrats in 2006 (8%), then that's a 14.8 or 16 point swing. Senate isn't the same as house, but GOP probably ends up with a supermajority after the 2006 and 2008 elections, since 2004 was a poisoned chalice.
I don't buy it. The GOP in '06 was fragile, and Kerry in power isn't going to make, for example, the numerous corruption and sex scandals in the House vanish in a puff of smoke. They'd keep the Senate majorities, but I don't think it'll be a massive staggering Red Sweep (especially in the House).
 
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oliveia

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Oh, forgot this--
A big question is Supreme Court nominations especially when Rehnquist dies as that would shift the Supreme Court from 5-4 conservative to 5-4 liberal.
Others have said a lot about this, so I'll be brief.
To take some pages out of the New York Times, here's what they postulated on for names (plus some Certified Olivia Commentary):
*Harold Hongju Koh: Better suited for State than the Supreme Court (could replace Biden/Holbrooke if there's any disasters), due to his area of expertise being international law.
*Kathleen Sullivan: Prominent constitutional lawyer and scholar, at the time a professor at Stanford Law. Seems like a safe pick to replace O'Connor.
*Diana Gribbon Motz: A circuit judge in Baltimore. The Times points out that she's a powerful dissident in a then-majority conservative Court. Only downside (or upside, depending) is her age--she'd be 62 at the time of nomination; might be too old (don't know that much).
*Sonia Sotomayor: Might be a bit convergent, but I think Kerry would go for her. She was seen as a moderate pick at the time, and although her college essay was a bit of a scarlet letter, I think she could get through mostly un-Borked ("If Clarence Thomas was allowed on the Court..."). Plus, as a Hispanic, she'd fill Kerry's wants to make some diverse picks (consensus is that he wanted a diverse Cabinet with some cabinet and judicial firsts)
*Walter Dellinger: Solicitor General under Clinton. Older than Motz, so I think convention states he'd be too old for the job. Might be a benefit if Republicans aren't willing to play fair.
*Seth Waxman: Solicitor General after Dellinger. Apparently also floated as an Obama nominee, he seems solid. Has some cases arguing against the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and other stuff that might make him a solidly liberal choice.
*David Tatel: DC Circuit Judge. Same issues as Dellinger and Motz.
*Merrick Garland: DC Circuit Judge. You know Garland's deal--inoffensive moderate who has, theoretically, broad support. Another safe Kerry choice, I think.
*Elena Kagan: Another Obama pick, not much to say.
*Dennis Archer: Former Mayor of Detroit, then-current President of the Bar, and former Michigan State Supreme Court Justice. People also floated him for Attorney General. Did a lot of research on him for "Kerry's Choice," cannot stress enough how unprofessional this guy is. There's some interview with him on his time on the State Supreme Court when he became President of the Bar, and he didn't remember any of the cases, any of the decisions, and didn't even have copies of his decisions (he asked the interviewer for a Xerox of the decisions he was reading to Archer).
 

Wolfram

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Depends on his Secretary of State. Conventional wisdom sides with Holbrooke, who is to Secretaries of State as Bob Graham is to Vice Presidents. I don't actually know Holbrooke's positions beyond him being a Democratic FoPo darling.
Holbrooke was an ardent liberal interventionist with a strong focus on military action (and, not to put too fine a point on it, a large ego and drive to self-promote) - Samantha Power was a protegée of his, so that's probably a solid model for how he approaches Foggy Bottom. I don't think he's likely to be nominated - IIRC in George Packer's biography of him it was explicitly stated that Kerry planned on appointing Biden and was largely stringing Holbrooke along, and more to the point he would antagonize the heck out of most of the party. Maybe Kerry gives him a sinecure or throws him some bones to keep him from badmouthing him to the press, but it's hard to see someone as aggressive as Holbrooke getting the nod in 2004.

Other than Biden, Susan Rice also seems like a fairly plausible choice.
 

oliveia

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IIRC in George Packer's biography of him it was explicitly stated that Kerry planned on appointing Biden and was largely stringing Holbrooke along, and more to the point he would antagonize the heck out of most of the party. Maybe Kerry gives him a sinecure or throws him some bones to keep him from badmouthing him to the press, but it's hard to see someone as aggressive as Holbrooke getting the nod in 2004.
Makes sense, yeah. I just remembered a quote from The Guardian--one of their articles predicting Kerry's cabinet and potential appointees: "Richard Holbrooke says Richard Holbrooke is the leading candidate [for State]."
 

Jackson Lennock

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I don't buy it. The GOP in '06 was fragile, and Kerry in power isn't going to make, for example, the numerous corruption and sex scandals in the House vanish in a puff of smoke. They'd keep the Senate majorities, but I don't think it'll be a massive staggering Red Sweep (especially in the House).
I was listing a range of scenarios, but didn't settle on one. I still think the GOP is going to at least get an 8 point swing (ergo, 2 to 3 point popular vote win) compared to OTL's 2006. That picks them up two or three senate seats.



Holbrooke was an ardent liberal interventionist with a strong focus on military action (and, not to put too fine a point on it, a large ego and drive to self-promote) - Samantha Power was a protegée of his, so that's probably a solid model for how he approaches Foggy Bottom. I don't think he's likely to be nominated - IIRC in George Packer's biography of him it was explicitly stated that Kerry planned on appointing Biden and was largely stringing Holbrooke along, and more to the point he would antagonize the heck out of most of the party. Maybe Kerry gives him a sinecure or throws him some bones to keep him from badmouthing him to the press, but it's hard to see someone as aggressive as Holbrooke getting the nod in 2004.

Other than Biden, Susan Rice also seems like a fairly plausible choice.
An open Senate seat in Delaware probably means Mike Castle runs for it. If he's the nominee, he gets the seat easily. But that's a big if, because the GOP base nominated whatshername OTL instead in 2010 and lost what would have been a pretty easy pickup.

Oh, forgot this--

Others have said a lot about this, so I'll be brief.
To take some pages out of the New York Times, here's what they postulated on for names (plus some Certified Olivia Commentary):
*Harold Hongju Koh: Better suited for State than the Supreme Court (could replace Biden/Holbrooke if there's any disasters), due to his area of expertise being international law.
*Kathleen Sullivan: Prominent constitutional lawyer and scholar, at the time a professor at Stanford Law. Seems like a safe pick to replace O'Connor.
*Diana Gribbon Motz: A circuit judge in Baltimore. The Times points out that she's a powerful dissident in a then-majority conservative Court. Only downside (or upside, depending) is her age--she'd be 62 at the time of nomination; might be too old (don't know that much).
*Sonia Sotomayor: Might be a bit convergent, but I think Kerry would go for her. She was seen as a moderate pick at the time, and although her college essay was a bit of a scarlet letter, I think she could get through mostly un-Borked ("If Clarence Thomas was allowed on the Court..."). Plus, as a Hispanic, she'd fill Kerry's wants to make some diverse picks (consensus is that he wanted a diverse Cabinet with some cabinet and judicial firsts)
*Walter Dellinger: Solicitor General under Clinton. Older than Motz, so I think convention states he'd be too old for the job. Might be a benefit if Republicans aren't willing to play fair.
*Seth Waxman: Solicitor General after Dellinger. Apparently also floated as an Obama nominee, he seems solid. Has some cases arguing against the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and other stuff that might make him a solidly liberal choice.
*David Tatel: DC Circuit Judge. Same issues as Dellinger and Motz.
*Merrick Garland: DC Circuit Judge. You know Garland's deal--inoffensive moderate who has, theoretically, broad support. Another safe Kerry choice, I think.
*Elena Kagan: Another Obama pick, not much to say.
*Dennis Archer: Former Mayor of Detroit, then-current President of the Bar, and former Michigan State Supreme Court Justice. People also floated him for Attorney General. Did a lot of research on him for "Kerry's Choice," cannot stress enough how unprofessional this guy is. There's some interview with him on his time on the State Supreme Court when he became President of the Bar, and he didn't remember any of the cases, any of the decisions, and didn't even have copies of his decisions (he asked the interviewer for a Xerox of the decisions he was reading to Archer).
Tatel is blind, which would be an interesting thing. Justice is blind, and so is Justice Tatel.
 
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MAC161

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If Edwards isn't on the ticket, he'll pull a Marco Rubio and return to the senate race in North Carolina, and probably win that.
How likely was it that Kerry would've gone against the advice of campaigners and picked Gephardt or somebody else? How might that've affected the vote nationally?

In real life, Kerry used Hurricane Katrina to talk about the needs of healthcare reform. I imagine he'd do much the same as President, which brings up the interesting KerryCare dilemma.
How did he do so, out of curiosity? And in what ways did "KerryCare" differ from later plans, like the ACA?

I don't think Kerry's gonna get out of Iraq or Afghanistan, but by the end of his term(s) he'd probably be far closer to the pull-out than Bush was. No '06 troop surge or anything.
Is he more likely to focus more troops and resources on the latter (bin Laden hasn't been caught/killed yet, after all) while drawing down in the former, or (maybe, if he's got enough of the liberal interventionist crowd around him) trying for a real multinational reconstruction, a la the UN missions in the former Yugoslavia?
 

oliveia

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How likely was it that Kerry would've gone against the advice of campaigners and picked Gephardt or somebody else? How might that've affected the vote nationally?
It's definitely possible. Kerry had personal misgivings about Edwards (there are a multitude of reasons, including a distrust of his character, but the most damning electorally was that Kerry thought Edwards was too ambitious--that he'd stab him in the back the second that things got tough). One of the heads of the VP hunt, Robert Shrum, relented that the campaign didn't conduct enough internal polls on Gephardt's prospects--the internals showed Edwards making it possible for Kerry to flip North Carolina (which, obviously, didn't end up happening) and outperforming Gephardt in places like the House Leader's home state of Missouri. Shrum remains convinced that had Kerry picked Gephardt, he'd've won Ohio (true, Gephardt was a massive Union boy which would have helped rally support in the Rusty North). Gephardt isn't a perfect candidate, of course. In 2004 he was still a vocal critic of NAFTA (which, although can be spun as ticket diversity and diversity of opinion within the Party, could easily hurt the ticket's unity); after his retirement, too, he quickly became a union buster (defying all previous precedent of the guy).

Honestly, the vote probably wouldn't change much. 2004 was a remarkably polarized election, with very few independents and fence-sitters. '04 was entirely a battle of Turnout, something that Karl Rove realized but the Democrats didn't.



How did he do so, out of curiosity? And in what ways did "KerryCare" differ from later plans, like the ACA?
Shortly after Katrina, Kerry made speeches talking about how so many of the young survivors fleeing the flooded-over New Orleans were impoverished, unable to afford healthcare and were thus unvaccinated. As for the proposals behind "KerryCare" (not the official name, but it's a fun pun to make), the details are admittedly lost to me. I have a PDF kicking around somewhere about Kerry's platform and policies, published in '03. For all intents and purposes, it'd probably be something approaching Obamacare, but no promises. That PDF came from z-library, so if you have an account over there you'll probably be able to find it with a quick search for "John Kerry."


Is he more likely to focus more troops and resources on the latter (bin Laden hasn't been caught/killed yet, after all) while drawing down in the former, or (maybe, if he's got enough of the liberal interventionist crowd around him) trying for a real multinational reconstruction, a la the UN missions in the former Yugoslavia?
2004 was a very pro-interventionist era. Even a relative dove like Biden had plans for nation-building in Iraq; Kerry made it well known that his issue with Iraq was that the US had pursued a "gun it alone" strategy, shunning international allies and instead coming across as warmongers. Famously this led to Bush's meager "You forgot Poland" quip, but most likely a Kerry Administration would oversee the operations in Iraq slowly be distributed among NATO allies, slowly lowering US involvement until it's more of a NATO operation than a Washington operation.
 
But even then, you don't need to completely dismantle the Bush Administration in a massive walk-out to get Kerry the win. You just need the Kerry campaign to run slightly, slightly more competently. Not to say that Kerry responded incompetently to the SBVT (contrary to popular belief, Kerry actually did a lot to fight those claims--in Every Day is Extra, he specifically blames the talking heads for ignoring the naval record that he allowed the DOD to publish, since that only circulated in the newspapers and news channels are a different beast entirely).
I would argue that in campaign communications, speaking and tactics, Kerry was probably at, or above, replacement level. He ran a bad, incompetent, or "weak responding" campaign *only* in comparison to a hypothetical, imaginary ideal campaign that has never actually been met. In other words...not really.

His handicaps were more fundamental and structural. Coverage of his comebacks compared to the attacks, and audience receptivity. Post 9/11 fear crowded out thought for a large segment of the electorate and armed Bush with a great advantage that he couldn't quite fritter away enough to lose by Nov 2004.

Additionally, the foundation of Kerry's strength as a candidate, while providing some strengths, him being a decorated combat veteran, had some inherent vulnerabilities. His selling point was he was a combat veteran. But for a majority of people in the electorate, and in the community of Vietnam veterans, for whom being a combat veteran was a positive, being a veteran, *who publicly turned against the war* was a negative, undoing all the positives of being a veteran in the first place.

I mean certain types of people with with a certain intellectual or philosophical or moral nuance or sophistication might be attracted by the paradox of the personally brave warrior but who called out the war that didn't make sense, but those persons probably were more resident in blue state areas and could have been open-minded toward non-veteran candidates. Red state people really focused on the veteran status probably want not only personal bravery but loyalty marked by obedience and falling in line no matter what.
 
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