Doing a Torricelli

The latest meme spreading across the blogsophere, and now the mass media as well, is the idea that John Kerry will get replaced at the convention.

James Ridgeway of The Village Voice prays for this:

With the air gushing out of John Kerry’s balloon, it may be only a matter of time until political insiders in Washington face the dread reality that the junior senator from Massachusetts doesn’t have what it takes to win and has got to go. As arrogant and out of it as the Democratic political establishment is, even these pols know the party’s got to have someone to run against George Bush. They can’t exactly expect the president to self-destruct into thin air.


What to do? Look for the Dem biggies, whoever they are these days, to sit down with the rich and arrogant presumptive nominee and try to persuade him to take a hike. Then they can return to business as usual—resurrecting John Edwards, who is still hanging around, or staging an open convention in Boston, or both.

If things proceed as they are, the dim-bulb Dem leaders are going to be very sorry they screwed Howard Dean.

The dim bulbs are those who think party leaders actually pick presidential candidates several decades into the primary era.

Hugh Hewitt takes a somewhat different approach.

Dems know he’s a loser. But can anything be done?

Who knows? Don’t bother looking up the rules governing nominations. There were rules in Florida, and the Florida Supreme Court tore those up when Gore needed help. There were rules in New Jersey, but when Torricelli flamed, the New Jersey Supreme Court tossed those aside. There were rules in California, and three judges ordered a halt to the recall that only went forward because the luck of an en banc draw brought sanity to the review panel.

No, the rules won’t stop Kerry’s recall. Only Teddy can, and the weight of the senior senator from Massachusetts shouldn’t be underestimated. The Kerry campaign is his last hurrah, and the convention’s in Boston, for goodness sake. What kind of a reception would follow a party that tossed Kerry onto the tracks?

Hewitt, too, invokes the image of Howard Dean as a spark for this effort.

I seriously question the premises on which all this speculation is based. John Kerry isn’t the world’s best candidate, to be sure. But, then, neither is George W. Bush. Both have problems–different ones to be sure–getting their message out. Bush is more of a “regular guy” and connects well with people but is usually rather inarticulate. Kerry is a more polished speaker but comes across as effite and, well, odd. Still, the two men are virtually tied in the polls and have been for months. Bush’s negatives are dangerously high for an incumbent seeking re-election. So are the “going in the wrong direction” results.

Further, Kerry has invested millions of his own (okay, his wife’s) money in this race. He’s not going to bow out like Toricelli. And Toricelli’s problem was that he was a criminal; Kerry’s baggage is much less serious. So, for someone else to run, the convention delegates–the overwhelming majority of whom were Kerry backers elected to nominate Kerry–would have to decide to thumb their noses at the Democratic nominating electorate and betray Kerry. That’s not going to happen.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I agree with you here. I don’t see how you can ‘disenfranchise’ all the primary election voters.

  2. Boyd says:

    James, you really must not like calling Kerry “odd.” Although you’ve used the term twice this week, both times you’ve hesitated.

    C’mon, be bold. Step right out there and label him “odd.” It’s what he is.

  3. Jeremiah says:

    weight of the senior senator from Massachusetts shouldn’t be underestimated.


  4. Jim says:

    Right now it is too early. Kerry has had a bad couple of weeks but the fact remains that it is impossible to say if this is merely the beginning of his fall or whether he has hit rock bottom and will rise. If the fall continues, I can see the Democratic Party pressure him to withdrawl his nomination….just because he won the primaries doesn’t mean he has to accept the nomination. I don’t know the democratic rules if the presumed nomineee refuses the nomination; whether the second place (Edwards) or the convention will become an open one. However, the ultimate decision will be Kerry’s, remember it takes a great ego to actually run for President.

  5. mark says:

    Agreed, Kerry WILL be the nominee, but I would love to hear a democratic big-wig explain it this way:

    “I actually voted for John Kerry before I voted against him.”

  6. Moe Lane says:

    I wish you better luck in explaining this than I had, James. Actually, you already have… 🙂

  7. Tom says:

    10 years ago, I would have agreed with you James, but todays democratic party plays does not follow the rule book. They seem to feel that anything they do to bring down GWB is righteous, so changing precedent and tradition is no big thing. I do not expect to see Hillary on the ballot in November, but I truly would not be surprised either.

  8. Fred says:

    I agree that Kerry will be nominated at the convention. But wouldn’t it be the most bold move by the Dems to go the other way and slide Edwards into the slot. After the Bush campaign has spend millions on advertising with Kerry as the opponent, they would need to re-establish the field pretty quickly and that isn’t cheap. Of course the Kerry campaign has spent millions on advertising too, but I don’t recall seeing too many DNC sponsored ads so far. And after a bait-n-switch with a new Dem candidate that might actually excite the party faithful, I am sure more money would start rolling in than is currently being given to support Kerry.

    As I said, I doubt it will happen, but if it did…

  9. Maxine Adams says:

    How can anyone with an ounce of comon sense think John Kerry doesn’t stand a chance against a man who is totally in over his head. All across the world, Americans are look upon as studpid, because we elected a man who can’t speak off the top of his head. He has to have either condi Rice, or Dick Cheney by his side at all time, or at least close by. I feel our country is in a sad situation, and we had better wake up before it’s too late.


  10. Cybrludite says:

    No, Maxine, we’re looked upon as stupid becuse we can’t follow basic rules of grammar & capitalizing names. Actually, why am I bothing with this “we” stuff?

  11. Xrlq says:

    Fortunately, most of the people around the world who think we’re “studpid” and lack “comon” sense don’t get to vote in our elections.

  12. Marc says:

    heemmm…Maxine, so I guess you discount this little gem among many that demonstrates Kerry ability to “speak off the top of his head.”

    Kerry: “It appears, as they peel away the weapons of mass destruction issue, and –we may yet find them, Chris. Look, I want to make it clear: Who knows if a month from now, two months from now, you find some weapons. You may. But you certainly didn’t find them where they said they were, and you certainly didn’t find them in the quantities that they said they were. And they weren’t found, and I have talked to some soldiers who have come back who trained against the potential of artillery delivery, because artillery was the way they had previously delivered and it was the only way they knew they could deliver. Now we found nothing that is evidence of that kind of delivery, so the fact is that as you peel it away I think it comes down to this larger ideological and neocon concept of fundamental change in the region and who knows whether there are other motives with respect to Saddam Hussein, but they did it because they thought they could, and because they misjudged exactly what the reaction would be and what they could get away with.”

    I guess you were right, its the “OTHER END” he is speaking with.

  13. Dean Esmay says:

    I’ll note that my friend John Eddy predicted weeks ago on Weekend Pundit that the Dems would find a way to take the nomination from Kerry. This was long before anyone of these other folks were saying it.

    That said? I don’t see it happening.

  14. DreaM says:

    Can someone please point to ONE area Bush et al has excelled in over the last 3 years?
    ONE improvement to the Quality of Life in the US? ( for average working joe americans, that is…)
    ONE domestic policy that has been a sucess?
    ONE foreign policy ?
    ONE ANYTHING that would deserve my vote and a second term.
    Back it up with Facts, don’t include snide general anti-Democrat remarks and untruths – I will research any comments and claims by the way – but please…convince me why I should even consider voting for this adminstration.