John Kerry 2020?

He's tan. He's rested. He's ready.

The midterms aren’t even over yet but speculation is inevitably turning to the 2020 Presidential campaign and the question of who might seek to jump in the race. While we’ve already seen some little-known politicians on the Democratic side hint that they are considering a run, most of the major leading potential candidates are playing their cards close to their vest. Many of these potential candidates, of course, will likely not end up running, but many of them will and most of those are people who are saying that they aren’t ruling out a run for the brass ring. One of those potential candidates is former Senator, Secretary of State, and 2004 Presidential candidate John Kerry:

Former secretary of state John F. Kerry isn’t shutting the door to a second presidential bid, more than a decade after his narrow loss to President George W. Bush in 2004.

In an interview with CBS News, Kerry, who represented Massachusetts in the Senate for 28 years and was secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s second term, declined to say “no” when asked whether he might run for the White House in 2020.

“I’m really not thinking about it,” Kerry said. “Talking about 2020 right now is a total distraction and waste of time. What we need to do is focus on 2018.”

Rather than speculate on his presidential prospects, Kerry said he is planning to hit the campaign trail for other Democrats ahead of the November midterm elections.

“I think that’s the most important work we can do right now, is trying to elect people on a national basis and restore the leadership that the country needs,” Kerry told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on Sunday.

Kerry was on the program to discuss his new memoir, “Every Day Is Extra.”

In 2004, Bush won with 286 electoral votes to Kerry’s 252. The popular-vote margin between the candidates was slim — only about 3 million votes, or three percentage points, separated the two — and many Democrats lamented that Kerry would have taken the White House had he not narrowly lost the key swing state of Ohio.

After his loss, Kerry returned to the Senate and later took a pass on running for president in 2008. In announcing his decision at the time, he acknowledged that he “came close, certainly close enough to try again,” but he ultimately viewed the Senate as the place where he could be most effective in opposing the Bush administration’s foreign policy, particularly on the war in Iraq.

If Kerry were to jump into the 2020 Democratic fray, he would have plenty of company. More than two-dozen potential candidates are testing the presidential waters, including former vice president Joe Biden, Sens. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz, and Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her case against President Trump.

Working against Kerry is that Democratic primary voters have been supporting women and minorities over white men at unprecedented rates this year. Many among the new crop of Democrats are also calling for generational change at the top of the party, a trend that could have repercussions in the race for the 2020 White House nomination. Kerry will be 76 by Election Day 2020.

Sunday was not the first time Kerry has mentioned a possible bid. In January, an Israeli newspaper reported that he had told Palestinian officials that he was considering a second White House run.

(…)

Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist who previously worked on Kerry’s campaigns and as a member of his Senate staff, said that although it’s too soon to speculate about 2020 presidential prospects, “there’s an advantage to having gone through the process once” and come close to winning.

Like the late senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marsh said, Kerry returned to the Senate after losing the White House and played a key role in shaping U.S. policy before going on to serve as secretary of state. And although the elections from 2008 to 2018 have underscored the Democratic Party’s diversity and inclusivity, that shouldn’t preclude certain candidates jumping in the race, she said.

“I don’t think there’s any prescription to what kind of person — based on gender and race and age — is the best person to face whomever the Republican nominee is,” Marsh said. “The great thing about campaigns is you find out what kind of candidate a person is, and more importantly, what kind of person. So, who is the best person to lead this country in 2020?”

As with several other potential 2020 candidates such as Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and even the President himself, the most obvious question that comes to mind about Kerry is his age. Kerry is 74 now and would be 76 years before the first votes are even cast in the 2020 Presidential race. If he ran and won, he’d be 77 before Inauguration Day and 81 by the end of a hypothetical first term in office. The question of whether he’d be up for a run to begin with, or whether Democrats would want to rally behind a candidate who will be that old during the time they are running and serving.

Beyond this, one has to wonder exactly what Kerry would bring to the race. On the domestic policy side of the aisle, he seems to still be in the centrist wing of the Democratic Party that gave us candidates like Hillary Clinton and indeed his time in the Senate isn’t exactly known for its plethora of domestic policy ideas to begin with. Instead, it’s in the foreign policy arena that Kerry made his mark in the Senate and, of course, as Secretary of State. I suppose it’s possible that by the time 2020 rolls around we’ll be in a world where foreign policy is an important issue in the race but that’s something that generally hasn’t been the case since the Cold War ended. Given that, it’s hard to see what exactly it is that Kerry would run on.

In all likelihood, this is just a case of the former Secretary of State keeping his options open to keep himself relevant in the Democratic Party during the midterms and in the lead up to 2020. I doubt he’ll actually run, but then I’m the same person who doubted Donald Trump so who know what will happen.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Nope.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    I don’t understand the economics of running for president, but judging by the number of people who do it with no hope of election, apparently it’s a good living while expanding your contacts and burnishing your brand. And all you have to do is not say “no” when asked.

    On the other hand, we could do a lot worse than John Kerry, a lot worse, a whole lot worse.

  3. Franklin says:

    There are certainly worse possibilities. If we’re going to compare Kerry to Hillary, yeah they’d have the same basic policies (which isn’t all bad). And he has far fewer scandals, real or imagined.

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  4. al Ameda says:

    Oh great. Not only is he a fresh new face, but he’s a military hero too. Plus, bonus points, he’s not a Boomer, he’s older! What could go wrong?

    Seriously, we’d get 16 months of the Swift Boat Maggots for “Truth” …. AGAIN.

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  5. Kylopod says:

    I have just one small request:

    Can we have a candidate who will protect Social Security, not one who’s already on it?

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  6. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    Yeah; I wouldn’t mind seeing a youngster of, oh, say, 55 or so in office.

  7. Kathy says:

    I suppose it’s possible that by the time 2020 rolls around we’ll be in a world where foreign policy is an important issue in the race but that’s something that generally hasn’t been the case since the Cold War ended. Given that, it’s hard to see what exactly it is that Kerry would run on.

    It may be that foreign policy is not a big electoral issue now, but it is a big issue when governing. The last three presidents, plus el Cheeto, have not done well in that area.

    That said, Kerry is too old for the job now, IMO.

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  8. MarkedMan says:

    @al Ameda:

    Seriously, we’d get 16 months of the Swift Boat Maggots for “Truth” …. AGAIN

    As long as the main stream media continues to value ratings above news reporting every single a Democrat will be Swift Boated. For god’s sake, until the ratings appeal ran dry they host endless debates as to whether Obama was really born in Kenya with his grandparents sneaking into Hawaii in the dead of night to plant two false birth announcements in the local newspapers. No, the Republican slime machine will start vomiting it’s filthy ejecta, the media will give “both sides” their platform, and Democratic fools will get angry at their own leadership and spend their days caviling over what other candidate would have been so pure the Repubs wouldn’t be able to tear them down.

    Lest you think something has changed, just look at the airtime given to creatures such as Kelly Ann Conway.

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  9. MBunge says:

    Why is this a story? “Old man whom no one actually wants to run for President declines to say he’s not running while trying to sell his book.”

    Why in the world is he even on TV humping a book that not only will hardly anyone read but everyone knows it? Has “Meet the Press” so exhaustively covered every other subject on Earth that Kerry was the only option? There’s literally nothing else happening that merits space in the Post?

    Mike

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  10. MBunge says:

    @MarkedMan: the media will give “both sides” their platform

    Yeah, that’s really been a problem of the Trump era. The media is just too gosh darned even-handed.

    Mike

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  11. John430 says:

    “He’s tan. He’s rested. He’s ready.”
    …and still incompetent. He makes Trump look like a genius.

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  12. Kylopod says:

    @John430:

    …and still incompetent.

    Kind of like you at making a cogent point, huh?

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  13. Franklin says:

    @John430:

    He makes Trump look like a genius.

    No, that’s you.

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  14. Kathy says:

    @Franklin:

    No one make Trump looks like a genius. It’s a physical impossibility.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    Does he have a book coming out soon?

    I don’t think he will actually run, and I don’t think he would get the nomination if he did.

    Losing while trying to unseat the unpopular George W. Bush is not the type of experience we are looking for when trying to unseat the unpopular Donald J. Trump.

  16. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher:

    Losing while trying to unseat the unpopular George W. Bush

    Bush was not unpopular in 2004. His approval rating on Election Day (according to RCP) was 49.5% positive, 46.8% negative. Not slam-dunk numbers by any means, but a narrow reelection was pretty to be expected, regardless of who the challenger was.

  17. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    Yup. The Bush the younger’s presidency was atypical due to the 9/11 attacks. Naturally the country rallied to the executive branch in the immediate aftermath. The Iraq War wasn’t, quite, seen as a disaster by 2004 (not by enough people). And the economy was doing reasonably well.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @MBunge: Everybody seems to think there’s some lesson from MCain, although no one seems to be able to say just what it is in actionable terms. But apparently we’re all supposed to be nice to the other side, so here it is. You’d have had a valid point about this not really being much of a story, if you hadn’t insisted on being an arse about it.

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  19. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: I stand corrected. I should know better than to rely on my memory for anything at this point.

    I thought there was a big, long dip in his first term, where he was hitting 35% approval, but apparently not:
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/116500/presidential-approval-ratings-george-bush.aspx

    Maybe I am remembering the numbers for privatizing Social Security. Maybe I am just insane.

    Looking at that graph, though, I am also surprised by just how steadily his support withered for most of his Presidency.

  20. Gustopher says:

    @Kylopod: I stand corrected. I should know better than to rely on my memory for anything at this point.

    I thought there was a big, long dip in his first term, where he was hitting 35% approval, but apparently not:
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/116500/presidential-approval-ratings-george-bush.aspx

    Maybe I am remembering the numbers for privatizing Social Security. Maybe I am just insane.

    Looking at that graph, though, I am also surprised by just how steadily his support withered for most of his Presidency.

    —-

    My ability to type my email address is about as bad as my memory… so there’s a copy of this in the moderation queue. Oops.

  21. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: @Gustopher: A helpful tool is Gallup’s historical approval ratings page:

    https://news.gallup.com/interactives/185273/presidential-job-approval-center.aspx

    This shows charts going back to Truman of each president’s approval rating throughout his presidency. If you hover the mouse over any point in the chart, it will tell you the exact date and rating. You can also look at disapproval ratings, and depending on how recent it is, you can check the president’s ratings among sub-groups such as Dems, Repubs, and indies, or other demographic divisions.

    The basic picture of Bush’s presidency is that he began his first term with solid but not overwhelming ratings (mostly the 50s), then after 9/11 they shot up to an astronomical, record-breaking 90%. After that, the rest of his presidency was a more-or-less steady downward slide until they reached record lows by the end (the mid-20s, though his final rating before leaving office was 34%).

    In 2004 they were right at the brink of crashing but hadn’t yet done so. As I mentioned, on Election Day they were slightly below 50%, albeit with higher approval than disapproval. That makes it a little tricky to determine whether he was a favorite to win reelection or not. There’s historically a close relationship between an incumbent president’s approval ratings and how well they do in their reelection bid. I’d make the rough estimate that any president with ratings above the mid-50s is practically a shoo-in for reelection, and it doesn’t matter who the other candidate is; likewise, any president with ratings below the mid-40s is almost certainly a goner, regardless of the opponent.

    The question is how a president in the mid-range (high 40s to low 50s) should be expected to do. Bush in 2004 was in that category, as was Obama in 2012 (though Obama’s ratings were slightly better than Bush’s). It’s reasonable to think the 2004 race was winnable for Democrats. On the other hand, it’s possible Kerry overperformed under the circumstances, and that a Generic Democrat would have done worse.

    One problem I’ve noticed over the years is that there’s an overwhelming conventional belief that any candidate who loses is by definition fatally flawed. Many people take this belief for granted because the stories that get told after each election–which are largely the stories that end up in the history books–always paint the losing candidate in a negative light. All the candidate’s good qualities, everything the candidate did right, are forgotten in favor of the candidate’s mistakes and blunders and weaknesses.

    There’s almost a tautological quality to this: the fact that the candidate lost proves they were a bad candidate, and we “know” they were bad because they lost. People don’t question this belief because it’s so deeply ingrained in our political culture, and in the conventional narratives that have been told about past elections. So Obama and Bill Clinton are once in a generation talents, whereas Dukakis and Gore and Kerry and Hillary may have made good presidents, but they were lousy candidates. Or at least that’s what we’re supposed to believe.

    People don’t realize how easily that narrative could have been different. If John Kerry had flipped 100,000 votes in Ohio and become president (even without necessarily winning the popular vote), the narrative would have emerged that his gravitas and stature as a military hero, and his debating skills, were too much for the lightweight Bush.

    Likewise, if Obama had been running in a less favorable year for Dems (say, 2004, or an alternate 2008 where things weren’t going so badly for Republicans) and had lost, I’ll bet you the narrative would have been that he was a weak candidate–too inexperienced for prime time, too professorial and distant. His statement about blue-collar voters clinging to their guns and their religion would have come to define him as devastatingly as Dukakis’s infamous answer on the death penalty question. And of course a lot of people would say America wasn’t ready to elect a black president, and that Dems were out of their head to have nominated someone with the middle name “Hussein.”

    See what I mean?

  22. Kylopod says:

    Please rescue my comment from moderation.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod: Me too, please.

  24. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    One problem I’ve noticed over the years is that there’s an overwhelming conventional belief that any candidate who loses is by definition fatally flawed.

    Would that this standard applied only to political candidates. In pretty much every aspect of life, coming in second makes you a loser. Beating all the candidates in your party’s primaries, all the teams in your conference, every other competitor but one at the Olympics, it’s judged, counts for nothing.

    Having said all that, I’d argue there are patterns. the Cleveland Browns in the 80s did very well, until they reached the playoffs. Hillary Clinton lost twice to candidates less qualified than her, Obama in 08 and El Cheeto in 16.

    I wouldn’t call either of them losers, but clearly they had a problem in their respective fields that limited them to a lower level. Perhaps the pressure was too much for them, perhaps they couldn’t manage the higher stakes involved, perhaps they misjudged or underestimated the opposition.

  25. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    Having said all that, I’d argue there are patterns…. Hillary Clinton lost twice to candidates less qualified than her, Obama in 08 and El Cheeto in 16.

    Of course. And it’s especially noticeable because Hillary came into each of those races with enormous advantages (overwhelming institutional party support in the first case, the most unpopular candidate in history as her opponent in the second), which she went on to squander. In both cases she demonstrated a habit of playing the hare to her opponent’s tortoise–as in her 2008 decision to focus on big states at the expense of small ones, or her 2016 decision to campaign in Arizona while ignoring Wisconsin.

    But the point I’m trying to make is how the results invariably color our perceptions of the losing candidate. Imagine the following scenario: The 2016 election happens with exactly the same map–except she narrowly ekes out victories in the crucial states of WI, MI, and PA, putting her over the top in the electoral college and handing her the presidency.

    What would be the post-election narrative that would emerge? On the one hand, Trump would still have done better than most people expected, coming right to the brink of winning. Personally, though, I think that would be quickly washed away. The GOP would start eating itself alive, with loads of people wondering how the party could have been so stupid as to nominate such an awful, incompetent candidate as Trump. Meanwhile, people would have lauded Hillary’s poise and professionalism, her disciplined campaigning, her superior debating skills, her ability to retain her composure in the face of his bullying.

    All that, based on a relatively trivial shift in the number of votes. It’s why one of my favorite political anecdotes is the one where someone after the 1960 election told Bobby Kennedy he was a genius, and he replied “Change 60,000 votes and I’m a bum.” That applies not just to 2016, but to pretty much every election there’s ever been. Even when the race is practically a tie, the person who didn’t quite make it past that finish line will always be the loser.

  26. Tyrell says:

    Secretary Kerry is a nice person and I respect his service in Vietnam. My feeling is that presidents should have military service.
    Kerry needs to stay away from the car dealer lots. “Bamboozled”. Flimmed and flammed, parched and starched, shaked and baked, hung out to dry: Iran deal.