John Kerry Almost Certainly Not Running for President

He's tanned, rested, and ready. But it ain't happening.

In response to yesterday morning’s post responding to several press accounts of maneuvering by Democratic officials to change the rules, several commenters lamented the press’ tendency to overblow discord within the party. While I think that’s an inevitable byproduct of so many outlets vying to break news and generate pageviews rather than a bias against one party, I agree that we should view such reports with skepticism. (And, indeed, one of the reports that I based yesterday’s post on was thin when examined more closely rather than as part of a larger pattern.)

That’s a long setup for an NBC News report out this morning headlined “John Kerry overheard discussing possible 2020 bid amid concern of ‘Sanders taking down the Democratic Party’.”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry — one of Joe Biden’s highest-profile endorsers — was overheard Sunday on the phone at a Des Moines hotel explaining what he would have to do to enter the presidential race amid “the possibility of Bernie Sanders taking down the Democratic Party — down whole.”

Sitting in the lobby restaurant of the Renaissance Savery hotel, Kerry was overheard by an NBC News analyst saying “maybe I’m f—ing deluding myself here” and explaining that to run, he’d have to step down from the board of Bank of America and give up his ability to make paid speeches. Kerry said donors like venture capitalist Doug Hickey would have to “raise a couple of million,” adding that such donors “now have the reality of Bernie.”

Asked about the call later Sunday, Kerry said he was “absolutely not” contemplating joining the Democratic primary race. He reiterated the sentiment in a tweet later, saying “any report otherwise is f—ing (or categorically) false.” Minutes later, he deleted the tweet and reposted it without the expletive.

He told NBC News later Sunday: “This is a complete and total misinterpretation based on overhearing only one side of a phone conversation. A friend who watches too much cable called me wondering whether I’d ever jump into the race late in the game if Democrats were choosing an unelectable nominee. I listed all the reasons I could not possibly do that and would not — and will not under any circumstances — do that.”

It’s not clear how serious Kerry was on the call about jumping into the race. But that he would even discuss the possibility suggests that prominent members of the Democratic Party remain deeply unsettled by the current field, Sanders’ strength in the polls and the ability of any candidate to defeat President Donald Trump.

It also suggests that Kerry, who has campaigned with Biden in Iowa and New Hampshire, may be nervous about the former vice president’s chances ahead of Monday’s first-in-the-nation primary caucuses. At a campaign event in North Liberty on Saturday, Kerry spoke after Biden did, and longer.

So, some unidentified person overheard one side of a phone call. The person making the call not only absolutely denies the unidentified person’s portrayal of the substance of the call but also emphatically and unequivocally denies he is thinking about or may in the future consider running. He further points out that it would be next to impossible for him to do so at this point even if he were thinking about it.

Which, naturally, leads to speculation as to how serious Kerry was about the thing he has said he wasn’t going to do. This, in turn, demonstrates that others like him are not only concerned about Sanders but also about Biden.

That . . . seems like a stretch to me.

Now, I’m quite sure that a lot of Democratic elites are worried about Joe Biden’s ability to continue to survive the onslaught of the field and that Bernie Sanders seems at the moment in the best position to overtake him. But, surely, there are actual Democrats willing to go on the record and say these things directly without having to rely on weird speculation?

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Media, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
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. MarkedMan says:

    Ah, so that is where we are in the campaign season. Reporters are bored to tears with the same old candidates so they have entered the “Dark Horse to shake up the race!” mode.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Pretty much. It has been pretty clear from the get-go that it’s going to be either Biden, Sanders, or Warren. The order has changed as we’ve gone along but the choices haven’t, aside from maybe five minutes when Harris was in the conversation. (There was literally a week last July when Harris was in the mix in terms of the national polls.)

    [I’ve expanded this thought into a separate post.]

  3. JKB says:

    Kerry would make things interesting since he without a doubt has violated the Logan Act, often to the point of appearing treasonous with a country, Iran, that declares it is at war with us.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Well that’s the second story in about as many days where an elderly, failed former candidate is alleged to offer to save the Dems from themselves. The other being Hillary joining a the ticket as VP.

    The nominee will be from the current candidates, with Biden, Warren or Bernie being it. IF the almost infinitesimal possibility of a brokered convention happens, the nominee will come from the current candidates, though the it will be a larger selection. I can see Klobuchar as a compromise.

    Moderate, but a liberal, mid-western, a woman and can sing from the populist hymnal. She could be a second choice for most Dems except the Bernie Bros who who will only be satisfied by Bernie.