Kerry May Defer Nomination
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) may take the unprecedented step of delaying formal acceptance of his nomination as the Democratic candidate for president this summer in an effort to reduce President Bush’s financial advantage for the general election campaign, Kerry advisers said Friday.
Campaign officials confirmed that they are actively considering an extraordinary plan, under which Kerry would not be formally nominated at the Democratic National Convention in late July and instead would be designated as the party’s nominee weeks later, around the time of the Republican convention at the end of August.
The plan, one of several ideas that campaign and party officials said are being discussed to level the financial playing field with the Republicans, is fraught with political complications — maintaining excitement at the convention and countering Republican criticism among them — and some legal questions. But it underscores again the extent to which fundraising and financial considerations are driving campaign strategy in this election cycle.
Aboard his campaign plane en route to a fundraiser in Connecticut on Friday evening, Kerry declined to comment. Asked whether he would accept the party’s nomination in July, he replied with a grin, “I will accept the nomination.”
A Federal Election Commission spokesman, Ian Stirton, would not say whether the strategy of delaying acceptance of a party nomination was acceptable under federal election law, adding that it would be “up to the commission” to decide.
The Democratic convention begins on July 26 in Boston, while the Republican convention opens Aug. 30 in New York. Under federal law, each major-party nominee will receive a check for $74.69 million from the U.S. Treasury to finance the general election campaign. Receipt of the money is triggered by formal acceptance of the nomination, and after that no money raised for the primaries can be used on behalf of each nominee’s general election campaign.
Because of the timing of the two conventions, Kerry would have to start spending his $75 million at the end of July, while Bush could wait five weeks to begin spending his. Between the two conventions, Kerry would be spending public money while Bush could continue to tap the record-breaking campaign treasury he has amassed this year.
I can see the ads now: “I rejected the nomination before I accepted it.”
The current spending rules are rather silly, frankly. This is especially true this season when the Democratic primaries were wrapped up so early and the Republican primaries were pro forma. Still, this is an odd move. The main rationale for moving the Republican convention to September, as I understand it, was to get the convention “bounce” later than usual. As low rated as conventions have become in recent years, I can’t imagine anyone would bother to watch if Kerry made it known he wouldn’t accept the nomination. Indeed, if that’s the case, the networks shouldn’t even bother to cover it.