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John Kerry rallies with Joe Biden, evoking some 2004 parallels

Sahil Kapur, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

NASHUA, N.H. -- For some voters, seeing John Kerry and Joe Biden campaign together felt like deja vu.

In 2004, Kerry was the establishment Democrat who struggled in early-state polls but went on to defeat populist rivals for the nomination, propelled by a perception that he was the most "electable" option to face down a Republican incumbent unpopular with the left.

Now Biden, having recently won Kerry's endorsement, is looking to replicate that feat with a similar message of experience and steady leadership as he faces serious competition from progressive competitors.

But the chummy Washington insiders rallying together on Sunday in New Hampshire also raised the specter of Biden meeting Kerry's general-election fate, by failing to generate the enough voter excitement against an incumbent whose campaign played hard ball.

'Electability argument'

"John Kerry was one of those candidates that folks got behind precisely because of the electability argument. And yet," said Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist who worked for John Edwards in the 2004 primary and has praised Biden's 2020 rival Elizabeth Warren. "John Kerry was a flawed candidate, but much sharper in '04 than Biden is today."


At a town hall in Nashua, Kerry reminisced about the 2004 campaign that he narrowly lost, though he insisted that wouldn't happen to Biden.

"In November of that year, we turned New Hampshire blue again. Carried Michigan, carried Wisconsin, carried Pennsylvania. We came within one state" of winning the general election, he said. "I know that Joe Biden is the person who can beat Donald Trump and bring this country back together."

Enthusiasm gap

But some in the crowd had doubts about Biden's ability to win a general election.


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