The following is what I wrote for the weeklies I edit on the recent appearance by Sen. John Kerry: "When I looked around the banquet room at the Red Rose restaurant in Springfield last week, I was struck by not who was in the room to show their support for Sen. John Kerry, but who wasn't and the fact that there was a longer line at the buffet than there was for people to pay their respects to the senator.
Now generally a long-time incumbent senator or representative has the power to generate a long line of local pols and supporters to kiss his ring and the room at the Red Rose was pretty full. Many of the folks, though, that I had expected to see I didn't. The usual suspects at such an event include city councilors, state reps and senators and mayors as well as local party officials and activists.
And while Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette was there, as well as Springfield City Council President Bud Williams and State Rep. Sean Curran were there, I didn't spot any other mayors. If this had been a function for Sen. Ted Kennedy cancer or not the room at the Red Rose would have had a line out of the door and down the sidewalk.
Of course, Kennedy is living history, one might say, but Kerry, who was the Democratic presidential candidate, represents a bit of history himself. One would think that his leading the Democrats nationally in the last election would have given him more of a cachet.
Now, I only stayed for the first hour, as there is just so much fun I can endure, folks and no, I didn't avail myself of the food as that was for the paying customers. So it's quite possible other elected officials turned up after I left.
The question any political junkie might pose from observation of the gathering was whether or not Kerry's support had slipped, especially in light of the pretty rigorous campaign run by Attorney Ed O'Reilly who has mounted a primary challenge.
As I write this column, the Massachusetts Democratic Convention is looming and for O'Reilly it will be his acid test. If he is able to secure enough support, Massachusetts' voters will have a fairly unique opportunity of having an incumbent senator reaffirm his base supporters.
Political wags have long said if you see Kerry in Western Massachusetts, you know it's an election year, so I expect that we'll get more exposure to Kerry in the coming months. If O'Reilly proves successful, I'm hoping we'll have a debate out here in the hinterlands."
Okay, Ed O'Reilly wound up getting 22 percent of the delegates at the convention. He needed 15 percent. For an underdog, that's an accomplishment. Now does he have a chance against Kerry in the primary? Only if Kerry does something so stupid, so horrible, so unforgivable that party loyalists couldn't ignore.
I can't imagine what that is. After all an accidental death didn't impede Kennedy's senatorial career. It did stop him from being president, though.
So what is confronting Kerry is the knowledge that among loyal party members quite a few are pissed at him. Will he care?
Let's face it, the Senate is a life sentence for those who play the role correctly and Kerry apparently knows how to play the part. He is an abstraction in Western Massachusetts, though. At least Kennedy gets out here about once a year and actually seems to know all the players.
Well, I'm at least guaranteed a little fun as O'Reilly seems to be a scrapper who wants to take Kerry on in debates. Wouldn't it be cool to have a Democrat and a Republican running for Senate that were on equal footing? No incumbents? yeah, yeah I hear you about seniority, but can anyone tell me how Kerry has directly helped Western Massachusetts? What specific programs has he initiated that have been a measurable benefit for us?
© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs