Kerry and Edwards: The Buddy Picture
By Mark Leibovich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 8, 2004; Page C01
CLEVELAND, July 7 -- To begin with, there's the dicey matter of the all-important first shot of John Kerry and John Edwards and their wives getting off the campaign plane. The new running mates and running matrons emerge with a triumphant wave. But at the top of the mobile staircase looms a large, unfortunate sign:
This refers to the aviation services firm that runs the small airport, not to the net worth (several times over) of the candidates who hopscotched the Rust Belt on Wednesday in an effort to connect with Real Americans. Luckily, not a lot of people are here to greet the plane and catch the irony, just a smattering of local veterans and -- the word "d'oh!" comes to mind -- about 50 or 60 reporters and photographers.
This is not a good start to the Kerry-Edwards Double-Date Tour of Real America (nor is it a good start for the advance man, or former advance man who didn't catch the Million Air sign). Because this day is all about visuals, the first chance to see Kerry and Edwards together on the tarmac, stage, TV screen, to note their body language, glean clues about their chemistry.
Initial impressions can be a potent, perhaps even fatal component of how well a running mate wears. Dan Quayle never recovered from his disastrous unveiling before the 1988 Republican National Convention, at which he jumped around the stage, bug-eyed, over-grinning, poking the stunned-looking nominee, George Bush, in the chest.
Conversely, Bill Clinton's first shots with the serious but youthful Al Gore conveyed a can-do vigor that underscored the campaign's central theme of Change. The shots exuded the aura of Young Guns -- the actual headline of that week's Newsweek.
The Double-Date Tour -- which will last through the weekend -- started in Pittsburgh with a photo shoot at the 88-acre Heinz estate, where the prospective first and second families spent the night. They proceeded to Ohio, to the heart of Kucinich Country, for the day's centerpiece event, a waterfront rally under threatening skies.
Balloons, flags, signs, loud music, all that. Before the candidates arrive, the crowd of 10,000 tells who they want ("John Kerry!") and when they want him ("right now!"). And they learn that the eyes of a great nation are focused squarely on Cleveland (according to Mayor Jane Campbell) and that the Republicans care only about the rich (according to some Democratic candidate for something).
The Kerrys and Edwardses take the stage to U2's "Beautiful Day," just in time for the noon news. They are a fist-pumping, thumbs-upping testament to good barbering and good dentistry, a Brady Bunch hodgepodge of six toddlers, young adults and stepkids, evenly divided between blonds and brunets, boys and girls.
John Edwards seems to be consciously amping himself down, restraining the energy and charm that won over so many voters during the primaries. He seems in full compliance with the Don't Outshine Kerry memo. His slight hunch contrasts with the tippy-toe bounciness that marked his primary season appearances. He looks physically smaller, and not just because he's next to the taller Kerry. His hair, sprayed down at a sharp 45-degree angle, lacks its usual boyish moppiness.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Togetherness in the spotlight: The Kerrys and Edwardses wave from their plane.
(Jim Young -- Reuters)