It was just one little endorsement of the president of the United States by the mayor of a heartland city. The year was 2004 and the race was close. The mayor embraced President Bush and even did a little campaigning for him.
Trouble was, Mayor Randy Kelly was the Democratic mayor of overwhelmingly Democratic St. Paul, Minn. And has it caused problems for his reelection campaign.
One national Democratic politician after another has waved a flag for his opponent, fellow Democrat and former city council member Chris Coleman. Several flew to St. Paul to deliver the defeat-Kelly message in person, among them Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who carried Minnesota but lost the nation last year.
"Obviously, Senator Kerry had something of a score to settle," said Andrew O'Leary, executive director of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Kerry held a fundraiser and a rally last month for Coleman. Former presidential candidate Wesley K. Clark campaigned for him, as did New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) sent an e-mail to Minnesota supporters seeking money and votes, said Coleman staffer Bob Hume, who reported that former Kerry running mate John Edwards drafted a favorable piece of literature.
"I am one charming guy," Coleman said with a laugh. "We said from the beginning that this race has national importance, both in terms of partnerships between the federal government and cities, and setting a tone for 2006."
A substantial percentage of likely voters in St. Paul have told pollsters that Kelly's curious endorsement of Bush makes them more likely to back Coleman in Tuesday's general election. Coleman already finished ahead of Kelly in the September primary.
Ears burning, Kelly called a Sept. 29 news conference. His campaign sent out a news release promising a "major address on the status of the St. Paul's mayor's race." Some wondered if he would drop out or maybe become a Republican.
His purpose, it turned out, was to apologize to the Democratic faithful -- though not to recant. "I've heard your anger," he said. "I respect it. I understand it."
Kelly called himself "an unwavering Democrat." He vowed he would not "backtrack." Asking his followers to move on, he said, "Voting against me won't bring the troops home. It won't stick it to George Bush."
Maybe not, but voters seem ready to stick it to Kelly. In two recent polls, the mayor was trailing by more than 30 percentage points.
DNC Pins Down Convention Dates
It always pays to plan ahead. In this case, the Democratic National Committee is planning waaaay ahead. Last week, it announced that dates for the 2008 convention will be Monday, Aug. 25, through Thursday, Aug. 28.
Pencil it in. But don't worry yet about a hotel room. The DNC has not decided what city will host its quadrennial gathering to select a presidential nominee.
To political operatives, the dates are significant. The convention will come after the summer Olympics in Beijing and the distraction that the Games present to voter attention spans. In addition, the eventual nominee will be allowed to raise and spend private money for a longer period than Kerry was able to in 2004, after his late-July nomination. Under federal rules, presidential candidates accepting public funding for the general election campaign must cease private fundraising after they are nominated.
Nevadans Still Betting on Reid, Poll Says
Democratic pollster Mark Mellman gave Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) some reason to breathe a little easier. New data suggest that the bigger target Reid presents for Republican spears in his leadership post so far has not hurt his standing in his generally conservative state.
The poll showed Reid is viewed favorably by 65 percent of Nevada voters, the same rating he carried in October 2004, a month before he became leader. Twenty-nine percent had an unfavorable image of Reid.
Experience shows that it pays for Democratic leaders to take the temperature at home often. Former Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle grew more controversial in South Dakota the more he raised his profile nationally, and he lost his reelection bid last year.
St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly seemed to be getting a pat on the back in August 2004 from President Bush after the Democratic officeholder endorsed the president for reelection. On Tuesday, Kelly will find out how voters in the Democratic city feel about him.