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Reversing Kerry's Fortunes

Reversing Kerry's FortunesOver the last eight months, Tufts graduate Alan Solomont has helped orchestrate a major turnaround of John Kerry’s fundraising effort. Boston.

Boston [04.20.04] These days John Kerry seems to have little trouble raising money from Democratic supporters. Last week, the Massachusetts Senator set a state fundraising record with a massive event attended by nearly 3,000 supporters. But that wasn't the case during the fall, when Kerry's war chest and poll numbers were dragging. His fortunes have certainly changed since then and many credit a small group of people - including Tufts graduate Alan Solomont - for Kerry's about-face.

"[Solomont is one] of the people who helped Kerry bounce back from last year's Death Valley lows to arrive at the pinnacle of primary politics," reported The Boston Globe. "He was one of the fundraisers who kept dialing for dollars at a time when they were left longing for the comparative ease of pulling teeth."

At the time - with Howard Dean surging in the polls and the Iowa caucuses quickly approaching - Kerry was struggling politically and financially.

"[But Solomont] insisted to anyone who would listen that though Kerry might be down, he was poised to make an astonishing comeback," reported the Globe. The Tufts graduate - who was former finance chair of the Democratic National Committee - refused to give up.

In the Wall Street Journal's profile of the fundraisers behind the candidates for president, the newspaper followed Solomont as he worked the phones and his own personal network to keep donations - the life blood of a political campaign - flowing for Kerry.

For months, he made a lot of calls and was turned down by many.

"You win some, you lose some," he told the Journal after one of his calls turned up empty. After grabbing a handful of jellybeans, he picked up the phone and dialed a new number.

The problem wasn't unique to Kerry's team, but they were under intense pressure to find new sources of funds to support the long and expensive primary stretch. And few could ignore President Bush's extraordinary fundraising efforts, which were bringing in tens of millions of dollars a month.

Solomont and his team stayed positive and stuck to what they knew best.

"[Political giving] is a learned behavior," Solomont told the Journal, explaining why his team relied so heavily on donors who have given to Kerry's previous Senate campaigns. "[A primary] is not the time to start teaching it."

During the months leading up to the primaries, Solomont was competing for donors with up to ten other campaigns. Leading the pack was Howard Dean's campaign, which rattled the party establishment with a massive - and quite lucrative - online fundraising effort.

"The Dean phenomena is unexpected," Solomont told one would-be donor before the primaries began. "But we are talking about who is really equipped to win this race."

Much has changed in the months that followed that conversation. Kerry turned an unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa into a virtual sweep of the Democratic primaries. Support for the Senator has skyrocketed and donations have followed suit.

Last week, nearly 3,000 people attended a fundraising gala organized by Solomont for Kerry. The event - which featured a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner sung by the Tufts a cappella group Essence - raised $4 million.

"This is absolutely unprecedented," Solomont told the Globe. "I have raised money at every level since 1978. The energy and enthusiasm is like nothing we have ever seen."

The fundraiser smashed a state fundraising record of $2.5 million set in 2000 by Al Gore. It also represented a major turnaround for Solomont's team - which raised nearly as much money during that event as it did during the three months leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

"The local Democratic financial machine has come out in full force," reported the Globe, with Solomont at the helm. After pledging to raise $150,000 for the dinner, he more than doubled the amount to $350,000. Other fundraisers followed suit.

As the Tufts graduate told the newspaper: "It tells you something about the excitement among the people of Massachusetts for a Massachusetts son."

Whether Kerry will make it to the White House remains to be seen, but most agree that his comeback will not soon be forgotten among pundits and party heavy weights.

And, as the Globe reports, the Massachusetts Senator couldn't have done it "without a lot of help from his friends."

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