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A Student of Kerry's Career

A Student of Kerry's CareerCan John Kerry win the White House? Political science professor Jeffrey Berry – a self-described “political junkie” – analyzed the Democratic frontrunner for WGBH’s Greater Boston. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.20.04] In Massachusetts, politics is a full contact sport and Tufts' Jeffrey Berry is one of its biggest fans. With the state's junior senator building national momentum around his campaign for the White House, WGBH's Greater Boston turned to Berry - a political science professor and self-described "political junkie" - to analyze John Kerry's past and future and shed some light on how Tufts graduate Bill Richardson may play into the senator's presidential bid.

"I think I've been in Massachusetts far too long," Berry joked with Greater Boston host Emily Rooney. "I think that's how I've become a student of John Kerry's."

With the Massachusetts senator poised to earn the Democratic Party's nomination in July, Kerry's 18-year record as one of the state's most visible political figures is coming under increasingly intense scrutiny. But according to Berry, there may not be much to examine.

"[Kerry] has done very little in the way of lawmaking. The Associated Press did a study and could only find eight bills that he had sponsored that became law, and most of them were very trivial," Berry told Greater Boston. "He's not found his interest or his niche."

Described as a lawmaker who has tried hard to be a careful statesman, Kerry has created a record in Congress that may allow him a lot more room to maneuver on tough issues.

"You know John Kerry's middle name, I think, is ‘nuance,'" Berry told WGBH. "He carefully plays issues down the middle. I think it can be a strength in the campaign."

That may be the case with the controversial issue of gay marriage, which is garnering national attention following a historic decision in support of same-sex marriage by Massachusetts' highest court.

"Republicans are going to make every effort to make it a burden on him," Berry said. "They're going to do everything they can to tie him to gay marriage."

Kerry has said he does not support gay marriage, but he voted against the "Defense of Marriage" bill that strictly defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

"He was one of the few that did so," said the Tufts professor. As a result, "He can play both sides [of controversial issues.]"

The strategy could help the Massachusetts Senator distance himself with the liberal reputations of past presidential candidates from the Bay State. ("Republicans are going to point out that his voting record is 96 percent similar to Ted Kennedy's," Berry said.)

If he wins the party nomination in July, Kerry is also expected to choose a vice presidential candidate who can sure up his political base.

"I don't think John Edwards does look best because I don't think Kerry is convinced that Edwards can carry his home state of California. I think the Democrats have basically conceded the South to the Republicans," Berry told Greater Boston. "I think, instead, he's going to look at Bill Richardson, former United Nations ambassador, currently, the governor of New Mexico."

But Kerry may not want to be the lone Democratic candidate just yet.

"I think Kerry actually wants John Edwards to stay in the race. He wants him to stay in the race at least until Super Tuesday, so he has an excuse to run commercials in the 10 states that are having a primary on March 2nd," Berry told WGBH. "It's generating an enormous amount of free publicity for the campaign. Nothing could be better for him than to have Edwards stay around just a little bit longer."

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