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Londoners say, ‘Which Kerry?’

John  Kerry has not been the forefront of the news in the UK and Europe so far, but his profile is starting to bubble as he becomes the clear Democratic frontrunner. NBC News' Carl Rochelle reports from London.
/ Source: NBC News

The name Kerry blanketed most newspapers in London last week and was the name on the lips of many Londoners, but it was not the Kerry you would expect.

The "Sunday Express" reported a telling anecdote over the weekend about a conversation among Labor members of the House of Commons in a bar last week.

One Labor Member of Parliament said, "I think Kerry is going to win it," prompting others to jump in to discuss why Massachusetts Senator John Kerry would capture the Democratic nomination.

That produced a blank stare from the MP who had posed the question. He had been talking about Kerry McFadden, the favorite to win the "Queen of the Jungle" title in the British Television reality show, "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here."

On the day the senator captured the key states of Virginia and Tennessee, literally driving Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark from the race, only one London newspaper, "The Daily Telegraph," published the news on the front page, above the fold. Other papers talked about the other Kerry.

Kerry slowing seeping into media abroad
It took a while before Kerry's climb to the front-runner position in the Democratic race began to be noticed in Britain. Last week, the Telegraph devoted all of page 15 to the Kerry effort, under the banner, "Kerry on course for record win as another rival [General Clark] quits."

The Telegraph featured a brief biography, "He looks like Lincoln and talks like JFK, but does he have what it takes?"

One article described his war record and the support he is receiving from those who served with him, "Band of brothers fight for man who saved them in Vietnam."

And in an acknowledgment of how the U.S. presidential election game is played, one columnist noted, "Democrats brace for $100 million TV smear campaign."

The columnist predicted that Republicans would make an all-out assault on the senator, now that he appears to have the Democratic nomination in hand.

Small towns shine from Kerry connection
Like the rising tide that lifts all boats, Kerry's rising political popularity has taken others with it. In the small British village of East Anglia, Kevin Armstrong's neighbors didn't know the 55-year-old geography teacher was Kerry's country cousin. They are likely to know now after the "Times of London" profiled Kerry's British cousin.

"Johnny was always the big cousin. Big in that he is tall, but also larger than life. He is somebody who stands out. It isn't just strength of character. It's an American thing, he is a real go-getter and an ambitious guy," the teacher told the newspaper.

The tiny town of Horni Benesov in the Czech Republic also is on the political map because of word that Kerry's grandfather was born there.

Reports from the tiny town of 2,400 people in a far flung corner of the Czech Republic suggest the townspeople can't get enough of the reports of Kerry's quest for the White House or his Czech ancestor, an ethnic German Jew who fled rising Anti-semitism for America at the turn of the last century.

Tabloid interest
The sniff of scandal involving Kerry was the only reason he made it onto the front pages of the tabloids over the weekend when a gossip website said the senator was once linked to a reporter. Both Kerry and the woman denied any wrongdoing.

Some papers here were quick to point out that his wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry, in an interview with "Elle" magazine last year had reportedly told her first husband that "if he had an affair, she would maim him."

Heinz Kerry, heir to the Heinz food fortune reportedly worth a half billion dollars, married John Kerry after her first husband, John Heinz III, was killed in an airplane accident.

However, the prospect of a "juicy scandal" had done for Kerry what his victories at the ballot box could not, pushed him onto the front pages of papers here and increased the probability that he would be the Kerry people are talking about.