Bowing to pressure, John Kerry decided Wednesday to accept the nomination at the Democratic presidential convention in July, scuttling a plan to delay the formality so he could narrow President Bush’s public money advantage.
He turned quickly to his backup plan, issuing a statement with a blunt appeal for campaign donations.
“Boston is the place where America’s freedom began, and it’s where I want the journey to the Democratic nomination to be completed,” Kerry said in a statement released by his campaign. “On Thursday, July 29, with great pride, I will accept my party’s nomination for president in the city of Boston. From there we will begin our journey to a new America.”
The statement ended six days of controversy over an idea that was supposed to remain a secret for several more weeks.
Some Kerry advisers had wanted him to forgo the nomination at the convention in late July and wait five weeks until Bush accepts the Republican nod. That would give both candidates the same time to spend $75 million in public money set aside for the general election.
But The Associated Press reported the plan before Kerry had decided whether to adopt it, causing an uproar in his home town of Boston — site of the July 26-29 convention — and among Democrats who feared that voters would view the tactic as too political.
“I just want to get on with it. It’s just a distraction,” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told CNN shortly before the decision was announced.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who had lobbied to bring the convention to Boston long before Kerry wrapped up the nomination, is “obviously pleased the matter is settled,” said spokesman David Smith.
Mocked by Republicans
Republicans mocked Kerry, saying only the Democratic candidate could be both in favor of the nomination and against it. “I would never try to play the people of New York for chumps like he’s trying to play the people of Boston,” Republican Party chairman Ed Gillespie said, referring to the GOP gathering in New York City in late August.
Kerry’s statement noted his fund-raising success and urged supporters to “accept the challenge” against Bush. “I intend to rely on the grass-roots army which has already brought us so far beyond anyone’s expectations,” Kerry said. The statement included a link to his campaign Web site, where donations can be made.
He promised to explore ways to level the playing field as he faces Bush’s five-week advantage. Kerry officials said the most likely approach is having the candidate raise money for the Democratic National Committee and state parties, and give his excess cash to the DNC at convention time.
State and national parties could air ads against Bush during the five-week period. However, the Kerry campaign would have little or no control over those commercials under federal law.
Had the deliberations remained a secret and Kerry had approved of the plan, he may not have announced it until shortly before the convention — or even during it, several party officials said.
The plan raised numerous political and legal questions, such as would Kerry lose federal funding for the convention; could his running mate be nominated, but not Kerry; and would television networks and other media reduce their coverage. His decision rendered those questions moot.