Hot flashes are usually a private matter. Alison Teal shares hers.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

“Ten years ago who would have guessed that the Democratic Convention would be all about muscular power and Vietnam?”, our friend, Marty Peretz, mused this morning. Well, it was, and everyone seemed to love it. We certainly did.

Credentials to the Convention were renewed every day, so there was a mad dash in the mornings to get things in order. The most important thing was to figure out which events and parties you could wangle an invitation to. People were checking in with each other on cell phones from hotel hospitality suites: “Really! What time does that start?” “How do you get an invitation to that?” Next, the trading began. “How about I give you two Hall Passes for one “Tribute To Ted” ticket.”

Dozens of groups sponsored events. There was the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) then there are all the corporate lobby sponsored events -- a list of at least 117 events, with sponsors from the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to Prudential Insurance, Vorizon and City Group – and the special interest group parties. Governor Bill Richardson was toasted at a “Champagne And Cigar” evening. The Puerto Rican Democratic Party sponsored a “Boston Rum Party”. The Association of Nurses gave a club party with the come-on title “The Big Easy”.

It’s party planners’ and caterers’ heaven -- unless, of course, the convention turns ugly or interesting. In 1968, it did both. In Chicago I was one of the lucky people in charge of putting together 150 dinners to woo uncommitted delegates. Each dinner was at a private house or apartment. Naturally they varied in size. The McCarthy people had bios on each of the delegates and each biography was matched with an appropriate advocate from the campaign, that is, someone who could make the case for McCarthy, such as a Vietnam Vet or a businessperson or a union member…. You get the idea. The invitations were mailed and the delegates accepted the free dinners eagerly. The hosts and hostesses made the arrangements. Then came the convention and along with it the police riots, the turmoil on the convention floor, the platform fights and the Chicago cab strike. Some of us spent the first several evenings of the convention at private homes on Lakeshore Drive sitting alone with a hostess who had prepared a catered dinner for seventy-five. Others were in the streets. I would have vastly preferred the streets.

But a few notes on some of the events this last week. They took place in nightclubs, hotel suites and harbor cruise ships. There were loads that neither Sam nor I were invited to, though that didn’t always stop me. I managed to crash a lovely yacht party just long enough to remember how much I hate boats. (Stepping on to a boat triggers my projectile vomiting gene.)

Here are some of the ones I did like:

∑ The "Tribute to Ted" at Symphony Hall
It was billed as the hottest ticket in town and featured the Boston Pops with John Williams conducting, U2's Bono, Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Yo-Yo Ma. The master of ceremonies was Glen Close who began the evening by saying “I feel like I’ve just come out of the past four years and I feel … like water on the desert”.

All the seats had been removed from the hall, which was set up cabaret style, with plates of little sandwiches and cheese next to bottles of red and white wine. Famous political friends of Kennedy attending included George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Fritz Hollings, Madeleine Albright and our friend, David Mixner, who told me it was his unnatural attraction to Teal Ties that made him gay. (But that’s another story.) The Kennedy clan (numbering 135) was scattered throughout the crowd of 1,000 – an event without media. We chatted with a lot of friends like Phyllis and Mora Segal, and Thalia Tsongas Schlesinger while admiring Tony Podesta’s scarlet-colored shoes. His wife, Heather, said “He got them on sale. Surprise, surprise!”

Mitchell created a sentimental mood by opening the show with “The Impossible Dream” which he said was Kennedy’s favorite song. Together, Bono and Yo Yo Ma performed “Hands That Built America”. Other musical numbers included McDonald belting out “As Long As He Need Me” and Ma’s “The Green Groves of Erin”. Bono included the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy in his song “Pride” about an American heart with Irish blood.

The omnipresent (during the convention, that is) Ben Affleck made a surprise appearance near the end. Dressed as a waiter, he sallied on stage with a drinks’ tray held high. “I wasn’t able to get a ticket to this event, sir, but I am a constituent and I wanted to let you know how much I’ve admired you. You’ve been the Massachusetts senator all of my life!” Kennedy looked humorously appalled at the age reference. Then Affleck added “and I’m sure you will be a senator here long after I’m dead!”

In his thank you, Kennedy said our fight is
“not with some monarch named George who inherited the crown -- though it sometimes seems so….” He then donned a white jacket and conducted “Stars and Stripes”. In the fast tempo parts, both of his arms were forming frantic figure eights and his whole body wiggled. The applause was riotous.

∑ The Kennedy Library Foreign Policy Panel
The National Democratic Institute sponsored a discussion moderated by Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe with Madeleine Albright and Senator Joe Biden with the generous assistance of John Shattuck, the library’s director. The highlight for me – since I am a silly person of no depth – was when Albright said “There are people in this country who are afraid of the United Nations; people who don’t like the United Nations because it is full of foreigners…” long pause “which frankly can’t be helped.”

The highlight for Sam – because he is serious person -- was the large number of foreign diplomats who attended the Convention, many of whom were colleagues in Vienna and are now their country’s Ambassador to the U.S. We were both particularly pleased to see Levon Mikaladze, the Georgian Ambassador who represents a new and hopeful government in that beleaguered country. (Sometimes I can pretend to have serious thoughts.)

There are a few other events I’m eager to tell you about, but first I’m going to sleep for a couple of days.

Friday, July 30, 2004

“Politics is show business for ugly people,” said Paul Begala of CNN. Last night buries that line. And isn’t it great to no longer have to say the “the presumed Democratic nominee”?

More on last night and the week tomorrow, but the summary from highly partisan but nervous-before-the-speech supporters is “What a night! As good as it gets.”

Check out time is looming and as our handyman in Minnesota says, we have to get on down to the “Cod”.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Were others as annoyed with Al Sharpton as I was? He was scheduled for six minutes and took twenty. He certainly did not keep to the speech that was vetted. Our daughter, Willa, was sitting on the podium last night, so she could see the teleprompter. From the first line on, he abandoned the script. The people running the teleprompter were going crazy. And he wasn’t even funny, so what’s the point? There definitely was some good speechifying -- and Willa, by the way, thought the change of tone was a relief – but the arrogance was unconscionable. He went through the halls afterwards with a phalanx of bodyguards who almost knocked me down.

Kucinich on the other hand was fired up and had everyone on his feet. He said we didn’t see any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but as the mayor of Cleveland he saw the real weapons of mass destruction on the streets: poverty, ignorance and crime. These are the weapons John Kerry will fight to eradicate. Good stuff.

Kucinich has also been doing his work in the streets here. He was in the park yesterday trying to talk reasonably to the demonstrators, of which there are very few -- mostly anarchists (the Black Bloc and the Pink Bloc). The only part of the demonstrators’ chant I can recall is: “They’re rich, they’re white, vote Bush or vote Bush Lite.”

Barack OBama is not only charismatic and articulate, but also very funny and humble. In an interview after his speech, he was asked if he had been nervous about giving the keynote speech. He admitted he had been until he actually went to the Fleet Center and discovered no one there actually listens to any of the speakers. On being asked if the thought the Presidency was in his future, he responded that he had other things he had to get straight first, like getting his dirty clothes all the way into the hamper. When asked how he thought his speech had gone he said, “Well, I stayed within the time limit.”

The heat is on. This is Kerry’s chance to shine and show the world who he is. Only one challenger to an incumbent president has ever gone into a convention ahead in the polls until now. That challenger was Ronald Reagan who was ahead of Jimmy Carter by three points. Today if you take an average of all the national polls, Kerry is ahead by two points, so it’s a good position. But don’t expect a big bump in the polls after the convention and don’t be disappointed by a lack of one. There are very few undecided voters this time. The Democrats are already united and normally it would be the undecided Democrats who would cause the bump after a Democratic convention.

Every female from 18 to 95 thinks Edwards is gorgeous. The Fleet Center halls were filled with talk of schoolgirl crushes and his dreamboat smile. And boy were those halls filled! If you are lucky enough to get inside to a seat, you better not drink anything for fear of needing a bathroom. Once you leave, people swarm to fill your place. There are special suites for the press and for VIPs of various sorts, but whole floors were cordoned off by fire marshals last night, so people who didn’t get to their suites early enough were out of luck. I stood in line for the Premium Club, a DNC room for the Finance Division, for about an hour, hoping to hear the Edwards speech where the drinks were free and the room was cooled. Tempers were short and people were dripping sweat. But the minute a man started whining out loud -- telling everyone what a big deal he was -- everyone turned on him. “These people are just doing their jobs.” “No kidding! You raised a lot of money? I guess that makes you really different from the rest of us.” “Looks to me like all you’ve raised is an ego.” And finally, “You know what, we’re Democrats, it’s not supposed to be about privilege.” It was great.

There is a reserved section on the seventh floor for the bloggers, but I’ve stopped going there. The Internet has been a little sketchy and the floor is uncomfortable. All the desks are taken by the time I get there and to my surprise none of the twenty and thirty year olds are jumping up to offer an elderly woman their seat. I spent the first night on the floor leaning against a makeshift desk leg, complaining loudly about my arthritis and aching back in vain. On the second night, the desks and chairs began to free up right before Theresa’s speech. Seriously. I guess the younger people thought she wasn’t going to have anything of interest to say. I’ve long been a fan and still think she has the most to say – and in five languages. So I’m sort of saying “shove it” to the floor of the blogging section, which makes posting a bit harder.

I certainly can’t get there any earlier or I would miss the pre convention parties. I am driven by my responsibility to my readers to taste all the food and drink. Someone’s got to. I owe you all that much, at least.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Last night was brilliant from beginning to end. The feeling of unity is overwhelming. Many veteran convention attendees are saying it was the best opening night ever – even down to the exit strategy. Some 35,000 people got out of the Fleet Center and back to their hotels or on to parties in about an hour-and-a-half. DNC staff in identifiable red t-shirts was everywhere, directing people to the right busses, giving walking directions or suggesting restaurants. The buses are plentiful, comfortable and efficient. Police are everywhere and they all seem to be from Central Casting; i.e., jolly, Democratic, Irish Bostonians. Not one arrest of protestors had to be made in the entire city of Boston yesterday. I’m staggered by what Mayor Thomas Menino has accomplished.

Today, Tom Cochran -- a Washington Institution -- honored Mayor Menino at a lunch for The Conference of Mayors of which he is Executive Director. Cochran looked like a southern plantation owner wearing a white linen suit, navy shirt and navy tie dotted with heart-shaped American flags. The lunch was organized by the gorgeous Babette Penton and the food was perfect: cod in cornbread crumbs, massive amounts of heirloom tomatoes, spinach salad and Turner’s Hall of Fame clam chowder.

Right after, my daughter, Willa, and I took a bus to the Ben Affleck event headlined as “Pool, Bowling and Cocktails with Ben Affleck”. It was held at Jillian’s a large pool and bowling hall across the street from Fenway Park. While we waited in line for the host to arrive (a line that was longer than the one for Clinton’s foreign policy speech this morning), Affleck and his bodyguards rushed in a side door right next to us. Willa pointed him out in excitement to the man behind us, a delegate from Atlanta, who asked her which one he was. “You have to stay with me inside,” he told her. “My grandchildren won’t forgive me if I meet him and don’t which one he is.”

To be fair to President Clinton, he had already knocked the socks off everyone last night. However, those who missed his briefing this morning missed a demonstration of why he remains a dominant political force: thoughtful, human and funny. The following is more or less the exchange that took place between Clinton and James Carville when Clinton was asked to comment on the Nader campaign. It went something like this:

Clinton: I always admired Ralph Nader for what he did in the sixties and seventies, but now he plays a spoiler roll. If he only gets one-percent of the vote, those are probably people who wouldn’t have otherwise voted. If he gets more than that, it will come from the Democrats.

Carville: That is a Presidential view. What I say is I wouldn’t irrigate his throat if his heart was on fire.

Clinton: In a different setting Carville would have used another verb.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Conventions are all about choreography and theater. For the people who run a convention, it is imperative that it be harmonious. For journalists, it is imperative that it has conflict. To the disappointment of some 15,000 news people who are in Boston, this convention belongs to the organizers. So why do they turn up? Because it’s the best and biggest class reunion imaginable.

The most dramatic visual event last night was when all the delegates lifted candle lights in the air while Gabe Lefkowitz, a sixteen-year-old violinist, played Amazing Grace with a photo of the New York skyline in the background. Al Gore, President Carter and Hilary Clinton were spectacular and President Clinton brought down the house with a full-throated political speech. He is an astonishing orator. There is nothing like being in a crowd that is united in its love of someone. It’s almost a religious experience.

We bloggers have a special section to sit in with wireless Internet that actually works from time to time. But even if the wireless isn’t working, it’s a great place to be. These people are not reporters; they’re opinionated and proud of it. While the press section is quietly observing, the bloggers are standing on their chairs and screaming with the most enthusiastic of the delegates.

The tough fights will come later. Right now, the major skirmishes are over getting tickets to the most prized events and parties. The TV ratings last night were low, but at least the clips will be picked up. Great lines like Gore’s “Every kid can grow up to win the popular vote” won’t be lost. So the networks may stay away, but inside the convention hall it feels good and you really can believe a change is gonna come.

We arrived in Boston late Saturday night and made a mad dash for the convention center hoping to get to the Boston Globe’s Media Party before it ended. Arriving at a darkened building where several bewildered British journalists were wondering around trying to find an open door was an inauspicious beginning. Taking pity on us, a janitor came out of the building to tell us this was the old convention center and what we wanted was the new convention center which was “over that way somewhere”. The BBC journalists piled in our car assuring Sam we’d find it; that it was bound to be the ugliest building in town like all other convention centers. Sure enough.

Inside (and it was surprisingly easy to get inside, no photo ID or anything) it was a different matter. The theme was multi-cultural Boston and the walls were covered with enormous photos of people in every variety of native dress with “welcome” written in all of Boston’s languages which included Gaelic, Swahili, Arabic, Russian, Vietnamese, etc.. It reminded me how far we are from Hibbing, Minnesota where the airport also has gay banners on the walls welcoming travelers in all the known languages: Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish and Icelandic.

Seventy-five restaurants catered the event offering all sorts of food from enchiladas and curries to sides of beef. There were three dessert tables with enormous platters of cake squares and bowls of melon and strawberries to be dipped in one of three chocolate fountains: dark, milk or white. Underneath small tents were cozy groupings of couches and easy chairs and from a full-sized Ferris wheel you could view the ethnic dancing. Sam and I passed up the champagne, wine and beer bars, making our way straight to the martini bar assuming it was the most likely gathering spot for some age-appropriate press. Instead the area was filled with twenty-somethings drinking cotton-candy and mocha-chip martinis. These drinks cannot be called martinis anymore than Caesar salads can have optional anchovies. We finally found a few old hacks over by the designer-water bar. It was an early night.

Yesterday, there was a very glamorous lunch at the Kennedy compound for something called the Leadership Council. Four busses arrived in Hyannis around noon, much to the annoyance of the neighbors who called out the Barnstable police to make sure everyone behaved. Tables were set out under an elegant tent on that famous touch-football lawn, each covered in a cheerful blue-and-yellow cloth. Silver ice buckets filled with lobster bibs and claw crackers were next to plates of brownies and sliced watermelon. In the buffet line you loaded fish-shaped glass plates with a lobster, a net bag of steamed clams, bratwurst, barbecued chicken, corn, potato salad and the best clam chowder I’ve ever tasted. Sadly the day was sunless and cold, but the crowd couldn’t have cared less. The guests were a variety of fundraisers from Jim Blanchard, the former Governor of Michigan; to Daniel Becnel, King of torts from Louisiana; to our old friend, Tony Podesta, who has moved to Philadelphia to run Pennsylvania for Kerry; to a screenwriter/lawyer delegate from L.A. who had won a contest among delegates competing to bring in the most new Kerry supporters. (He signed up 180 new people, which put him among the top five.)

When we returned to our hotel, they checked our electronic keys. Apparently they intend to change the keys daily. A lot of lives would have been different if they’d had electronic keys at the Democratic campaign in Chicago in 1968 – certainly mine would have been. On the night of the police riot (not a polemical term, it’s how it was characterized) the Hilton Hotel, which was right on the edge of the park where the protests were taking place,
required everyone to show a key in order to get inside. People were desperate to escape the gas and beatings taking place outside. Sam went to the Hilton desk saying he was from the McCarthy campaign and, for security purposes, wanted all the keys from the 15th and 16th floors where the campaign was headquartered. Then he took the keys outside and distributed them. People – myself among them -- hurried into the safety of the lobby and then gave their keys back so they could be taken outside again. Hundreds of people escaped into the Hilton. Some fell in love.

July 24, 2004

We are sealed in a plane on the runway at Denver International Airport waiting for the Eastern thunder storms to ease up. Personally I would be happier back in Aspen or San Francisco where we spent the last ten days making a final fund raising go-round before the convention.

I intended to shop for the convention in Aspen. I was looking for one of those summer dresses with a strappy top and floating skirt but couldn’t fine one in anything other than a fetal size. Feeling depressed and huge, I decided to treat myself instead to a full-body sunless tan. The application of this tan is not the fun-filled event you might anticipate – well, at least not if you aren’t neo-natal. When I called for the appointment I asked what I should wear. “Just bring your G-string and ask for Naomi,” the young woman said. “Right,” I said. So there I was, stark naked, as Naomi (whose night job is belly dancing) colored my body with a tiny spray gun filled with some sticky bronze liquid. It’s like painting” she gushed “only my canvas is human! By tonight you’ll look like you’ve just come home from the islands.” She added a swarmy: “You’re husband will be so thrilled!” My husband was out getting a real tan, refusing to join me in this fake one even after meeting Naomi and toying briefly with the idea of being naked in front of her. So here I am several hours later, sealed in this plane on the Denver tarmac looking like I have a frightful case of jaundice.

We’re headed for Boston where I’m getting press credentials as a blogger. I haven’t qualified for press credentials since I left the Denver Post about the time of the Garfield election. I’m both excited and intimidated. This is the first time any Internet writers have been given credentials. I love being part of a first and I’m extremely excited to meet my fellow bloggers. I expect I’ll substantially impact the demographics of this group -- boosting the median age and diminishing the technical capabilities. But every dog has its day and I’m thinking this is mine.

Friday, July 23, 2004

I am overwhelmed by the response to my last email. A great many of you gave more money to Kerry. I know the campaign is grateful and I’m personally moved to know I have such generous friends.

As the 9/11 report was being released this morning, Kerry was giving a speech to the Urban League in Detroit. He was sharper and more focused, but he will never spout perfect twenty-second sound bites. As the Iowa Quad City Times said back in January: “He ponders … and answers thoughtfully. A regular guy? Not hardly.”

There is a positive consequence of the commission’s report making bold and difficult recommendations during a political season. It will keep everyone focused on the recommendations as both Bush and Kerry are asked about them. We must compel the government to take action. If the professional work of this commission is of the high quality it is thought to be, we can only pray that its recommendations will be enacted. We need a unity of effort. Bob Kerrey says he is hopeful but not optimistic that the changes will be made before another attack. It will require the Department of Defense and members of congress to give up certain authorities and powers they now have. Giving up power is not a traditional activity in Washington. But the government will ignore it at their and our peril.

On a lighter note, don’t miss this site: http://www.jibjab.com/

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Adam Friedson, a major Kerry fundraiser, reminds us that this is not the most important campaign of our lifetime. The most important election was the last one, the one that put Bush into office. We just didn’t know it. If you thought now that you could go back and do something to stop that election result, wouldn’t you? If you thought by giving more money you might have prevented that election result… Right. This is going to be a fundraising email. You only have a few more days to give directly to the Kerry Edwards campaign. Think how bad you’ll feel if things don’t go well in November and you look back and wonder why you didn’t do more.

In between battling bats and other north woods creatures over the last two months, we have been fundraising in Illinois, Minnesota, Connecticut, New York and Northern and Southern California. With the invaluable help and endless energy of Friedson and the spectacular San Francisco fund-raising staff and with dozens of hosts at more than twenty events, we have now raised over $800,000! Yesterday the campaign told us we’re among the top ten fundraisers for Kerry in the United States. Certainly some people have raised more for the DNC in large pieces, but every bit of that $800,000 was from people who gave $2000 or less. Many of the donations were under $100.

Money isn’t everything, of course, but giving is the most important thing you can do right now. There is only one week left to give directly to the Kerry/Edwards campaign before the federal financing comes in. After that contributions can be made to the DNC, but not directly to Kerry for President. The campaign is well organized to insure the money we raise in this last week will be used for advertising and to build the ground staff for the general election. Remember Bush has an additional month to raise money between the two conventions.

As you know, we travel a lot and it is clear that the Bush administration and its imperial policies are loathed around the world. But both the American people and the ideals we hold are still greatly admired and Bush is regarded as aberrational. But if we elect Bush again, we own him.

If you haven’t given as much as you possibly can, please, please do so now. You can do it by credit card by clicking on the following link (if the link doesn’t work, cut and paste it into your browser):


Thursday, July 15, 2004

The blooms on the peonies are finally beginning to fade up here in northern Minnesota and the nights are warming up to fifty degrees or so. Summer is just around the corner. The Fourth of July was the coldest in recorded history. People went down to their docks dressed in down vests and mittens to watch fireworks. The night was quiet. Between bursts of noise and color, women’s voices carried across the still water: “You’re going to lose a finger if you keep doing that!” and “You stop that right now and come sit here by me!” My voice was among them as Sam attached bottle rocket to bottle rocket trying to ignite them sequentially, creating a small missile.

We spend a lot of these cold nights around an enormous campfire with various town and year-round lake people dropping by. After talk of the cold and how it fortunately hasn’t hurt the fishing, the conversation turns to politics.

“I’ve been watching your guy,” an elderly man known as Red says. “But I just don’t see how you can change boats mid-stream. We got into this mess – and I do think it’s a mess -- but now we should show our strength by sticking with our leader until we can get out.”

The owner of a local nursery crosses his forearms in front of me while backing away in mock fear. “You keep telling me I’d be better off with Kerry, but I’m counting on getting to that bracket where those tax cuts will help me someday.”

The tall tow-headed young couple on the half log next to me tells me they’re getting married in October. “We’ve been in marriage counseling for the past year and I’m afraid we just couldn’t vote for Kerry. The priest told us not to because Kerry’s a bad Catholic.”

I point out that Bush can hardly be considered a good Catholic. I start talking about the sixth commandment and the Lord High Executioner from Texas. It doesn’t matter. I talk about the ninth commandment and the number of people who have died in Iraq, a war we went into based on a massive lie. I point out that the administration has also broken the tenth commandment with the Iraqi war. Eyes begin to glaze over. I talk about the separation of church and state being fundamental to the constitution. I suggest that it is this very lack of separation in fundamentalist religious countries that they find threatening and intolerable. They begin to gather their belongings. I take a deep breath. “Are you actually telling me that the people who were against JFK because he was a Roman Catholic were right? You mean a ‘good’ Catholic must vote the way her priest or the Pope tells her to? Don’t you think that reinforces what the most bigoted and anti-Catholic people in America said in 1960 and are still saying today? Is that really what you want?”

They repeat their mantra:
“Our priest says Kerry has immoral beliefs and we must not vote for him. We have to vote our consciences, don’t we? You wouldn’t want us not to, would you?”

I let that one go.

So that’s the news from northern Minnesota.

I’m just reporting. Don’t kill the messenger.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Dewey wins again!!

Today’s early edition of the New York Post’s front page follows:


Dem picks Gephardt as VP candidate

Monday, July 05, 2004

Hot Flashes From The Campaign Trail
July 4,
Alison Teal

Kerry began his three days of Fourth of July barnstorming Friday in Cloquet, Minnesota. It’s about two-hours from our cabin up here, so we headed over with a bunch of relatives and friends.

Cloquet is a town of 11,200, best known for its Frank Lloyd Wright gas station which is selling the same Twinkies and Slim Jims it had when it opened in 1956. For three years the town has been planning for and anticipating its 100th birthday celebration this summer. Then, a little over a week ago, word came that the campaign was going to kick off its rural bus tour on its main street – a wonderful kickoff for Cloquet’s Centennial and a stroke of genius for the campaign. Steve Jacques who heads the bus tour’s advance staff found the perfect small town America setting in Cloquet: think Fourth of July on steroids.

Small towns like Cloquet are where the economy and the war on Iraq have hit the worst. Nineteen-year-old Moises Langhorst, a Marine from Moose Lake, and 20-year-old Levi Angell, a Marine from Cloquet, were two of the many Americans killed in Iraq. “We pray for their families,’’ Kerry said. "These are the folks whose kids go off to war. When they lose them, as parents nothing ever fills that void. But they love their country, and they care and they're proud." Later he met privately with their families.

The campaign hopes to due significantly better with the rural vote than Gore who had a 22-point deficit in rural exit polls. A recent poll from the non-partisan Center for Rural Strategies has Kerry down 9 points among rural voters in battleground states. But there is a chance we can win over some of these rural and small town votes even though the “L” word (and I’m not talking about the Showtime channel here) is as welcome as “communist, flag-burning, vegan, hippy, pothead.”

Cloquet is in paper mill, timber and iron ore country. “We farm rocks and trees,” said one of the local politicians before introducing another speaker “from the other side of the state, over there with the dirt farmers.” Kerry’s pledge to strictly enforce trade agreements was warmly welcomed in a town where foreign competition has led to layoffs by the town's principal employer, a paper mill.

Kerry warmed up the crowd by making fun of the national press corps. “I had to explain to them that not every town in America has a Starbucks.” He talked about the family farm and reminded people that there are small farms in Massachusetts too. He talked about fishing. "You can't eat the fish in 28 states," he said. "That's a warning sign to sports people all over this country.” He talked about hunting. "Gun owners should be very, very comfortable with me," he said, "because I am a gun owner. I am a hunter. ... I've shot all my life. I support the Second Amendment. It's that simple. But in all my life I've never thought about going hunting with an AK-47." He talked about health care and country-of-origin food labeling. He talked about bringing broadband Internet service to rural areas, something he likens to bringing electricity to rural areas in the 1930s.

It was sunny and hot and he took off his blue blazer, laughing and pointing to the five shirtless teenaged boys in the front row each with a huge red letter on his chest that together spelled “KERRY”. The crowd adored him. The day was perfect.

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