GOP Embraces Senate Candidate After Lashing Him In '04
Four years before the GOP embraced John Kennedy as the Republican best suited to challenge Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu for her seat, they were blasting the guy as a weak-kneed, loser populist, with no political know-how or support.
That's because before Kennedy chose to take on Landrieu in 2008, he ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2004. And in the process of finishing a distant third in the race, the National Republican Senatorial Committee put together a scathing background file on Kennedy that, given the inverse political scenario today, is highly embarrassing for his current candidacy.
In the 13-page 2004 report, which was obtained by The Huffington Post, the NRSC attacks Kennedy for supporting Sen. John Kerry over President George Bush, for having an ineffective legislative record, using state funds to further his career, and not even being the Democratic Party's first choice for the job.
Four years later -- with Louisiana presenting the one serious chance for the GOP to pick up a Senate seat -- the group is hoping the political world suffers a bout of amnesia and that Kennedy can prove to be a bit more effective as a Republican.
"John Kennedy's announcement that he intends to challenge Senator Mary Landrieu is the death knell for her campaign," NRSC chairman Sen. John Ensign declared last November. "John Kennedy has spent his career taking on the issues that matter most to Louisianans and fighting hard for their causes. I am confident this next chapter in his life will be no different."
To Ensign's credit, he wasn't heading the NRSC in 2004. But back then, the organization's opinion of Kennedy was, to put it lightly, harsh. Running from his post as state senator, he was described as John Kerry-lite. "Just like Kerry, Kennedy supports filibustering judicial nominees," the document read. "Like Kerry, Kennedy criticized President Bush.... Kennedy would keep judges from getting an up or down vote... Kennedy attacked the Bush tax cuts."
How times have changed.
The irony doesn't end there. In 2004, the NRSC mocked Kennedy for "not [being] the first choice of the Democrats" who preferred Chris John, a former representative.
Four years later, he is the first choice of the Republicans.
The NRSC also claimed that, "Kennedy's ineffective political career demonstrates he is not ready for primetime."
Four years and a party switch later, apparently the dynamics have changed.
"Kennedy [has] bad ideas, shot-down suggestions, ill thought-out proposals, and Al Gore-like political ambitions," the NRSC also wrote. As evidence, the group cited Kennedy's "populist" 2000 proposal to pool prescription drug needs of the poor, state employees, the uninsured and the elderly to lower costs, as well as his program to return unclaimed property to taxpayers as a failure that would waste potential political revenue.
It remains to be seen how much the GOP raises these issues this November.
The entire research document mercilessly ends by denouncing Kennedy's past as a trial lawyer and lobbyist. All of which makes for a highly entertaining piece considering the reverence with which the NRSC now holds Kennedy. Indeed, after being blasted like that it would seem that Kennedy might be disinclined to join ship with the NRSC. But it didn't take much to woo the failed Democratic candidate. Apparently, a call from Karl Rove simply did the trick.
"I did get a call from the White House. I don't get those every day," he told the Associated Press in July 2007. "When one of the main advisers to the president of the United States calls you to ask for a meeting, you meet with him."
In this race, it seems, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee already has a hand with its opposition research.