The New Kerry

05/25/2011 11:50 am ET

Delivering a major address in Boston's historic Faneuil Hall, John Kerry must have felt as though he was back running for President. But on the thirty-fifth anniversary of his stirring testimony before Congress, Kerry was invoking a theme downplayed throughout his 2004 campaign and confronting the issue that bedeviled his candidacy: the war in Iraq.

According to the Boston Globe, the audience was "wildly enthusiastic" -- a phrase not often used to describe crowds listening to the junior senator from Massachusetts. Former DNC chair Steve Grossman called the speech "profoundly presidential," which is exactly what Kerry once again wants to be.

In the past few months Kerry has presented a side of himself very different from the one the public saw during the 2004 campaign. Freed from the grip of consultants, the spotlight of the national media and the Republican attack dogs, he is looser, clearer and more compelling. Call it the Al Gore Effect.

"The fact of losing so narrowly tends to concentrate the mind," Kerry tells me in an interview in his Senate office.

For the full story, read my new Nation magazine article "The New Kerry."