DENVER—This Democratic convention, with its change-agent star, is supposed to be all about the future. But for one evening, in one small corner of Denver, the talk was still all about the past—four years past, to be exact.
At a private reception on Monday, Senator John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, welcomed a select group of donors and fund-raisers to this year’s convention, while offering up a notably raw retrospective of the campaign they lost. Or maybe, the way they see it, the one they didn’t actually lose after all.
This convention, Ms. Heinz Kerry said, is “full of meaning and full of opportunity, and if you, as I, believe, and I know a lot of you do, we did not lose the last election, nor did Al Gore lose his last election. We won it.” The crowd, which included a number of Massachusetts politicos, as well as the white-haired comedian Chevy Chase, loudly applauded. “I know that all the work that people across this country did for us, all the things that we espoused, all the hopes we had, they were right then,” Ms. Heinz Kerry went on. “And they are right now, and so whatever it is we did then, we just have to make sure that it’s not taken away again.”
Mr. Kerry, who preceded his wife to the stage, was somewhat more diplomatic, but struck a similarly melancholy note as he talked about the 2004 election. “It amazes me that you even have enough money left to come to Denver—we did an amazing job,” he told the donors. “We came unbelievably close in ’04. I guarantee you we’re not going to be close this time. We’re going to win.”
Mr. Kerry turned to his wife. Ms. Heinz Kerry, he said, “never got to be properly known by this country—a woman who could speak five languages and lead a major [philanthropic organization], one of the largest in America and do good the way she has done … ought to be better understood in a nation that prides itself on meritocracy. I love her for who she is and for our relationship. I also love her for her courage and for what she did in ’04 to help set this country on a better path.
“Those of you who know me,” Mr. Kerry told the audience, “well know that no matter how searing the outcome on that Wednesday afternoon was, and despite the unbelievable energy we all committed all across this country, Teresa and I proudly never stopped working for one day in an effort to continue what we started in ’04.” He credited his own fund-raising efforts—“I gave and raised $14 million to 260 candidates and committees”—with helping to turn the tide for the Democrats in 2006, though most people better remember his “botched joke” about getting stuck in Iraq.
“Now we all know how these guys are playing,” Mr. Kerry continued, turning to the subject of Barack Obama—by way of his own experience. “They’ve already started. The same authors who wrote that scurrilous scumbag book about our crew and service in Vietnam have already written a book about Barack Obama. The difference is, this time we are unconstrained thanks to many of you, and millions of people across the country, in terms of the money we can spend and the way we can target. We don’t have to pull out of states this time, ahead of time. We can go into states. We will be able to organize on the ground stronger than ever before in the Democratic Party, and I’m convinced that we’re going to win at least five seats in the United States Senate, we’re going to win a stronger House and we’re going to win the presidency of the United States.”