Kerry 2.0: The Relaunch

John Kerry
CBS/Steve Chaggaris
CBS News Reporter Steve Chaggaris is traveling with the Kerry campaign.

In another effort to jumpstart his sputtering campaign, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Friday outlined what he would do in the first 100 days of a Kerry administration.

Kerry was widely considered the frontrunner for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination when he began running almost a year ago. However, polls now show him trailing closely behind former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt in Iowa, and behind Dean by double-digits in their shared neighbor, New Hampshire.

On Friday, at Concord High School in New Hampshire, Kerry portrayed himself as the underdog while laying out his vision should he become president, including sending a health care bill to Congress on his first day.

"My first major proposal to Congress will be a realistic plan that stops spiraling health care costs," Kerry said.

He also got specific about one of the pillars of his presidential run: how he'll deal with lobbyists and special interests.

"By executive order, we will reinstate the five-year ban on lobbying ... We will shine the light on the secret deals in Washington by requiring every meeting with a lobbyist or any special interest deal inserted by a lobbyist ... be made public," Kerry said.

The Kerry camp is calling this speech the "kickoff" to his "Real Deal" tour around New Hampshire, which will entail his traveling the state in a bus for the next ten weeks. Friday's speech was an extension of the speech he delivered at the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner last Saturday, and the bus tour is in addition to a similar one around Iowa that began last Sunday.

Campaign aides say Kerry will become more aggressive in pointing out the differences between himself and President Bush and in touting that he has the best chance of any of the Democrats of beating Bush next year.

The first point is apparent in two ads that began running this week in Iowa and New Hampshire, the most recent of which criticizes Bush on Iraq and accuses him of "putting lobbyists ahead of our families" in the health-care fight.

On the second point, Kerry made a veiled reference Friday to Dean and the rest of the Democratic field, saying, "Send them someone who offers answers, not just anger. And send them someone who offers solutions, not just slogans. New Hampshire, in January, don't just send them a message. Send America a President." (Kerry, by the way, used this language almost word for word at the Iowa Democrats' dinner last Saturday.)

This isn't the first kick-off for Kerry's campaign. Just two-and-a-half months ago, he officially began his campaign with a two-day swing through South Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire and Boston. And that kick-off came months after he had started campaigning and raising money around the country.

All this week's activity comes two weeks after a staff shakeup that resulted in the hiring of new campaign manager, former Sen. Ted Kennedy chief of staff Mary Beth Cahill, as well as a new communications team.

Kerry insists that polls are meaningless at this point, although he is consistently polling 10 to 20 points behind Dean in New Hampshire.

"Swings in polls are beyond your imagination," Kerry said. "This race is there to be won."

The question remains whether Kerry's latest moves will be enough to let him grab victory from the jaws of defeat.

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.