WASHINGTON – Democratic candidate John Kerry (search) was in Iowa Monday trying to jump-start his campaign one day after he dismissed his campaign manager and replaced him with a staffer borrowed from the office of fellow Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Mary Beth Cahill (search), Kennedy's chief of staff, will move into the top position on the Kerry campaign while Jim Jordan (search) has been asked to move over to the position of senior strategist, a position sources say he is unlikely to accept.
"There's a new phase of the campaign now, and I wanted to change the dynamic," Kerry said during a campaign stop in which he tried to focus on veterans' issues but was repeatedly pressed about the staff shake-up. "Jim Jordan is a terrific person and has done a great job to date. I wanted to move this campaign forward and that's what we're doing."
Campaign advisers said Kerry told Jordan that he is troubled by the stalled progress his campaign has made in the face of upstart Howard Dean (search), who has taken the lead in most polls.
Kerry, an 18-year veteran of the Senate, is running third in polls in Iowa, where the nation's first presidential selection caucuses will be held, behind Dick Gephardt (search) and Dean. In the latest New Hampshire polls, Kerry trails Dean in second place by a double-digit margin. Both states play critical roles in the eventual selection of the Democratic nominee.
Jordan, former spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of Bill Clinton and former head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (search), was believed to have trouble sometimes courting big donors and Democratic interest groups on Kerry's behalf. But the Kerry campaign acknowledged that the shake up is not so much about Jordan as it is about the candidate's need to re-establish momentum.
Kerry's personal style and message have been called into question by some as he seeks to find standing room on the left, where Dean has staked out territory, on the right, where Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (search) has hoisted his flag, and as a military hero, which the Purple Heart winner excelled at before retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark (search) entered the race and stole some of that ground.
"I think Sen. Kerry is in a lot of trouble, and he has got to figure out how to get his message across. I think what happens to Kerry and the nominee, whoever that might be, are all going to be measured against the message President Bush has. He has the message — growth on the economy and protecting us from security problems and terrorism and that's the message that people are going to have to overcome," said Republican strategist James Lake.
Democratic strategists say the candidate doesn't take advice well and likes to split his staff into competing camps. Indeed, the choice of Cahill, who has worked for Emily's List (search), a lobbying group on behalf of women's political issues, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and former President Bill Clinton, was orchestrated by former Democratic New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Kerry's campaign chairwoman and a longtime Cahill friend.
"There has been a real tug of war in the Kerry campaign between his Washington advisers — and Jim Jordan personifies that, the fellow who was just let go — and Boston-based advisers who have been advising Kerry for decades," said Richard Goodstein, a Democratic strategist and former campaign adviser to Al Gore. "And I think it still again comes down to the message. Really, the voters don't care who is running the campaign, they are looking at the candidate. They are looking at what he or she has to say."
The change follows a decision by Dean to forego federal matching funds, enabling him to disregard spending limits and spend freely on his campaign. The decision helps Dean propel his campaign forward as Kerry now debates whether to follow suit and invest his family's money in his bid for the White House.
"Just spending a lot of money is not going to do it, he has to figure out what to say," Lake said.
Fox News' Carl Cameron and the Associated Press contributed to this report.