WASHINGTON – The presidential campaign trail can be a grueling thing. John Kerry (search), for instance, has been regularly clocking 18-hour days in Iowa. But the Massachusetts senator has found a few rare moments when he can just kick back and relax.
Earlier this week, Kerry was the first of this year’s crop of candidates to engage in the traditional campaign snowball fight.
It happened on Tuesday in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, in front of the house of Gov. Tom Vilsack (search). That morning, the governor's wife, Christie Vilsack (search), had endorsed Kerry, and she rode on the senator’s campaign bus — The Real Deal Express — to her home, where supporters on the porch awaited their arrival. Kerry and Mrs. Vilsack took the supporters inside for coffee, leaving Kerry’s traveling press outside with nothing to do but throw snowballs at each other and members of the candidate’s staff.
When Kerry and Mrs. Vilsack came out of the house, they obviously were prepared for the activities that had been happening in their absence. Mrs. Vilsack threw one snowball, then quickly got out of the fray. But Kerry, still agile at 60 years old, took great joy in attacking the journalists and dodging their snowballs.
A slightly warmer — and longer — opportunity to relax came the next night when singer-songwriter Carole King (search) gave a free concert in Cedar Rapids to 1,900 Kerry supporters. While Kerry gave a brief speech before and after the mini-concert, he mostly sat a few rows back on the aisle and tapped his toes, clapped and sang along while King performed several songs.
King invited the entire audience — including the men — to sing along to the oldie and goodie "Natural Woman." Afterwards, Kerry readily admitted to joining in on the chorus. He also later said he really enjoyed having an hour where he didn't have to do the talking and could just listen to good music.
After a year of falling short of expectations and being all but counted out, Kerry's comeback may be attributable to his new relaxed mood — or his mood may be attributable to his recent comeback. Tracking polls on Thursday and Friday showed Kerry at the top of a statistical tie in Iowa for the first time in months.
Kerry acknowledged the bump on Thursday and said he hopes it's the start of a trend.
"I hope we're building momentum. Obviously that's what we're trying to do. I feel momentum. I feel energy in the campaign out here. The crowds have been incredible, people are responding," he said, adding that Monday will show whether the feelings are real.
While he may find riding in a helicopter anything but relaxing, the candidate also has that time to get some perspective. The Kerry chopper tour, which took him around the state on Thursday, gave Kerry a bird's-eye view of the state as well as a little alone time behind the loud blades. He scheduled another chopper tour on Saturday.
King wrapped up the Wednesday concert with the song "You've Got a Friend," and apparently Kerry does.
After Kerry made a concert promise to his supporters, telling them: "if you can get me out of Iowa with the kind of results I need, I pledge to you a concert with James Taylor (search) and Carole King," King responded with her own pledge, saying she would go on tour again — to every primary state — if Kerry wins in Iowa.
Fox News' Catherine Loper is traveling full time with the Kerry campaign.