Political Intelligence

Kerry tight-lipped about role as Romney in debate prep

Senator John Kerry is studying Mitt Romney’s record as he helps President Obama get ready for next month’s debates.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Senator John Kerry is studying Mitt Romney’s record as he helps President Obama get ready for next month’s debates.

WASHINGTON — Reporters at the Democratic National Convention had no luck in getting Senator John F. Kerry to talk about his role playing Mitt Romney in President Obama’s debate preparation sessions.

A CNN reporter tried on the convention floor and Kerry — on live television — said he wouldn’t speak about the subject. An awkward moment of silence followed.

But conversations with Democrats in the capital this past week offered a glimpse at an intriguing assignment and confluence of personalities.


Kerry, his party’s failed candidate for president in 2004, is trying to help Obama win a second term in 2012 by assuming the political persona of Romney, the Republican presidential nominee and former governor of his home state.

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The Democrats say Kerry and Obama have yet to hold a mock debate, but the senator is deeply immersed in studying Romney’s record. Obama is doing the same. Both will put their education to use later this month, when they start their practice debates.

The first of the three real debates between Obama and Romney is Oct. 3 at the University of Denver. Even before Obama and Romney step on stage, though, the posturing is underway.

In an ABC News interview aired Friday, Romney suggested that Obama will lie during their debates.

“I think the challenge that I’ll have in the debate is that the president tends to, how shall I say it, to say things that aren’t true,” Romney told interviewer George Stephanopoulos. Romney said he will have to weigh spending time correcting the record versus emphasizing his preferred points.


For his part, Kerry seemed to hint at what he’s been learning when he answered questions about Romney during the Democratic convention.

The GOP nominee, he told reporters after addressing the Massachusetts delegates, “has no plans that are specific.”

It will be Obama’s task — after Kerry’s assist — to validate that complaint before the debate audiences.

DA says lack of fund-raising not a sign of retirement

Reports on file at the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance offer a wealth of information, even if they don’t tell the whole story.

Case in point: The bank account for Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone is dwindling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not running for reelection in 2014.


Leone’s most recent report, covering the period ending Aug. 31, showed he had $86,000 cash on hand. At the same time in his last reelection cycle, he had $191,000.

Leone told the Globe that account is his main checking account, and while he hasn’t held a fund-raiser since being reelected in 2010, he still has over $500,000 when adding in interest-bearing CDs and a money market account.

“I’d rather spend my time working the job I enjoy than raising money,” he said. “At the same time, I have supporters and commitments that would put me well over $1 million if I needed the money.”

He ran unopposed for his second term and has heard no rumblings of a challenger should he seek a third.

Yet Leone didn’t shy away from talking about a future beyond the DA’s office — including chatter he would be interested in serving as athletic director at troubled Pennsylvania State University. The school still hasn’t filled the position following its child sex abuse scandal.

“There was conversation involving me early, but I’ve never been contacted by the university,” Leone said. He pegged the talk to UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin T. Meehan, a former congressman and political friend.

Meehan suggested to associates in Boston that Leone’s legal and management background, as well as experience prosecuting sexual abuse cases, might help Penn State rehabilitate its image.

Leone played football at Harvard, and is the son of the former longtime athletic director and high school football coach in Franklin. His father-in-law, Jack Bicknell, coached at Boston College, and two brothers-in-law are NFL coaches.

“I’ve been in and around athletics, sports, and, particularly, football for a long time. I think if you combined that with my professional and personal skills, I don’t think there’s any reason I couldn’t run a large-scale athletic department,” said Leone.

He made special note of his familiarity with fund-raising and regulatory and compliance issues.

“I’m not going to be district attorney for life,” Leone said, “so, at some point, I have to think about doing other things.”

Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, available online at www.boston.com/politics. He can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.