Time Capsule: Kucinich Predicts Longshot Candidacy Will Become ‘Surprise of the 2004 Election’

dennis kucinich 2Though lingering near the bottom of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich predicted ten years ago today that his longshot bid for the White House would become “the surprise of the 2004 election.”

“This race is about to change,” said a buoyant Kucinich while campaigning in Des Moines, Iowa.  “It’s going to change because of the continued U.S. occupation in Iraq, which I oppose, and it’s going to change because of this talk about a draft, which I oppose.”

“All I have to do is move up a few points and I become the surprise of the 2004 election,” he added.

Trailing far behind ex-Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt in the polls, the former “boy mayor” of Cleveland said that his consistent stand against U.S. military involvement in Iraq, coupled with his outspoken opposition to the draft, set him apart from the crowded field of nine candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“My nomination offers the sharpest contrast to the present administration,” said Kucinich. “It changes the whole debate. There’s no straddling. There would be a real clear debate, a clear choice.”

Blaming the Bush administration for destabilizing the Middle East by attacking Iraq, Kucinich proposed that U.S. troops should be pulled out of Iraq and that the United Nations should be called upon to take over the arduous task of rebuilding that war-torn country.

“It is not worth the life of any more of our men and women,” he said.  “We’ve got to get out of there. We’re just digging ourselves in deeper.”

Kucinich also campaigned vigorously for universal, single-payer national health care.

Despite his low, single-digit poll numbers — he was barely leading former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton in most public opinion polls — Kucinich had raised a relatively impressive $3.4 million at that early stage in the campaign, only a month after formally declaring his candidacy.  He eventually raised a total of $13 million.

Campaigning a few days earlier in New Hampshire — site of the first-in-the-nation primary — the Cleveland congressman felt a surge of support for his longshot candidacy.  “Look at the turnout,” he said after a recent appearance in Manchester.  “No other campaign has that enthusiasm, that following.  No one can dispute it now, he said, adding that he expected a stronger-than-expected showing in the January 27th primary.

At the time, Kucinich claimed 350 volunteers in the Granite State.

Despite his unbounded optimism, Kucinich ran poorly in the January 19 Iowa caucuses, polling only 1.3% of the vote — far below the 15 percent threshold for winning delegates to the national convention — and garnered a similarly disappointing 3,114 votes, or 1.4%, in the New Hampshire primary eight days later.

Howard Dean’s short-lived juggernaut had galvanized much of the party’s progressive base, sapping whatever support Kucinich might have been able to muster in the early contests.

Running strongest in the Hawaii and Minnesota caucuses and polling a respectable 16% of the vote in the Oregon primary on May 18th, Kucinich remained in the race longer than any other Democratic contender, save for the party’s nominee.  He continued to battle for votes long after John Kerry had clinched the party’s nomination, but finally withdrew on July 22, four days before the opening of the Democratic national convention at the FleetCenter in Boston.

“The next critical step we must take is to help elect John Kerry as the next president of the United States,” Kucinich said in endorsing his rival. “The word is unity.  That is the operative word.”

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