Reporting for Duty: The Presidency of John Kerry and Beyond

Chapter XXXIII: July 2007.
Chapter Thirty Three:
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Senator McCain's candidacy sputtered out in July.
The fundraising numbers for the second quarter gave new insight into the state of the race; though his lead over conservative George Allen had narrowed, Jeb Bush's network of support ensured his campaign was well funded throughout. Other candidates reported large fundraising hauls, with George Allen taking in large amounts of donations from various Tea Party organizations and individual donors. Mitt Romney largely self funded his campaign, though his candidacy nonetheless inspired enough of his friends in corporate America to give generously to his candidacy. The insurgent candidacy of Ron Paul was sustained by the use of the internet to reach fundraising records, with Paul supporters raising millions as part of online “money bombs” within a twenty-four hour periods. Others were not so lucky; Newt Gingrich’s campaign appeared listless, and the former Speaker was unable to raise the $30 million goal he had publicly set when he announced his campaign. John McCain’s woes were even worse; with minimal funds and decreasing poll numbers, the Arizona Senator parted ways with top campaign staff in an attempt to revitalize his candidacy. The Senator was even photographed departing a plane in New Hampshire unaccompanied and carrying his own bags. It took only one more week before the Senator saw the writing on the wall, and he subsequently pulled out of the race. McCain’s candidacy was the first to end, and though his career was far from over, his presidential dreams were dashed for good. Declining to endorse a specific candidate, McCain vowed to back the eventual nominee.

Another July dropout was former Senator Mike Gravel, who endorsed Dennis Kucinich’s primary challenge against President Kerry. While Kucinich continued his quixotic campaign as a Democrat, there were rumors circulating around Washington that the Green Party was making overtures to Kucinich to consider campaigning in the general election as their nominee. The offer was tempting for the Ohio Congressman, but he ultimately declined in order to continue to serve in Congress unimpeded. Kucinich's firm refusal to seek the Green Party nomination left the party in a void; there were some who desired to draft Ralph Nader, who had run in 1996 and 2000 as their nominee (as well as an independent in 2004), but his relations with the party were soured in recent years. The party's 2004 Vice Presidential candidate Pat LeMarche announced her candidacy, but outside of Maine, she had a very low profile which failed to excite much enthusiasm.

The Republican candidates took to the debate stage once more, with CNN and YouTube hosting a debate in Jacksonville, Florida. Rick Perry made waves, with many commenting afterwards that the Texas Governor’s performance was considerably more alert and assertive on stage compared to his previous appearances. Jeb Bush came under fire from Governor Huckabee for funding programs that in some cases were tied to Planned Parenthood, while Speaker Gingrich struggled to defend many of his proposed programs when Governor Romney challenged his budget numbers. Senator Sam Brownback meanwhile begins to intrude upon Huckabee's territory when he makes a direct appeal to Evangelical voters, quoting Solzhenitsyn as he lamented the "liberal Godlessness" of Kerry's administration in a segment that would later be lampooned on Saturday Night Live. While internet polls again declared Congressman Paul the winner, most pundits showered Governors Perry and Romney with praise. Many viewers on call in programs on talk radio and C-SPAN noted that Senator Brownback seemed to have "more fire in the belly" than Huckabee as his profile rises after his debate breakthrough.

Terrorism was not just a subject in the Republican debates; in Britain, a car bomb driven into the terminal of Glasgow Airport failed to fully explode, leaving the suicide bomber dead and only four others injured. Scotland Yard began a nationwide investigation as Al Qaeda claimed credit for the attack, but they were too late. Just days later, two car bombs exploded outside crowded nightclubs, killing 54 people and injuring over a hundred more. In response, British planes bomb several known Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan with the help of American weaponry. It was widely reported that Prince Harry has taken part in the mission in response to the 2007 London attacks, which helped spark a sense of patriotic fever in Britain. Gordon Brown began preparing to call a snap election just a few weeks into his Premiership, capitalizing on the "rally around the flag" effect that was underway in the wake of the bombings. But the Labour Party was not the only political party in the United Kingdom that was seeing an uptick in support. Angered by the attacks in London, thousands of right-wing voters turn towards the British National Party, which controversially demanded a moratorium on immigration from the Muslim world among other policies.

Scandal took hold in Washington after the arrest of “the D.C. Madame,” Deborah Palfrey, who ran a high dollar escort ring in the capital. Upon investigation, it was revealed that many men in Washington had used her services, with Senator David Vitter (R-LA) being among the most notable caught up in the scandal. Facing growing pressure from Senator McConnell, the Senator publicly apologized to his family but refused to resign from the body. The investigation into the prostitution ring caused many of Washington’s most powerful men to have sleepless nights, but Palfrey's arrest was only the beginning. In Minneapolis, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) is arrested for trying to solicit sex from an undercover cop in an airport bathroom. Afterwards, while dealing with police investigators, the Senator handed a detective his business card which identified him as a Senator. When news broke about the Senator’s arrest, he initially defended himself as being a “wide man” who was “not gay” and “never had been gay.” Ultimately, the Senator would announce his decision to not seek reelection in 2008.

2008 Republican Primary (Nationwide)

Jeb Bush: 26%
George Allen: 24%
Rudy Giuliani: 15%
Mitt Romney: 12%
Mike Huckabee: 6%
Ron Paul: 5%
Sam Brownback: 5%
Newt Gingrich: 2%:
Rick Perry: 2%
George Pataki: 1%
Duncan Hunter: 1%
Tom Tancredo: 1%
 
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Chapter XXXIV: August 2007.
Chapter Thirty Four:
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The Minneapolis Bridge Collapse highlighted America's decaying infrastructure.
The summer concluded with a tragedy in Minneapolis; the I-35 bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River, plunging cars into the river below in a terrifying scene that horrified America and put the condition of the country's infrastructure into question. With 13 people being killed in the collapse, Acting Transportation Secretary John Porcari ordered the inspection of all bridges in the country in the aftermath of the disaster. The findings of this project would reveal that a significant portion of American infrastructure was found to be unsafe or otherwise in danger of structural failure should corrective measures not be taken, sparking a debate in Washington over whether an infrastructure revitalization package was feasible. On a state level, Governor Tim Pawlenty was thrust into the national spotlight for his rapid response to the collapse and his subsequent effort to rapidly redesign and rebuild the bridge. Within three weeks, as August neared its end, the President would formally nominated the acting Secretary of John Porcari for the full time position, setting him on the course for an easy confirmation process in September. Porcari's response to the bridge collapse would be widely praised, even by Republicans, during the leadup to his planned confirmation hearings.

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In Iowa, the Ames Straw Poll was held at the State Fair, where Senator Allen came out on top. The surprise second place finisher was Sam Brownback, who has seemingly displaced Mike Huckabee as the favorite of the evangelical wing of the party. The poor showing for Speaker Gingrich results in his departure from the race, citing poor polling, staff infighting, and dwindling funds. Like Senator McCain, Speaker Gingrich declines to endorse a specific candidate. Meanwhile, Huckabeee finds himself hard pressed to revitalize his campaign, resulting in a purge of his staff as part of a reset effort. Whereas Gingrich's campaign floundered due to poor leadership, the Huckabee campaign's troubles were harder to pin down. The campaign staff was both seasoned and disciplined, and Huckabee's daughter Sarah had made a name for herself in the process as the campaign spokesperson. But while voters found the former Baptist minister and Arkansas Governor to be charming and sincere according to focus groups and polling, he simply failed to tap into the Tea Party mindset that placed an increasingly high value on economic as opposed to cultural issues. Brownback's campaign's successful messaging strategy was a big factor in why the Huckabee campaign began to stagnate as the campaign wore on, and both Huckabee and Brownback found themselves in a cut throat competition to win the endorsement of Iowa Governor Bob Vander Plaats.

The internet began to impact elections fully for the first time, with social media like Facebook and YouTube multiplying the reach of each candidate. Fueled by a younger voter base, Ron Paul’s campaign was particularly savvy at using the internet to reach voters and raise money. In honor of the Texas Congressman’s 72nd birthday, raising $7.2 million online in a single day, a record that few ever expected the libertarian leaning Congressman would come close to making. Other candidates used YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other online outlets to outline their agenda and share their vision. With a large amount of personal wealth to spend, Mitt Romney reached out to voters extensively online, building a large email list that allowed the moderate Massachusetts Governor to quickly reach supporters. Social media by 2007 was rapidly becoming an essential part of American life as more and more voters engage both each other and their representatives online, and many campaigns were on the forefront of reshaping how American politicians would use the internet.

Another Republican debate was held, this time with disastrous consequences for one candidate in particular. Rick Perry, having previously done relatively well in the preceding debate, made one of the most unforgettable utterances in political history. After being asked by the moderator which three cabinet departments he’d abolish, Perry struggled to remember the third after naming the EPA and the Department of Education. Despite Congressman Paul naming a few other Departments, Perry still was at a loss for an answer, ultimately giving up awkwardly and saying “oops.” The crowd laughed, but the media was less jovial. Perry’s candidacy was effectively over, and the Governor - already lingering at the bottom of the polls - began weighing his future in the rate.

2008 Republican Primary (Nationwide)

Jeb Bush: 26%
George Allen: 25%
Rudy Giuliani: 14%
Mitt Romney: 13%
Sam Brownback: 6%
Mike Huckabee: 5%
Ron Paul: 5%
George Pataki: 3%
Rick Perry: 1%
Duncan Hunter: 1%
Tom Tancredo: 1%
 
Chapter XXXV: September 2007.
Chapter Thirty Five:
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Rick Perry's debate performances doomed a once promising candidacy.
Rick Perry’s “oops” moment and his last place showing in Ames was followed by his departure from the race two weeks later; though he had polled relatively low from the outset, the Governor’s presence in the race briefly was thought to be a threat to Senator Allen’s monopoly on the deep south. With Perry now out of the race, Allen began to creep up on Governor Bush as the polls tightened; in the background, Romney and Giuliani found themselves locked in a struggle to break out of the “second tier” of candidates. This came to a head when once more, they debated, this time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The former Governor and frontrunner Jeb Bush continued to maintain a thinning lead over Senator Allen, but his backing of the DREAM Act and pro-immigration policies put him at odds with an increasingly right wing base of voters. Worse yet was the reality that Bush was not the strongest of debaters, nor did he ooze charisma. Yet the Bush campaign remained confident that his strategy of being “the adult in the room” would present an image of steady, reasoned leadership.

The cabinet saw more change when Education Secretary Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) resigned in order to seek Senator Sununu’s seat in New Hampshire. To replace her was Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the former President. Kennedy had previously worked for New York City’s school system, and was widely praised in the media as a strong nominee for the position. A wildly popular pick among Democrats, it took just shy of a month for Kennedy to be confirmed to the position by a Senate vote of 77-19. The new Education Secretary was well received by the teacher’s union, and quickly began asserting herself as one of the more prominent members of the administration. The Senate also confirmed Acting Transportation Secretary John Porcari to the position permanently, after President Kerry quietly nominated the Deputy Secretary to succeed the late Juanita MacDonald.


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Education Secretary Caroline Kennedy.
The “Six Party” talks between South and North Korea plus Russia, China, America, and Japan begin after months of stalling and difficulties. Though Kim Jong Il had expressed interest in the denuclearization talks, the North Korean government was also busy exporting their nuclear technology to other nations, most notably Syria. Israel ended this budding partnership by bombing the reactor under construction, leaving President Assad enraged. Rather than further escalating the situation in both the Middle East and the Korean peninsula, Kerry chose to exercise America’s soft power. Secretary of State Holbrooke and the North Korean Foreign Minister secretly met one on one in Mongolia's capital, where the Secretary personally delivered a letter from President Kerry to Kim Jong Il in which he offered to negotiate a potential peace treaty to officially end both sanctions and the ongoing war. In exchange, North Korea would be required to disband their nuclear program and commit themselves to a peaceful coexistence with the South. This meeting was initially unknown to the public, and Kim Jong Il did not respond immediately to Kerry's offer.

The 9/11 attacks were mourned six years on, with President Kerry laying a wreath at the site of Flight 93’s crash site. The lingering memories of the attacks weighed on the public's mind as the war in Iraq winded down. But what stings the average American the most is the administration's ongoing inability to locate and neutralize Osama Bin Laden. As per tradition, the anniversary of the terror attacks is met with another tape of the world’s most wanted man, in which he taunts President Kerry and calls for young American Muslims to commit acts of Jihad. The location of Bin Laden remained a mystery, and it was even unknown to the CIA whether he was in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The search for Bin Laden continued, though 2007 offered few new leads for the CIA to work on.

Senator McConnell, Speaker Dreier, Majority Leader Blunt, and Majority Whip Eric Cantor are invited into the Oval Office to work with President Kerry over a proposed plan to create a “Medibank” which would fund and establish smaller health clinics across the country in rural, desolate, or otherwise underserved areas. The Republican leadership in the House was unwilling to engage the White House on such a plan unless private healthcare or insurance companies are included in the expansion and construction of these clinics, however, and the meeting ultimately went nowhere. Privately, the President fumes to his Chief of Staff Alexis Herman and Chief Strategist Mary Beth Cahill that he has grown to regret passing such a comprehensive, complicated, and controversial healthcare bill due to the lack of political capital he enjoyed in the wake of the 2006 Republican landslide. Yet Kerry's staff and campaign advisers continue to insist that the President campaign on the healthcare bill, arguing that the ACA's popularity in Middle America will increase as more and more programs and aspects of the bill come into full force.

In late September, Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls a snap election in the United Kingdom. After ten years of Labor rule, the Conservatives under the leadership of David Cameron see an opportunity to dislodge Gordon Brown's majority in the House of Commons. Despite rising support for the anti-immigrant and anti-Europe BNP, the Conservatives were convinced that the election presented them with the chance to finally return the United Kingdom to Tory governance. Polling showed Brown's Labor Party holding a thin, if steady lead over the Conservatives, though there was consternation among some Labor MP's that Tony Blair's withering private assessment of Brown as being "too bland" to win over the electorate would prove true. The Liberal Democratic campaign under Ming Campbell was equally underwhelming, leading to growing speculation that the election, due to be held in early November, could result in a hung parliament.

Another notable event transpired towards the end of September; while speaking to students in a lecture hall during a surprise appearance while touring the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, the President is confronted with a question about 9/11 from an excitable student named Andrew Meyer. When Meyer tried to move closer to the President in a seemingly aggressive manner, he was jumped by five secret service agents and subsequently tased as he continued to resist, screaming "don't tase me bro!" The President was rushed out of the room as this transpired, though the Secret Service later deemed Meyer to be a low level risk. The Justice Department began investigating the incident to see if federal charges might be pursued, but ultimately no legal action was taken.

2008 Republican Primary (Nationwide)
Jeb Bush: 27%
George Allen: 25%
Rudy Giuliani: 13%
Mitt Romney: 13%
Sam Brownback: 6%
Mike Huckabee: 6%
Ron Paul: 5%
George Pataki: 3%
Duncan Hunter: 1%
Tom Tancredo: 1%
 
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I'll be out of town and away from my laptop all next week as well as this weekend, so I'm trying to get up through Iowa before Wednesday. I'll resume posting updates on Monday. Thanks for the continued support!
 
Is Hunter S. Thompson still alive ITTL? IOTL, Bush winning re-election against his close friend hurt him badly, and didn’t help his already ailing health. He committed suicide in early 2005 - would Kerry beating Bush have given Hunter more reason to keep living?
 
Is Hunter S. Thompson still alive ITTL? IOTL, Bush winning re-election against his close friend hurt him badly, and didn’t help his already ailing health. He committed suicide in early 2005 - would Kerry beating Bush have given Hunter more reason to keep living?
That’s an interesting thought, I haven’t considered that. I’ll look into the state of his physical health in OTL and see how long he could last.
 
Here’s something to hold us all over haha:

2008 Third Party Candidates
Libertarian
Declared
Former Governor Bill Weld of Massachusetts: After a failed campaign for Governor of New York, Weld has taken an active role in the party and was immediately trumpeted as a potential nominee for President. The former Governor got the presidential bug quickly on the campaign trail, and announced his candidacy early in 2007 after the midterms. The pragmatic, establishment wing of the party has rallied behind him though the more radical caucus is less thrilled about his candidacy.

Activist Mary Ruwart of Texas: A longtime activist, educator, and philosopher, Mary Ruwart is the favorite of the more ideological and radical members of the party.

Businessman Wayne Alan Root of Nevada: a businessman and media figure popular amongst Tea Party activists on the burgeoning social media platforms, Wayne Alan Root is self funding his candidacy for the nomination.

Activist Mike Jingozian of Oregon: Some guy who ran for like Governor or Senator from Oregon or something. The radicals are fond of him.

Activist George Phillies of Pennsylvania: some old party hardliner who writes nasty comments on Independent Political Report’s posts. He’s running because he’s more libertarian than you.

Declined
Congressman Ron Paul of Texas: Let’s be real, his quixotic candidacy is doing more for the libertarian movement than any of the above guys can hope for. If there’s a year to be Libertarian, 2008 ain’t it. As of the end of 2007, Paul is still a committed candidate for the Republican nomination and is planning on also seeking re-election in 2008.

Green
Declared
Activist Pat LeMarche of Maine: The 2004 Green VP nominee, Pat LeMarche is an essential part of the Green Party of Maine - the most successful affiliate of the party. The likely favorite among the field of already declared candidates, LeMarche is a tried and true grassroots warrior. But Maine is Maine and the rest of Murica is...well....Murica. So

Activist Kat Swift of Texas: If your granola crunching kook grandparents had a cool Deadhead daughter, this chick would be her. After a failed mayoral campaign in San Antonio, 30-something year old Kat Swift is seeking an ever bigger job - the Presidency.

Activist Howie Hawkins of New York: an old guard member of the Green Party who has made multiple statewide runs for the Green Party ticket in New York, Howie Hawkins is a skilled organizer who could boost the party’s grassroots efforts. He's kind of a male answer to Pat LeMarche - a bureaucratic party functionary hidden behind a hippie's smile.

Activist Kent Mesplay of California: a frequent contender for office as a Green, Mesplay is a familiar face within Green Party politics. The air quality inspector from southern California is a longshot candidate with virtually no name recognition of any kind outside of the Green Party of California circles .

Prospective
Former Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota: Jesse is once again threatening to run for President, and as usual, nobody (except Larry King) seems to be taking him seriously. Yet Ventura does have a lot to offer the party besides his starpower and status as a former Governor: he can attract libertarians and Republicans as well as progressives, after all. While the idea of some kind of Ralph Nader-Ron Paul ideological alliance seemed alluring to many, others worried that Ventura's support for 9/11 trutherism and belief in the government creating tsunamis might hurt the party's image. Though Ventura has not filed any paperwork, done any campaigning, hired any staff, or raised any money, he repeatedly tells Howard Stern that he's super totally serious and for real about running and stuff.

Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska: Despite being literally ancient, Senator Mike Gravel did run as a Democrat for President before dropping out when he realized that Granny D and the ten other people in New Hampshire who actually supported him would be better served by Dennis Kucinich. Since than, he has been looking at running for the Green Party nomination, with talk of a Ventura/Gravel ticket spreading on the fringe corners of the internet.

Attorney Ralph Nader of Connecticut: After his 2004 campaign kinda put him on the outs with the party that he basically led into the limelight, Nader has been toying with a 2008 run once more. Mostly just to piss the Democrats off. The problem is that the Greens really don't like Nader much anymore either. Why nominate some seventies retrend when you can get

Declined
Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio: Running for reelection in 2008 to the US House.
 
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Chapter XXXVI: October 2007.
Chapter Thirty Six:
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New rising stars emerged towards the twilight of Kerry's first term in office.
In Massachusetts, a special election for a vacant House seat formerly held by Congressman Marty Meehan is won by Richard Tisei over Nikki Tsongas, the widow of the late former Senator. Tisei, an openly gay moderate Republican, claims his victory is a sign that the American public were tiring on what he lambasted as President Kerry’s “big government solutions.” The victory was worrying to many Democrats, and the President’s brother and adviser Cameron Kerry insisted that the Republican victory in the special election in the President's backyard should serve as a wakeup call for the President. In the press, there was some speculation of a rift between Cameron Kerry and David McKeen (another longtime ally and friend of the President's) and Cahill, with the President's brother insinuating behind the scenes that the White House was losing confidence in the President's reelection team. The crisis in Kerry-land was compounded when on October 20th, voters in Louisiana went to the polls for the first round of the “jungle primary.” The Republican Party, united by Congressman Bobby Jindal, wins a clear and convincing majority of 55% on the first ballot, defeating scattered Democratic and third party candidates with ease. The first Indian American elected Governor, Jindal’s win was largely attributed to public dissatisfaction with the Democratic incumbent Kathleen Blanco’s response to hurricane Katrina.

Across the globe in the Kremlin, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced he would seek a seat in the Duma rather than try to amend the country’s constitution to extend his term as head of state. Of course, Putin had no real intention of retiring. By seeking a seat in the Duma, Putin in reality was only engineering his own appointment as Prime Minister. Though the Russian Presidency from which he was nominally retiring from was constitutionally the highest office within the Russian Federation, Putin was clearly intending to amend the constitution in order to delegate most of the responsibilities of governing to the office of Prime Minister. It is effectively a job switch between Putin and his loyal stooge Dimitri Mededev, and State Department analysts, CIA and intelligence officials, and social scientists alike predict that the leadership shuffle in the Kremlin will change little.


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In Pakistan, discontent with Pakistan’s military dictator Pervez Musharraff began to boil over. Large demonstrations took place in Islamabad, and despite the General’s effort to suppress the protests, the opposition to him continuing to hold onto power began to grow. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who had been living in exile in London, made waves about returning to the country after spending years abroad. This only emboldened the protests, which resulted in the President of Pakistan declaring a state of emergency. Realizing the timing was set for her return, Bhutto ignored warnings about her personal safety and announced her intent to return to her homeland. Huge crowds of supporters defied the government and poured into the streets to celebrate as she arrived in Pakistan for the first time in years days later when she arrived in Karachi. Paraded through the streets, Bhutto’s progress through the city was interrupted by two car bombs which exploded. Though 157 people were slain in the attack and 400+ more wounded, Bhutto remained unafraid of the future. Sensing weakness, Secretary of State Holbrooke began increasing pressure on Musharraf in the hopes he’d take an “exit strategy” and resign as President in exchange for American protection and the promise of a comfortable retirement. But Musharraf was reluctant, privately warning even his political rivals that President Kerry was only a fair weather friend of Pakistan. Time would tell whether the Musharraf regime could weather the storm.

2008 Republican Primary (Nationwide)

Jeb Bush: 28%
George Allen: 27%
Mitt Romney: 15%
Rudy Giuliani: 10%
Sam Brownback: 8%
Ron Paul: 5%
Mike Huckabee: 3%
George Pataki: 2%
Duncan Hunter: 1%
Tom Tancredo: 1%
 
Good stuff! When you use the phrase “Kerry’s first term” I can’t help but imagine a potential Kerry second term also!

That would be a unique feature of a Kerry 2004 timeline, absolutely.
 
Good stuff! When you use the phrase “Kerry’s first term” I can’t help but imagine a potential Kerry second term also!

That would be a unique feature of a Kerry 2004 timeline, absolutely.
It could be. Or it could be his first and only term. Stay tuned!

The original draft of this (written in 2012) did have Kerry winning reelection, but I’ve gutted and rewrote this a dozen times since I was 16. Almost 85% of it has been reworked, actually.

In fact, I might later redo this in the style of @KingSweden24 to hit upon more detail like he did in Bicentennial Man.
 
I could 100% see a Jeb! Bush nomination leading to a third party run by someone and the media stoking it in order to split the Republican vote and have Kerry win re-election with sub 45% of the vote in ‘08
 
Chapter XXXVII: November 2007.
Chapter Thirty Seven:
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Embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
By the start of November, Musharraf began to see the writing on the wall as his position of power over Pakistan deteriorated. After riots broke out across the country when he attempted unsuccessfully to have Bhutto once more placed under house arrest, Musharraf agreed to allow a civilian led cabinet consisting of several Pakistani political parties while also lifting the State of Emergency and resigning as Commander-in-Chief of the army. But these concessions were not enough to satisfy the public, and angry citizens continued to protest in the streets. These decisions came at a cost; the new civilian led government quickly began to assert their newfound power both domestically and internationally, which threw the war in Afghanistan and American-Pakistani military cooperation in the region into chaos. While the Kerry administration continued to insist on a peaceful transfer of power, the lack of cohesion within the Pakistani government seriously undermined the stability of the country, and some in the State Department questioned whether the return of Bhutto to Pakistan was worth the trouble it had caused.

The CNN/YouTube Republican debate saw sparks fly as Rudy Giuliani came under increased fire from other candidates, particularly Senators Allen and Brownback, the latter of whom was rising in the polls. Jeb Bush meanwhile found himself flustered by the rise of George Allen, drowned out on the debate stage, and somewhat ignored by the media due to the perception of the frontrunner being a stiff campaigner. After delivering his stump speech to a crowd of Iowa voters, Bush found himself met with a cold silence; his awkward attempt to stir the room with the line “please clap” only worsened his image as the dynasty scion’s campaign drifted listlessly as Iowa neared. But the campaign took an ugly turn in New Hampshire, however, when Leeland Eisenberg, aged 47, entered a Jeb Bush campaign office and shot and killed four staffers before shooting and injuring ten more. Eisenberg then took his own life afterwards. An FBI investigation began immediately, though it was quickly determined that his actions were not politically or personally motivated. Governor Bush returned to New Hampshire from Iowa to visit his wounded staffers, with conservative media embracing him as Fox News’s Sean Hannity and radio host Rush Limbaugh among others blaming President Kerry for stoking the shooting. The crisis gave the former Governor an opportunity to display his crisis management ability, and in the end, he passed the test. Though his numbers remained stagnant for the time being, the shooting and his quick response was enough to save an otherwise stalling campaign.

Meanwhile, early indicators from the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and the Treasury began to paint a troubling portrait. American economic growth was slowing, and the soaring stock market seemed to be beyond its peak. Republicans argued that President Kerry’s refusal to renew the Bush tax cuts was inciting fear in the market, which they believed could lead to chaos on Wall Street if the remaining uncertainty continued. The President's reelection team seized upon this, arguing to the public that the Republican Party was ultimately concerned only with tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, and for a while, it seemed as if the messaging was working. The Republican majorities in the House and Senate were not strong enough to override the President's veto, and thus, a political stalemate ensued. There were concerns that Speaker Dreier and Majority Leader McConnell would try and attach an amendment extending the Bush tax cuts as part of the next budget, which could result in a potential government shutdown. As partisan tensions worsened, McConnell prepared for months of political trench warfare with the White House as he ran down the clock as 2008 loomed.

Gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi saw mixed results; though scandal plagued Republican incumbent Ernie Fletcher went down in a landslide defeat, in Mississippi, popular incumbent Haley Barbour was reelected over token Democratic opposition in a landslide; in addition to Bobby Jindal’s October election victory in the first round of the Louisiana jungle primary, it appeared as if the Republican Party was gaining momentum as the onset of the next primary cycle neared. Inside the Oval Office, Mary Beth Cahill insisted that the President shouldn't be alarmed, citing the solid Republican leanings of Mississippi and to a lesser extent Louisiana.

Across the Atlantic, the 2007 British General Election was conducted. In a horrifying setback for the governing Labor majority, Prime Minister Gordon Brown saw his once solid Labor Party government reduced to a minority of 309 seats. Though the Tories under the leadership of David Cameron surged to gain almost 90 seats, they remained mathematically short of a majority even with the backing of the Liberal Democrats, who saw their presence in parliament halved. With a hung parliament, negotiations between Brown and the LDP began immediately, resulting in a coalition government being formed after days of talks between high level MPs. Though Brown was able to stay on as Prime Minister for the time being, his shaky alliance with the Liberal Democrats was unlikely to hold and talk of another election in 2009 or 2010 was already spreading in Westminster. David Cameron also attempted to stay on as leader of the Conservative Party, but he was facing growing pressure from the backbenches to stand down. At the end of the month, Cameron announced his intent to resign from the leadership of the party, and a heated three-way leadership race between MPs David Davis, Theresa May, and George Osborne began as the Conservatives pondered their future.

The race began to shift as the primaries loomed; having been displaced by Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee’s campaign began to nosedive as the Iowa caucus neared. The final blow was when Governor Bob Vander Plaats announced his endorsement of Senator Brownback’s campaign; the Governor's decision to throw his weight behind the Kansas Senator effectively ended Huckabee's campaign, and though Huckabee insisted that his campaign continue through Iowa, his donors quickly began closing their wallets. A sincere Christian who had been a man of the cloth before leaving the clergy for politics, Huckabee was not joking when he stated that he was hoping for a miracle. A middling performance could at least sustain him through South Carolina, which presented an opportunity for a reset. But he'd need the money to do it, and it was unlikely that he'd be able to raise it. Huckabee thus returned to Arkansas, where his wife Janet was serving as Governor, to reassess his future in the race.

Others, including Congressman Tancredo and Congressman Hunter, opted to stay in the race. While Tancredo did weigh his future options, Hunter was gung-ho about carrying on with his candidacy despite consistently low polling. Governor Pataki also lagged in the bottom, though his numbers were good enough in New Hampshire to motivate his continued campaigning. Meanwhile Ron Paul, who polled consistently in the middle of the pack, had cultivated a fiercely loyal base of support from mostly younger anti-war libertarians. Their grassroots enthusiasm and financial support kept his candidacy afloat, despite continuous attacks from his rivals. Paul’s most vocal critic was Rudy Giuliani, who saw this position crumble nationally over the summer. Like Governor Huckabee, Mayor Giuliani was planning to use a key early primary state - in this case, Florida - to reset his campaign and change the narrative. It was a risky strategy, but Giuliani banked on its success.

2008 Republican Primary (Nationwide)
Jeb Bush: 27%
George Allen: 27%
Mitt Romney: 17%
Sam Brownback: 10%
Rudy Giuliani: 9%
Ron Paul: 5%
Mike Huckabee: 2%
George Pataki: 1%
Duncan Hunter: 1%
Tom Tancredo: 1%
 
Man, a Brown-Clegg partnership would have been really interesting to see in our timeline. Looking at our options remaining here, if I had the option to vote for one of these candidates and cared about Republicans and also could vote in this country, I'd probably pick George Allen. Definitely feels like the Iowa Caucus is going to knock out a good few candidates here.
 
Chapter XXXVIII: December 2007.
Chapter Thirty Eight:
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White House Deputy Chief of Staff Mary Beth Cahill - the President's "political protector."
The Christmas season brought fresh concerns about the economy, as stocks continued to slide and growth slowly retracted. Speaker Dreier encouraged President Kerry to launch a tax rebate program in order to stimulate the economy; though the White House studied the Speaker's proposal, the Deputy Chief of Staff Mary Beth Cahill and Cameron Kerry convinced the President that signing onto such a program would only result in Republicans moving the goalposts on issues such as the Bush tax cuts. Instead, they argued, the President and congressional Democrats should work towards crafting their own variation of the Speaker's plan on their own terms, knowing that the GOP leadership in Congress (particularly Senate Majority Leader McConnell, who was much more ruthless than the Speaker) would attempt to insert a "poison pill" into any potential compromise in the hopes of formulating a narrative that the administration was playing politics with the American people's wallets at a time of economic uncertainty. The combination of McConnell's hyper-partisan power plays and the growing influence of the Tea Party movement was having a significant impact on the party, with growing divisions within the Republican Senate caucus between the establishment moderates and traditional conservatives verses the Tea Party wing of the Republican base. This began to show when a number of marginalized moderates began to break ranks with the party; the first was Senator Lincoln Chafee (I-RI), a former Republican who caucused with the Senate Majority in spite of his primary defeat during the 2006 midterms. Chafee's decision at the end of 2007 to endorse the President's reelection and join the Democratic caucus deprived the solid Republican majority of a seat and indicated that the President, however unpopular he may be, still had some pull with the moderate and independent voters turned off by the Tea Party.

Chafee's defection was followed by a wave of retirement announcements; the first was Senator John Warner (R-VA), who cited his old age and health as the reason why he would not pursue reelection in 2008 despite previously indicating that he would run for one final term. Though the Old Dominion state had traditionally favored the GOP in recent cycles, the prospect of President Kerry heading the Democratic ticket made the Senate race an attractive target for several candidates. The first to enter the race was former Governor Mark Warner (no relation to the retiring incumbent), who was followed by Richmond Mayor and former gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine. On the Republican side, former Governor Jim Gilmore entered the race, facing no opposition from any other prominent Republican figures. Pete Domenici, a six term Republican incumbent from New Mexico, also announced his retirement from the upper chamber. Unlike Virginia, where former Governor Gilmore found himself unopposed, the New Mexico GOP Senate primary devolves into a free for all as several potential Republican contenders lined up; Congressman Steve Pearce, Congresswoman Heather Wilson, and former Governor Gary Johnson all announced their campaigns for the Senate over the course of December. Congressman Tom Udall meanwhile enters the race as the only major Democratic candidate, with the backing of Governor Bill Richardson, who is reportedly eying a campaign for President in 2012. But the biggest announcement is that of Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, an increasingly anti-war voice within the Republican caucus who has criticized the right-wing drift of the party in recent years. Former Governor Mike Johanns is a slam dunk to capture both the Republican Senate primary and the general election itself, with the Nebraska Democratic Party failing to find a strong enough contender to take the former Governor on.

The situation in Pakistan continued to deteriorate. Weeks after returning to the country after years of exile in London, Benazir Bhutto comes under attack once again. After leaving a rally in Rawalpindi, a suicide bomber detonated himself near Benazir Bhutto’s motorcade, killing dozens of people and flipping the SUV which Bhutto was traveling in. Bhutto was severely injured in the blast, but ultimately was released from the hospital eleven days later. Al Qaeda takes responsibility for the attack, with Osama Bin Laden releasing an audio tape weeks later in which he taunts the former Pakistani Prime Minister with further threats against her life. Though President Musharraf insists that the attack was the work of Islamists, members of Bhutto's party claimed that the Pakistani ISI had collaborated with Al Qaeda in order to remove the political threat to the regime posed by her. Demonstrations against President Musharraf continued, and Secretary of State Holbrooke and National Security Adviser Susan Rice both warned the President that the crisis in Pakistan was escalating as talk of a general strike spread across the nation. On Christmas Eve, President Kerry at last publicly called for the Pakistani dictator to stand down after nearly a decade in power. Musharraf refused, however, and angrily denounced the President in a televised address to the nation.

While libertarian leaning Congressman Ron Paul continued his quixotic campaign as a Republican, a new libertarian voice emerged in the race. Former Governor Bill Weld of Massachusetts, a Republican who like Paul leaned libertarian (though not nearly to the same extent as the Texas Congressman), had months earlier announced he would enter the race as a candidate for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination. As 2007 concluded, Weld's campaign for the Libertarian Party nomination was gaining ground as the media paid increased attention to his candidacy. With a national presence left over from the Clinton era, Weld's campaign was met with a mixed reaction among the Libertarian Party's ranks. Though he was no stranger to the party, having run briefly for their gubernatorial nomination in New York in 2006, his campaign had left a bad taste in the mouths of the party faithful after he dropped out of the race and endorsed Governor Pataki for reelection. Forming an exploratory committee for President in January, Weld faced considerable pushback from the party's ideologues over the course of the year before finally launching his campaign in early December. As part of an effort to unite the party ahead of the convention in May, Weld secretly promised former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr the Vice Presidential nomination in exchange for his endorsement and staying out of the race himself. But Barr, it seemed, had a big mouth, and word of this arrangement quickly got out. Both former Republican politicians (Weld a northern moderate, Barr a southern conservative), the Libertarian Party's most dedicated and radical members decried the former Governor's candidacy.


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Former Governor Jesse Ventura announced a Green Party run.
Then of course, there was the Republicans who cried about "vote splitting" and pointed to Ralph Nader's role as the so called "spoiler" in the 2000 election. Fortunately for the Republicans, Kerry had his own threat coming from the Green Party. Though Congressman Kucinich had vowed not to seek their presidential nomination, many of his supporters were terminally disenchanted with President Kerry and would refuse to support him. But like the Libertarians, the Greens faced their own internal divides. Days after Weld launched his campaign officially, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura - who was affiliated with the now effectively dormant Reform Party - announced that he would run for President as a Green Party candidate. Ventura's politics, which were largely radical centrist in outlook, were spiced up by a variety of controversial conspiracy theories and outlandish statements. But for all his flaws as a potential Green, Ventura was a dedicated and passionate opponent of the Iraq War, and could attract anti-war Republicans and Libertarians disenchanted with Bill Weld behind his banner as well. As a former pro-wrestler, Navy SEAL, and Governor of Minnesota, Ventura was a household name in America that made him an attractive candidate to many in the party. Considering the fiasco of 2004, in which the party controversially nominated David Cobb over their successful 2000 standard-bearer Ralph Nader, the ground for a Ventura presidential campaign was fertile. But like Weld, Ventura was not alone in the race. He was joined in the race by activists Howie Hawkins and Kat Swift, as well as filmmaker Jesse Johnson, all of whom were deeply rooted in the party. There was also a draft effort to pull Ralph Nader, the party’s 1996 and 2000 nominee, into the race. Ultimately, Nader would pass on a presidential campaign after months of speculation that he might mount yet another independent bid, eventually endorsing Ventura days before the Green Party convention.

The last insurgent in the race was Congressman Dennis Kucinich; though their candidate was far, far below the President in Iowa and New Hampshire, his campaign was more successful at rallying disenchanted progressives towards the end of the year. While President Kerry and Speaker Dreier worked together to push through a tax rebate as part of a stimulus plan, Congressman Kucinich and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) instead called for radical Social Security reform (which would convert the program into a universal basic income) and Medicare-for-All as a stronger progressive alternative. Though these ideas inspired liberal and progressive Democrats, it failed to generate any boost in support for the Ohio Congressman and his ill-fated campaign. There were rumors that Kucinich would be offered a speaking slot at the Democratic Convention should he drop out and endorse the President's re-election before the New Hampshire primary, but the Congressman pressed on with his campaign in spite of such an offer.

As the primaries loomed, a number of critical endorsements are made. As Iowa Governor Vander Plaats had already backed Brownback, the eyes of the nation turned to New Hampshire, where the influential conservative leaning New Hampshire Union-Leader threw it’s endorsement behind Senator Allen. In South Carolina, conservative Governor Mark Sanford also backed Allen. Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist on the other hand was still undecided; it was widely expected in Tallahassee that Governor Crist would endorse Florida’s favorite son and his predecessor in office, Jeb Bush. Yet Rudy Giuliani, whose campaign was cratering, was still banking on Florida being the reset point for his presidential campaign. As a result, Giuliani courted Crist heavily, campaigning hard in Florida to demonstrate his ability to win the state in both the primary and the general election. The Mayor’s actions were enough to keep Crist on the sidelines through most of the fall, but as the primary neared, the Governor knew he’d soon make a decision. In an announcement just days after Christmas, Governor Charlie Crist endorsed Jeb Bush. The endorsement is a fatal blow to Giuliani’s efforts, but the former New York City Mayor insists that he will continue his campaign through Florida as part of an increasingly desperate and futile effort. Quietly working away in the background is Governor Romney, who has soured to third in Iowa and was nearly leading in New Hampshire over Governor Bush in New Hampshire, a state which bordered his own state of Massachusetts. With a strong donor network in place plus his own personal wealth, Romney’s candidacy placed over 20% in the polls for the first time as his slightly conservative brand of centrism played well with Republican voters. Though he came under frequent fire throughout the debates for his implementation of a healthcare mandate requiring Massachusetts residents to purchase insurance, Romney was able to shirk the argument that he was the architect of the Affordable Care Act by highlighting his support for state’s rights when it came to handling such issues.

2008 Republican Primary (Nationwide)
Jeb Bush: 27%
George Allen: 25%
Mitt Romney: 20%
Sam Brownback: 11%
Ron Paul: 7%
Rudy Giuliani: 5%
Mike Huckabee: 2%
George Pataki: 1%
Duncan Hunter: 1%
Tom Tancredo: 1%
 
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