John Kerry likely isn’t top of mind when it comes to potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates — even within his home state of Massachusetts.
Compared to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Gov. Deval Patrick — who’ve both laid some groundwork for possible 2020 bids — or even Rep. Seth Moulton, Kerry is hardly the first name mentioned when it comes to Bay State politicians with White House sights, even if he did come awfully close to it in 2004. The former Massachusetts senator and U.S. secretary of state didn’t even make CNN’s “definitive ranking” of 10 potential 2020 Democrats last month. Nor did he make the Washington Post‘s ranking of the top 15 candidates to take on President Donald Trump earlier this summer. Kerry wasn’t even among the honorable mentions whom the Post said were “worth watching.” Sad!
All of that is to say that it may have caught even the most logged-on Twitter users by surprise Monday when Trump himself took to social media to mock the idea of Kerry running against him in 2020.
“I should only be so lucky,” the Republican president tweeted.
Trump’s missive came after Kerry sat down for a lengthy interview Sunday on the CBS News show “Face the Nation,” during which he talked about his experience running for president in 2004.
“Are you going to run in 2020?” asked host Maragret Brennan
“I’m really not thinking about it,” Kerry said. “Talking about 2020 right now is a total distraction and waste of time. What we need to do is focus on 2018.”
Brennan replied that she would ask him that same question after November, once the midterm elections had passed.
“If you catch me,” Kerry said with a chuckle.
The exchange prompted a number of national news outlets, including CBS News, the aforementioned Washington Post, and — perhaps catching the president’s eye — Fox News, to write that Kerry “isn’t shutting the door to,” “won’t rule out,” or “has refused to rule out” a second presidential bid in 2020.
Kerry returned to the CBS airwaves Tuesday and said he wasn’t going to get into a “back and forth” when asked about Trump’s tweet mocking him.
“I doubt very much I’ll be running for office again,” he told “CBS This Morning.” “But I’ll say this, no one should be focused on 2020 right now, they should be focused on 2018.”
Still, the 2020 speculation hasn’t come completely uninvited.
Shortly after the 2016 election, Kerry told The Boston Globe that jumping into the race “passed my mind a few times,” though he “never really thought that seriously about it.” Since then, reporters have repeatedly prodded to find out how much the former diplomat was considering jumping into the 2020 race.
“I haven’t been thinking about it or talking about it,” he told The New York Times in February 2017, less than a month after Trump’s inauguration. “I haven’t ruled anything in or anything out.”
Later that year, Kerry went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and was immediately asked, “Is it Kerry 2020?” Again, he brushed off the question, saying he currently had no plans and wasn’t “thinking about it.”
“That’s not a denial,” host Joe Scarborough noted.
For as much Kerry laughed off the notion, Globe columnist Scott Lehigh reported last October that “Kerry campers acknowledge something more is afoot,” ahead of a visit to Iowa by the 74-year-old Bay Stater to campaign on behalf of the state’s attorney general, Tom Miller.
“He’s never completely given up on his White House dreams,” Lehigh wrote, later adding that “should Trump upend the nuclear deal Kerry negotiated with Iran, defending that pact would give him a rationale for running.” (Trump announced plans to withdraw from the nuclear deal in May.)
This past January, a local Israeli newspaper reported that Kerry told an associate of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he was actually thinking about taking another shot at those White House dreams.
“[Kerry] surprised his interlocutor by saying he was seriously considering running for president in 2020,” Ben Caspit, a columnist for the newspaper, Maariv, reported. “When asked about his advanced age, he said he was not much older than Trump and would not have an age problem.”
A similar line of reasoning, defending the septuagenarian’s age, was made by two unnamed sources close to Kerry in a Globe article in April.
“The former secretary of state is mystified that Joe Biden is surging in early 2020 polls in New Hampshire while Kerry is rarely mentioned as a potential presidential contender,” they told the Globe‘s Annie Linskey.
Kerry turns 75 in December. Biden turns 76 in November. And then there’s of course Trump, who turned 72 this past June.
At the same time, a third unnamed Kerry associate told Linsky not to read too much into Kerry’s comments or campaign schedule, such as that Iowa visit.
“It would be out of character if he didn’t help Democrats, even as he forges a new path outside government,” the person said.
After leaving the government, Kerry joined his alma mater Yale University to oversee an initiative focused on global issues and, in April, signed on with the San Francisco-based private equity firm TPG to advise their social impact fund.
But following decades in public office, his entrance into the private sector doesn’t mean Kerry is leaving the political sphere. In addition to helping former colleagues and staffers running for office in 2018, he has been a forceful critic of the Trump administration, particularly of the 180-degree turn taken by the State Department he once led.
Kerry said Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord (which he helped broker in 2016) was motivated by “craven ignorance” and “built on an enormous lie that the economy is somehow hurt by the steps that were being taken.” He repeatedly blasted Trump’s efforts to undermine the Iran nuclear deal (which Kerry also negotiated and worked behind the scenes to salvage earlier this year). The former diplomat also called the president’s combative approach to fellow allies at a NATO summit this summer “strange or counterproductive.”
“Nothing he says you can believe,” Kerry said Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” referring to Trump.
Kerry’s public reemergence this week isn’t only to speak out against the actions of the Trump administration, though he has done plenty of that; he’s also promoting a new memoir, “Every Day is Extra,”which was released Tuesday. The book is being published by Simon & Schuster, which is owned by the CBS Corporation, hence his early interviews on the company’s broadcast news shows.
Honest, dense, and weighing in at 600 pages, the memoir isn’t a traditional pre-presidential book, though it did draw comparisons to Hillary Clinton’s 2014 book “Hard Choices.” Kerry’s subsequent media tour gave reporters the opportunity to directly ask him the question already being posed to seemingly every prominent Democrat.
And he certainly hasn’t responded with an outright “no.”
Kerry echoed his previous comments when asked about running for president Wednesday on ABC’s “The View” — “I doubt I would be running for office again. I think that it’s a mistake to be focused on 2020. It just really is.” — before returning to the CBS airwaves to do an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
“I have no plans to run for anything,” Kerry told Colbert.
“You have no plans to run for office?” Colbert asked back.
“I doubt I’ll run for office ever again,” Kerry replied.
“You doubt?” Colbert said.
Kerry nodded, and the audience laughed.