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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Veep buzz and rebuttal

And Camp Kerry has some big numbers to announce

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
Morning Grind
John F. Kerry
Richard A. Gephardt
George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Veep buzz captures our minds and hearts today with new reports, accurate and otherwise, speculating on when John Kerry will unveil his choice.

(Reports: Tuesday, July 6. Camp Kerry: "Absolutely not true." The Grind: Sigh.)

Civil rights plays a supporting role in today's political discourse, with President Bush commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at 4 p.m. ET in the capital and Kerry "frustrating" a Latino group he met with earlier this week in Phoenix.

And then there's money, which Kerry raised a lot of in June. (We know Bush-Cheney raised plenty as well, but they didn't leak their estimates to the Grind. That'll teach 'em.)

Some highlights of what Camp Kerry will announce later today:

  • The campaign raised more than $30 million in June, bringing its campaign-to-date total to more than $175 million.
  • Of that $175 million, more than $100 million comes from "grassroots" donations of $100 or less.
  • This is the most money ever raised by any challenger, Democrat or Republican. With the exception of Bush, it's the most campaign money anyone has ever raised.
  • Wednesday, Kerry's campaign had its best-ever Internet fund raising day: As of 10 p.m. ET, the campaign had raised $2.4 million. (That number was expected to increase significantly by midnight PT.)
  • One nugget: Aides say Bank of America, which processes the Kerry campaign's credit card contributions, was forced to shut down for seven minutes yesterday because it was overloaded by Kerry donations.
  • Vice presidential musings

    Back to veep: You read Wednesday the "evidence" the Grind compiled for a Kerry choice of John Edwards.

    Well, Dick Gephardt's friends read it as well and had a few thoughts of their own. With expletives deleted, here are a few of their own theories -- some we embrace, some we don't.

  • Kerry's fund-raising prowess undercuts one of John Edwards' key strengths as a VP choice, namely his own prowess. (Note to Grind: Never use the word "prowess" twice in a sentence again.) In other words, Camp Kerry has firmly established confidence that they can raise the money they need to run the campaign they want to run. With that confidence, they no longer value a VP candidate for his fundraising ... skills.
  • Second, Kerry, of all people, knows the dangers of choosing teammates based on polling and current political trends. Recalling all those Dems who backed "front-runner" Howard Dean in late 2003, only to regret their choice when his campaign imploded in Iowa -- labor leader Gerry McEntee comes to mind, for one -- Kerry is well aware of the limitations of late-June polls suggesting how a VP choice will help him in November. (In other words, go with your gut. It's just as reliable as early polling.)
  • And third, Gephardt's choir bristles every time they hear that Edwards would be the "safe" choice for Kerry. ("Safe," in this case, meaning that Edwards would "safely" carry the ticket to victory this fall.) One Gephardt backer, speaking anonymously: "'Safe?' 'Safe?' How is a one-term senator with soaring presidential ambitions of his own, with no foreign policy experience, 'safe?'"
  • 'Absolutely not true'

    The Boston Globe and ABC News have reported that Kerry is telling his short list members to clear their schedules for Tuesday and Wednesday to join him, if chosen, for the announcement and barnstorming tour.

    Camp Kerry last night said those reports are "absolutely not true."

    "When I saw [those reports], I called the two people who would have done that and they said they're absolutely not true," Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter told the Grind.

    What is true is that Camp Kerry has already hired a VP chief of staff and, the Grind has learned, is in the final stages of hiring the VP nominee's very own press secretary. We can't report that secretary's name, but he or she is a familiar and friendly face to all of us.

    Meanwhile, we hear that Camp Kerry will not release its Boston convention speakers' schedule until next week, after all, despite tentative planning to do so today.

    We already know the prime-time highlights (Clinton-Gore on Monday; Kennedy-Teresa on Tuesday; VP on Wednesday and Kerry on Thursday). But we're bracing for a few surprises -- Our prediction: Ronald Prescott Reagan. Stay tuned.

    And finally, we close today with a potentially problematic dustup Kerry started late Tuesday, but will continue dealing with today, over his opposition to granting drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants, a big issue in the Latino community. In his Tuesday night interview with Telemundo, Kerry said he opposes state laws that do so. (Kerry opposes driver's licenses for illegal immigrants)

    "I think that drivers' licenses are part of the legality of being here, and if you've been here a period of time we may work something out as part of the immigration process," Kerry told Telemundo. "But I wouldn't give somebody who is automatically one year in here illegally all the rights and privileges of being here legally. I think that's wrong. That defeats the purposes of the law."

    This drew a surprised response from leaders he addressed in Phoenix that night. Asked by The Associated Press about the comments, the vice president for policy of the National Council of La Raza said the comments "somewhat undercut" his speech there.

    "Let's take a deep breath here," Cecilia Munoz said when when told of Kerry's interview. "I guess what's frustrating is that Senator Kerry was just at our conference making terrific proposals that would benefit the immigrant community."

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