Hope Is On The Way



On paper there was no person better suited to become President of the United States than John Kerry. The junior senator from Massachusetts was the ideal Presidential nominee. His gray, statesman-esque hair was perfectly trimmed. The wrinkles on his 65 year-old face were evidence of a long and distinguished career in the United States Senate. The biography of the Senator was thorough and genuinely ideal, especially for the Presidential Election of 2004. He was a war hero who received three purple hearts. As a veteran he fought for peace. As a Senator he fought for a stronger America. In reality, John Kerry should have had no problem defeating President George W. Bush - a man who wasn't known for choosing his words eloquently, someone with a history of drinking, and someone who had nowhere near the record as a veteran that John Kerry had achieved in Vietnam.

On the flip side, President George W. Bush should not have been involved in such a close battle for reelection. In late-2002 and much of 2003, most felt that the president was unbeatable. Some had suggested that Bush could carry almost as many states as Ronald Reagan in 1984 or Richard Nixon in 1972. The nation had overcome the worst terrorist attack in history and the image of George Bush standing on the rubble saying, "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!" had yet to fade, and for good reason. In the wake of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, George W. Bush gave America the response everyone wanted to see: a strong Commander-in-Chief who was ready to kick some ass. Not long after, America was ready to explore its options.

When the United States invaded Iraq to prevent the building of weapons of mass destruction, Americans were supportive, but soon those weapons didn't exist. The people had been told that the United States would not be alone - that there would be a coalition. Later, America defied the United Nations and became, basically, the only nation in the coalition. Though there was help from other nations, Americans bore almost all of the expenses and almost all of the lost lives. When the United States had the chance to kill Osama bin Laden, President Bush opted to allow others go in after him. When Saddam Hussein fell, the United States stayed the course in Iraq. And even after the mission was declared accomplished, the President announced we would stay the course.


The 2004 Presidential Election was bizarre. The defining issue was the War in Iraq. The Democratic Nominee was supposed to be Howard Dean, the most outspoken anti-war candidate on the stage. Everyone else seemed to be running for second. In December of 2003, a national poll by CBS showed John Kerry getting 4% of the vote. Howard Dean polled first with 23% while Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark tied for second, each getting 10%. Soon, the race was turned on its head. John Kerry won the Iowa Caucuses almost one month after the CBS Poll, Howard Dean's post-Iowa speech was ridiculed as the "I have a scream" speech after screaming in a high-pitch to supporters, and Kerry secured a victory in the New Hampshire Primary on January 27th. On February 18th, Howard Dean was out of the race. Just weeks later John Kerry secured enough delegates to become the presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee.

As the general election approached the voters were undecided. Kerry was attacked for being a flip-flopper while Bush was attacked for not doing enough. After the conventions and the debates ended the polls showed a tight race, it would come down to Ohio.


On Election Day 2004 the candidates voted themselves and waited anxiously for the polls to close and the results to start coming in. The media was abuzz, the possibility of a dragged-out recount much like that of 2000 was being openly talked about. The stakes were high and the future of the nation was on the line. In Ohio, reporters covered almost every polling place. Exit poll data was collected from a variety of people from all different races, political affiliations, and socioeconomic groups. The media wanted to know exactly how the 2004 Presidential Election would turn out, the events that happened in Florida four years earlier had forever changed American politics.

The events leading up to the day had been unpredictable. Everything from Kerry's lack of a convention bounce to the ads run by "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" - it all pointed to one of the more unusual presidential elections in history, but that was all in the past. The time had come for the United States to choose a President. With a world at war, all eyes were on the United States as the voters went to the polls to make their decision. It was Decision Night in America and John Kerry was optimistic about his chances.

Equally optimistic was George W. Bush and his team. Karl Rove later recalled the mood as "anxious" and said that the President was "cautiously optimistic" going into Election Night. Senator Kerry appeared in an interview on one of the morning shows, urging all voters to get out and cast their ballot but maintaining he was optimistic about victory. "Hope," he declared, "is on the way!" It was a chant that spread across the Democratic Convention that had transformed into a rallying cry for Democrats across the nation. Late that day, around 7:00 in the evening, the polls began to close in parts of the nation and all Americans were on their seats, ready to see what democracy had in store for them.
Awesome timeline you got yourself here Nick, I just read an old article from the summer of '04 published by the New Yorker about Kerry's foreign policy vision. It was a really compelling work up that could be of some use for you(I wish we would have had a Game Change like book about the 2004 campaign). I will be intently reading to see how this TL differs from HC's Reporting for Duty timeline, and whether or not Kerry's is going to be able to build some type of coalition together to get through a rough few years. Keep it comming buddy!:D
Awesome timeline you got yourself here Nick, I just read an old article from the summer of '04 published by the New Yorker about Kerry's foreign policy vision. It was a really compelling work up that could be of some use for you(I wish we would have had a Game Change like book about the 2004 campaign). I will be intently reading to see how this TL differs from HC's Reporting for Duty timeline, and whether or not Kerry's is going to be able to build some type of coalition together to get through a rough few years. Keep it comming buddy!:D

Could you link me to the article? Or send it to me via PM? Obviously how Kerry handles Iraq/Afghanistan would be his defining moment and therefore that's the center of my timeline. I have a sense of what I want to do, but if it's really out there I would want to change it.

EDIT: Found the article, reading it now. I may have to rework some of my foreign policy plans...
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At 11:35 PM the state of Ohio was called for John Kerry and the senator from Massachusetts was crowned the winner of the election with only three states left: Iowa, Nevada, and Colorado. In the end, all three states would break for Kerry and the Senator would walk away with a victory in the popular vote as well. Kerry had only lost Florida by a couple of thousand votes and had won New Mexico just a few minutes before Ohio was called for him. It was clear that the election was not nearly as close as everyone had made it out to be. The writing was on the wall as soon as states expected to be close, like New Jersey, delivered overwhelming margins of victory for Kerry. Senators Kerry and Edwards were on their way to the White House and hope was on its way for the United States.

Only a few minutes after the networks declared Kerry the winner, George W. Bush called Senator Kerry to concede. The President was brief, congratulating Kerry and wishing him the best. He also promised to be there for Kerry should he need any help in the transition process. Next was Bush's concession speech. President Bush's message was similar to that of his phone call. Bush thanked America for the opportunity to serve and said he hoped to see the nation continue to make progress. It was a gracious concession, but personally Bush was hurt. Only thirty minutes later Senator John Edwards was behind the podium at Faneuil Hall, ready to introduce the President-Elect of the United States. Edwards left the podium and Kerry approached, cheered on by rallying supporters eager to hear the words of the man who would soon become President. As Kerry stood at the podium, an aide ran up to the Senator and the live feed was soon interrupted by the networks: Iowa had also been called for Senator Kerry.

When the cameras returned to Kerry, he began with, "I guess we won Iowa, too!" The crowd erupted into applause as Kerry continued. He outlined his vision for America. He pledged to restore America's greatness, to leave the nation better than he found it. He concluded with the familiar phrase, "My name is John Kerry, I'm reporting for duty, and hope - hope is on the way!" He left the podium to immense cheering. Confetti fell, he waved with his wife Theresa, running mate John Edwards, and John's wife Elizabeth by his side. Soon the kids and grandkids ran to the stage and the nation was witnessing the future First and Second Families of the United States together. The work ahead would be long and difficult, but Kerry truly believed that hope was on the way.


Colorado and Nevada were called for Kerry just hours later and the President-Elect retired for the night. But as Kerry retired for the evening, pundits pulled an all-nighter discussing and debating who could serve in Kerry's cabinet. A wide variety of names were floated around. The big positions were, as always: Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Treasury, and Attorney General. Other positions would have to be filled as well. Odds were that Kerry would see between one and three Supreme Court appointments. George Bush became the second president not to appoint a justice while serving a full term. The possibilities of who Kerry could nominate for the bench were also talked about and debated. It was clear the nation was eager to see what could happen in the next four years.

In reality, Kerry's transition team was already moving forward. The transition team was led by Jim Johnson, the man who led Kerry's search for Vice President, Alexis Herman, who served as Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, and David McKean who had been a longtime friend and advisor to John Kerry. When it came to the big positions, the vetting process had already begun. During the campaign, Kerry made it clear he wanted a Republican for Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense. The Republicans being talked about were Senators Hagel (R-NE) and Lugar (R-IN) in addition to former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman. Still, Kerry had just been handed an electoral college landslide and that was a mandate to ignore his previous off-the-record remarks about landing with a Republican for State or Defense.


A few days after the election Kerry met with his transition team and said it was time to buckle down and create a short list for each department. Alexis Herman used the meeting to persuade Kerry to appoint Democrats to State and Defense and put a Republican up for Secretary of Homeland Security. The President-Elect came around after a long and drawn-out conversation. It was time to get the short lists to Kerry so he could make his decision. The first position formally announced came on November 17th when Kerry announced Maine Senator Susan Collins as his choice to become the 2nd Secretary of Homeland Security. Collins had accepted the nomination two days before and was expected to be easily confirmed. The media adored the pick. Collins was a moderate Republican who had battled her party before. Still, she was popular within the Senate Republican Caucus and loved in her home state of Maine. On top of that, her credentials were firm and her resume impressive. Kerry's first pick was a strong one and it gave him the capital with the media to pick someone more unconventional down the line.

On the same day, Kerry announced that the White House Chief of Staff would be Stephanie Cutter. Cutter had previously served as a spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign but towards the end had begun to offer political advice as well. Praised by Kerry, Cutter was accused of not having the amount of experience necessary to do the job. In the end, the media ultimately held off on a full-blown attack of Cutter, who would be Kerry's most controversial pick. On the same day he earned a lot of capital he used it. Cutter's knowledge and expertise would prove critical in the months and years ahead. Her political savvy was far greater than anyone gave her credit for.

With Cutter now advising Kerry in addition to the transition team the direction was set. Kerry was ready to get to work and continue to lay-out his plans for the cabinet. All positions would receive personal attention from Kerry. There were thousands of jobs and appointments to be filled and the job of a President-Elect wasn't easy. Kerry was ready and with John Edwards and now Stephanie Cutter by his side, he was ready to move forward. Only one cabinet position had been announced and there was much work to do. Who Kerry appointed would be a clear sign of how he intended to govern the nation as President. It was not an easy task, or a responsibility that Kerry took lightly.
Cool timeline- I haven't read many Kerry in 04 TLs. I look forward to seeing all the major reprocusions- from the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan, the potential of the housing bubble, who is nominated for SCOTUS and what affects that will have, the VT massacre took place during this time period- we could see serious changes in gun laws. We also had the Russian war in Georgia, and plenty of other major things that will change but i'm forgetting because i'm too tired as i write this.

in any case, I look forward to seeing where this goes.
Thank you for the bode of confidence and I can assure you that everything you touched on is addressed, and not to spoil the surprise but VT, Katrina, and other momentous events will be addressed much differently than under George Bush IOTL. I'm looking forward to this project, it's the most I've ever dedicated to research, planning, and writing.
One problem with the pick of Collins. (This is a personal issue with me.) Does she have emergency management experience? (That might be more of an issue with FEMA than with DHS, but it is something that may be needed.)
Nice update, eventhough after totaling up the states won by Kerry ITTL, I get a 298-240 victory in the electoral college. I don't think that would be considered an electoral landslide by any means, I think there's even a consensus that the word "comfortable victory" is reserved for cracking 300 electoral votes. But I expect ITTL Kerry did alot better in the popular vote, and if he gets 50+% most people will deem that a pretty big deal as Kerry would be the first Democrat to do so since Carter(If it's 51% since LBJ).

In terms of Kerry's administration, there's an opportunity for some strong picks. Holbrooke despite his prickly personality is almost a go for state. For the other big two positions, Kerry is going to have major pressure from the Women's and Minority caucuses within the party to make a history making pick. This maybe a good time to get Bill Richardson back to Washington(as I believe alot of the scandals which shot down his SecComm nomination hadn't really happened yet), might be a good move for defense. An alternate choice for Defense could be Congresswoman Jane Harman, who is one of the few big name International Relations Scholars in the party, could be an alternate choice for defense. I also like Franklin Raines, former CEO of Fannie Mae as outside the box choice for the nation's first African American Treasury Secretary.

Keep it comming buddy
Nice update, eventhough after totaling up the states won by Kerry ITTL, I get a 298-240 victory in the electoral college. I don't think that would be considered an electoral landslide by any means, I think there's even a consensus that the word "comfortable victory" is reserved for cracking 300 electoral votes. But I expect ITTL Kerry did alot better in the popular vote, and if he gets 50+% most people will deem that a pretty big deal as Kerry would be the first Democrat to do so since Carter(If it's 51% since LBJ).

He did break 51%, yes, but I think while his victory wasn't a landslide it was seen as one in part because he was supposed to lose going into election night. It's almost like Obama's victory in 2012 in the sense that a lot of the swing states just broke for Kerry, but states like New Jersey (which in OTL was solidly Democratic, but Bush had put into play) Kerry dominated and there was zero question that he would win there.
Kerry should choose Jim Hunt, the Democratic former Governor of North Carolina for Sec of Education.


Kerry's transition team announced that the Secretary of Health and Human Services would be announced on November 22nd. There were three candidates in the running: former Governor Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Congresswoman Denise Majette of Georgia, and former Governor Howard Dean of Vermont. Kerry wanted Dean nowhere near the cabinet, but he felt that having him there could bolster his credibility among the base after the announcement of a Republican, Susan Collins. There was also a chance that Dean could deny interest in the position which would be a public relations nightmare for Kerry. Ultimately, Kerry opted not to ask Dean in the first place. It was the safer option.

Congresswoman Denise Majette wasn't well-known and wasn't exactly a stellar pick, but Jeanne Shaheen had backed Kerry from the start and was seen as a possible rising star in the party. Putting her as Secretary of Health and Human Services would be a demotion from rising star unless she was given the option of moving-up later on. Still, there was a deep personal trust between Kerry and Shaheen and the President-Elect considered that the most important aspect of appointing a cabinet member. With that, Shaheen was asked and once she accepted her nomination was announced at a press conference on November 22nd, the planned date. At the end of the press conference Kerry announced his Secretaries of State and Defense would be named on December 1st.

For Secretary of State there were four main contenders: Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and former Senator Warren Rudman of New Hampshire. While Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico, received intense media speculation, Kerry wasn't satisfied with having him in the cabinet. Richardson had been considered for Vice President and when Kerry talked with him he said no, but asked to be kept in consideration for Secretary of State. Furthermore, Richardson was committed to his pledge to serve a full term as Governor of New Mexico and it wouldn't be worth the effort to get him to break that pledge. Kerry decided to skip the idea of Richardson all together.


The media had latched on to Biden and Holbrooke and the two were the most talked about possibilities, and they were the favorites of the President-Elect, himself. Still, they didn't want their eventual nominee to look like he was decided by the media and so members of the transition team casually dropped the names of Warren Rudman and Bob Graham, who were also being heavily considered. The media loved the idea of Rudman who was a moderate Republican senator and very much well-respected. Kerry wasn't overly-impressed. With December 1st fast approaching he cut the list in half: Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke.

Joe Biden had served in the U.S. Senate since 1973 and was the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from2001 to 2003. He was currently the Ranking Member of the committee and had been the media's go-to pick from the start. The former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Biden had undeniable experience. His scope of expertise was broad and Kerry would be lucky to have Biden in the Middle East repairing relations with the nations that had been negatively impacted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. In truth, Biden was known for the occasional slip of the tongue, but in reality that wasn't enough to deter Kerry away from the selection. The biggest drawback was that Biden hadn't been with Kerry from the start.

This was unlike Richard Holbrooke. Holbrooke had extensive diplomatic experience. He became well-known for brokering the deal which led to the Dayton Peace Accords. On top of that, he was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and was a front runner for Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, but the president went with Madeleine Albright instead. Holbrooke had been with Kerry from the start and was always considered to be Kerry's choice for Secretary of State. Still, Kerry had a friendship with Joe Biden and decided that Senator Biden should receive the nomination. Biden was announced on December 1st, along with Kerry's choice for Secretary of Defense. Holbrooke would remain a top adviser to Kerry with the possibility of a more formal role in the future, depending on how Kerry's administration went.


Filling the position of Secretary of Defense was an equally hard task. Kerry considered a short list of four names: former Senator George Mitchell of Maine, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, former Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. The first off the list was Mitchell, who told Kerry he wasn't interested in the position. The list was brought down to the final three. Kerry wasn't keen on appointing so many incumbent Democratic Senators and that ultimately led to Levin being pushed off the list. With the position down to Hart and Hagel, neither gave Kerry the feeling he wanted and so he asked for the transition team to bring him two more possibilities. They returned with Bob Graham and Joe Lieberman. Lieberman was an interesting choice. The Vice Presidential Nominee from 2000, Lieberman had challenged Kerry for the Democratic Nomination but was never negative on the campaign trail, something Kerry held great respect for. Graham, ironically, had also sought the Democratic Nomination but was never a serious candidate for the nomination. Despite this, Lieberman was a strong supporter of the War in Iraq and that didn't fit with Kerry's current message. In the end, Kerry went with Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, angering Alexis Herman who had hoped Kerry would choose two Democrats for State and Defense.

The date for declaring the nominee for Attorney General had been set for December 5th. After the announcement of Hagel and Biden, Kerry had seen his stock increase among the media and the nation with both being praised as sensible picks. The position of Attorney General was also important as they would be the figurehead for how to handle the criminal aspect of the War on Terror. Kerry reduced the short list to three names: Deval Patrick, a Justice Department Official under Bill Clinton, Jennifer Granholm, the Governor of Michigan, and Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of New York. After meeting with Spitzer, Kerry was unimpressed and met in-person with both Deval Patrick and Jennifer Granholm. Both were incredibly impressive and Kerry wanted to nominate both. He was undecided and he talked about the possibility of pushing the announcement back to give him more time. The transition team was also divided, and ultimately Kerry came up with the perfect fix. He would appoint Granholm as Attorney General and ask Patrick to seek his seat in the Senate during the special election that was scheduled for May 3, 2005. The plan went off without a hitch with Granholm being announced as Attorney General and Patrick announcing a campaign for U.S. Senate a week before Christmas.


Choosing the Secretary of Treasury was an equally-important task. Kerry had one name on the list: New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine. Corzine accepted the nomination and his appointment was announced on December 10th. With the major positions for the cabinet announced, the slightly less-important posts were named later in the month of December. Ted Waitt, the co-founder of Gateway, was named as Secretary of Commerce. Jim Hunt, the former Governor of North Carolina, was named as Kerry's appointment for Secretary of Education. U.S. Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald of California was named as Kerry's choice for Secretary of Transportation. Kerry appointed Dick Gephardt, his former rival from the Democratic Primaries, to the position of Secretary of Labor. Congressman Leonard Boswell of Iowa and Tim Wirth, former Senator from Colorado, were announced as Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of the Interior, respectively. Kerry appointed Lowell Weicker, former U.S. Senator from Connecticut, to head the EPA, and former Senator Max Cleland of Georgia to head the Department of Veterans' Affair. Cleland served in the capacity under Jimmy Carter before it was an official member of the cabinet. Maria Cantwell of Washington became the President-Elect's choice for Secretary of Energy and Gary Hart did win an appointment after all, becoming Kerry's nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

With the cabinet in place, Kerry started to plan his legislative agenda while speechwriters got to work on the President's inaugural address. Kerry hoped to use the inauguration as a chance to rally the nation and inspire them about the potential for his administration. Vice President-Elect John Edwards was doing interview after interview to drop hints about what America could expect from Kerry's first term, but ultimately it would be John Kerry who would get the final call and his words would be the ones Americans turned to on January 20, 2005.
Solid Update Nick, I find all the cabinet positions as agreeable, even though I'd still like to see Jane Harman as National Security Adviser as a better way of cultivating Kerry's foreign policy vision. Can't wait to see how Kerry's inaugural and first 90 days turn out. Keep it coming Buddy:D
Subscribed, crossing my fingers Kerry doesn't experience a finnaicial meltdown like Bush did

It's inevitable at this point. It was the Clinton-era deregulation that caused the crisis, and even if Kerry somehow gets Gramm-Leach-Bliley, CFMA, etc., repealed, which is implausible, it won't be in time.