So he’ll run for governor. Even though his name evokes the ultimate card-carrying-liberal stereotype, Kennedy has done a pretty good job of armoring himself against charges of being labeled a lefty. From Egg McMuffins to his off-the-rack blue suits, Joe is a famous rich man with the middle-class values of a businessman. For the GOP the scary thing about all that is that he actually believes in many of the positions Republicans take. In fact, Kennedy is pro death penalty, pro balanced budget, and pro flag-burning amendment. This last stance he justifies with bewildering logic by maintaining he’s not really against flag burning, but if you’re going to do it, you should get arrested as a sign of your commitment to civil disobedience. He rails against violence in popular culture and won’t stay to see movies he thinks are disgusting. (His kids wouldn’t take him to see Seven for fear he’d walk out.)
And he can rhapsodize endlessly about the need for a new economic nationalism. “You can’t tell me that there’s a difference in taste between French drinking water and drinking water from Maine,” says Kennedy. “But if you drink the Poland Springs, maybe you’re putting a couple of folks in Maine to work. That is a values issue.”
Joe has amassed a hefty war chest, but election laws stipulate that only a small part of his $1.1 million can be converted to a state gubernatorial campaign. If he clears a half million, he will be lucky.
But given the power of the Kennedy money machine, that should be just a minor setback. Last year, Representative Jim Moran of Virginia, who was in the middle of his own tough reelection campaign, nevertheless hosted a fundraiser for Joe—even though Kennedy had no election opposition. (Even running unopposed, Joe managed to spend a mind-boggling $839,275 on his campaign, laying the groundwork for 1998.) Kennedy was named by Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, as one of a number of legislators who received $1,000 contributions from unwitting college students whose parents made donations in their names to skirt election laws. Family packages are also available. Charles Koppelman, chairman of EMI Records, and six members of the Koppelman clan combined to give Joe $14,000 in 1994.
So Republicans can’t get around the Kennedy name, can’t raise more money, and can’t paint him as a namby-pamby liberal, which leaves just one popular strategy. “I’d turn the heat up on Joe every day hoping he’d blow up like Silber,” says a Republican consultant with Weld-Cellucci ties. “People want a comfort level with their governors coming into the living room every evening. I’d try and get Joe to explode.”
Did someone say temper?