tampabay.com

Kucinich keeps up a lonely campaign

The antiwar candidate advocates universal health care and "green" and peace agencies.

By BEN MONTGOMERY
Published May 27, 2007


TAMPA - The Dennis Kucinich for President people were taping up signs and arranging chairs and selling buttons inside Mise En Place when a woman hustled in and interrupted the preparation.

"We need some sign wavers outside, " she said. "People need to see us."

And suddenly the Kucinich campaign comes into perspective. If only folks could see him and hear him, his supporters say, the fundraising wouldn't be so difficult and the poll numbers wouldn't look so pathetic.

"The corporate media ignores him, " said Steve Schwartz, 53, of Orlando, as a man wearing suspenders sang Pete Seeger's If I Had a Hammer on the stage. "If his views were reported and he wasn't ignored, he would have great support."

His views have, after all, come more into vogue lately among liberal Democrats.

He has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, called for the impeachment of Dick Cheney and long pressed for universal health care. He pushes a Department of Peace and backs the Works Green Administration - a modern version of the Depression-era WPA.

But he's still struggling to get people to pay attention.

The believers may be small in number, but they're passionate.

"He's got guts, " said Jim Miller, 68, who first noticed Kucinich while watching C-SPAN a few years ago.

"He's so courageous, " said Joyce Newnam, who was struck by what Kucinich said during the 2004 presidential debates. "He's the only one who saw that this war was wrong from the beginning."

"If he wins, it will change the course of this nation dramatically, " said Kent Bailey, 56, of Thonotosassa.

And if he doesn't?

"If I didn't think there was any chance he'll win, I'd still be here today."

When Kucinich arrived, cameras clicked and roughly 75 people at the $25-a-plate event stood and clapped. He was accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth, who ABC News recently suggested was his "secret weapon."

At 6-feet tall, the striking 29-year-old from Britain towers 5 inches above her 60-year-old husband. Her hair is long and red and she runs her fingers through it often. She wears a topaz wedding ring he bought her because he said it matched her soul.

They fell in love when she visited his office and he handed her his Department of Peace legislation. They were married in 2005 after a short courtship.

As the two worked the crowd, they never separated. They held hands as he took the stage.

Elizabeth, observers have noted, has taken a central role on the campaign trail.

"She's beautiful, " said Newnam. "Kind of like Jackie Onassis, " the wife of President John F. Kennedy.

"Gorgeous, " said Samm Simpson, who ran for Congress in Florida's District 10.

"I think she'll help him, " said Jay Alexander, with Tampa Bay Veterans for Peace.

When it was time, Kucinich stepped to the microphone and talked about how the "leaders of our nation have really lost touch" and "the administration is preparing still another war against Iran" and how "it's not okay to lie."

When he finished, the reporters cornered him.

"How do you win?" one of them asked.

This to the congressman who was a blip on the radar during the 2004 contest. This to the former mayor of Cleveland who is so passionate he sometimes bursts into song during his speeches. This to the man who wants desperately to be more than an asterisk.

As he answered, the reporters leaned in close around Kucinich, and his wife. Soon they were just standing around his wife.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@sptimes.com or 813 661-2443.