DENNIS KUCINICH Failed candidate says his fame will help him to pass bills
Analysts don't think his fame will help him in Congress.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich believes the silver lining to his failed long-shot presidential campaign is that his higher profile could help him be more effective in Congress.
Political analysts are skeptical.
Kucinich, of Cleveland, formally ended his candidacy last month, announcing in the days before the Democratic National Convention that he endorsed John Kerry.
Even before that announcement, Kucinich began curtailing his campaign, making fewer stops across the country in exchange for making more speeches on the U.S. House floor.
"I'm as active as ever, but having more of an impact after having been a candidate for president," Kucinich said.
"My campaign has really strengthened my hand inside the House of Representatives, both with Democrats and Republicans alike," he said.
Herb Asher, an Ohio State University political science professor, said a lawmaker's effectiveness has more to do with what issues they are pushing and what their reputation is among other Congress members. Effectiveness also is linked closely to whether the lawmaker's party is in the majority or minority, he said.
Since Republicans control the House and Senate, GOP bills and amendments have a better chance of passing than measures sponsored by minority Democrats.
"Dennis Kucinich certainly has raised his profile, but often, in Congress, very effective people operate quietly and behind the scenes," Asher said. "Those things are separate."
Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, declined to comment about whether Kucinich's higher profile would help him in the House.
Kucinich pointed to two recent legislative amendments that were approved by the House as proof of what his newfound fame can do.
One amendment, approved 343-76 for the congressional spending bill on intelligence operations, would direct the inspector general for the CIA to audit all evidence prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks of a relationship between former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaida.
The other, which passed 232-186 and was included in another spending bill, would reduce funding for the president's Manufacturing Council by $50,000.
Both measures still need approval by the Senate. Still, it's more success than Kucinich has seen in Congress in the last year and half. None of the 28 other legislative proposals he introduced since the beginning of 2003 have passed.
Ross Baker, a Rutgers University specialist on Congress, said it's unlikely that Kucinich will have a better chance now of getting legislation passed. However, he said the fact that Kucinich has appeared in campaign events nationwide could help him relate more to his colleagues, which in turn could help him work better alongside other lawmakers.
"When you travel across the country and you become familiar with the districts your colleagues represent, you certainly have a better sense of what they want and what their needs are," Baker said.
Asked to campaign
Kucinich said he has been asked to campaign for several Democratic candidates across the country in addition to helping Democrats with the presidential campaign.
Allison Dobson, a spokeswoman from the Kerry-Edwards campaign, said if Kucinich is willing to help, they are "glad to have him on the team."
Kucinich also plans to change his campaign into a national organization so he can continue to speak out about his pet issues, such as the need to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, establish a universal health care system and cancel free trade policies.
He declined to discuss details about his new organization.
"I don't think that by next term there will be another person in the Congress who has the kind of fund-raising base that I have put together," Kucinich said. "I'm in a very good position in terms of being able to be a spokesman for my district and for people all over the country."
Kucinich is running for re-election to his House seat, where he is heavily favored to win against Republican Edward Herman, a political newcomer.
"People really are very proud of the fact that I took a stand and that they saw me participate in the presidential debates and not just hold my own, but make a real contribution," he said.