HAMPTON, N.H. -- It certainly wasn't the oath Senator John F.
Kerry imagined himself taking when he crisscrossed New Hampshire in pursuit
of the presidency two years ago. But there was Kerry yesterday,
raising his right hand and standing proudly beside his wife as he vowed his allegiance
to the ''Royal Society Bridge Club." Based at the Widow Fletcher's Tavern in Hampton, the group has
an unofficial motto: ''No hanging around -- only buying a round."
''I . . . pledge to my comrades that I will never use my membership
to influence Supreme Court judges, restaurant maitre d's, or voters whose
IQ nearly equals their age," Kerry said with a smile as he partook of the political
rite of passage.
The Massachusetts Democrat was back in the home of the nation's
first presidential primary for the most extensive political trip he has
made to the Granite State since he lost the 2004 election. It marked
a public reemergence on the presidential scene for Kerry, who is considering another run in 2008. The
intimate settings and quaint political rituals were a reminder of the difficulties he'll face if he runs again.
The day triggered fond memories for Kerry -- he said being back
got his ''juices flowing," and he greeted old supporters with bear hugs
-- and he expressed a touch of nostalgia for the close race he lost. ''You
did absolutely everything you could do, except move to Ohio," Kerry told about 75 supporters in Hampton.
Kerry didn't shy away from partisan swipes. At two fund-raising events for state senators, he accused Republicans of making Washington
''dysfunctional" and blasted the Bush administration for its handling
of Hurricane Katrina and the Dubai ports deal, and for failing to capture
Osama bin Laden.
Last night, at a dinner for local Democratic committees in Nashua,
Kerry accused President Bush of ''cluelessness" and ''incompetence,"
and said Democrats are proud to lead on issues such as energy independence,
bringing home troops from Iraq, and cleaning up government. ''It's
the Katrina administration," Kerry said, saying that the botched response to the hurricane removed the ''veneer"
of competent leadership. ''It is time to say we're fed up with the incompetence. We're tired of the lies."
Kerry was greeted warmly in New Hampshire, if not by overwhelming
The fund-raisers he held for state Senate candidates brought out
Democratic loyalists who said they were happy to pay tribute to the party's
State Senator Marcia Fuller Clark, for whom Kerry raised money
at the tavern event, said many Democrats are thankful to Kerry for helping
New Hampshire become the only state that voted for Bush in 2000 to switch to
the Democratic column in 2004. ''People in New Hampshire really
like Kerry, and they continue to see him as presidential," said Clark, of Portsmouth.