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Senator John F. Kerry waved to a group of photographers at the rim of the Grand Canyon on Aug. 9.
Senator John F. Kerry waved to a group of photographers at the rim of the Grand Canyon on Aug. 9. (Globe Staff Photo / Dina Rudick)

On the trail of Kerry's failed dream

Page 15 of 16 -- One of Kerry's biggest fears was that he would be denied Holy Communion because of his position on abortion. "The notion was sort of crushing to him," one of Kerry's aides said. Kerry's Catholicism should have been one of his strongest assets; an estimated one of every four voters in a presidential campaign are Catholics, and the margin is even higher in some battlegrounds states.

But the White House wasn't about to let Kerry use faith to his advantage, and portrayed him as out of step with the Catholic Church on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, both of which are against church orthodoxy.

Kerry made high-profile visits to churches and gave speeches on faith and values every week leading up to Election Day. But by then, the Bush campaign had already culled the membership lists of thousands of churches and sent out fliers attacking Kerry's record on issues of special interest to Catholics and other religious Christians.

And many of those church members were already casting ballots for Bush in states that allowed early voting.

Hopes and a dream fade
The Kerry team neared Election Day with high hopes. True, there had been some setbacks since Kerry's stellar debate performance. In the third and final debate, Kerry touched off a firestorm of criticism when he answered a question about gay marriage by naming Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter to show "we're all God's children." Kerry later told an aide he wished he hadn't made the comment.

On the campaign trail, it still could be difficult to combat Kerry's occasional political-tone deafness. During an Oct. 29 speech in Orlando, the candidate tried an unscripted plea, "Wake up, America!" Aides cringed -- was Kerry suggesting that Americans were asleep? -- and told him to drop the line.

Later that day, a new videotape of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden emerged. Kerry wanted to react in a statesmanlike way, but some aides -- seeing a rare opening to hit Bush on a core vulnerability -- toyed with releasing a statement with a different tone. "It would say something like: 'You see that guy up there on the screen looking fat and happy in his robes? Well, he would not be there if George Bush had captured him,' " said one senior adviser. Fearful of elevating the terrorist's influence, Kerry and his aides quashed the idea.

With the election just days away, no one wanted to rock the boat. Greenberg's daily tracking numbers indicated that Kerry was nudging ahead in mid-to-late October and ahead in a majority of battlegrounds, though aides worried that few other polls suggested the same.

Kerry had heard about early exit returns on Election Day, and he believed he would win. But as day turned to night in Boston, Kerry began to get dispiriting reports when he telephoned Cahill for updates.   Continued...

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