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Kerry seeking to build support for Democrats

Page 2 of 2 -- Still, the grass-roots push comes amid a flurry of signals that Kerry is already positioning himself for another White House run. Early this week, he traveled to Florida and Georgia to thank campaign supporters and drum up support for his bill to provide universal healthcare to children, and he has a more extensive travel schedule on tap for April and May.

This week, he raised money to run Internet ads aimed at seven Republicans who favor drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He said 260,000 supporters in 24 hours signed his ''citizens roll call" to protect the refuge from oil exploration, though the Senate voted in favor of drilling despite his opposition.

On Thursday, he delivered a speech where he railed against Washington lawmakers for being out of touch with Americans. During last year's campaign, President Bush lampooned Kerry as an entrenched congressional insider.

''This week's debate on the federal budget should remind all Americans that Washington is not working for them," Kerry said in his speech. ''The votes this week weren't just ticks in the won-loss column. They were assaults on our nation's character."

He has also tried to shore up wounds left over from November. He vowed in January to authorize the release of his entire military record, something he has refused to do in previous campaigns, though he still has not signed the requisite forms.

Kerry has quickly established himself as the most politically active failed presidential candidate since Richard Nixon, who lost the 1960 campaign and immediately mounted a run for governor of California, said Larry Sabato, a government professor at the University of Virginia.

But he will have a difficult time following Nixon's path, who although he lost the run for governor bounced back and claimed the presidency in 1968, Sabato said. Democrats would greet a second Kerry candidacy with skepticism and second-guessing, he said.

''It's a major obstacle, and Democrats are much tougher on their defeated candidates than Republicans," Sabato said. ''This is really tough for Kerry to pull off, but what he's doing now offers the promise and the potential of a comeback."

Rick Klein can be reached at 

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