Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came to New Jersey on Friday to stump for his once subordinate, former Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Tom Malinowski.
The two appeared together to answer pre-submitted question at a town hall in Basking Ridge, fielding questions on a fair range of topics that often – in one way or another – dealt with President Donald Trump, whom Malinowski, unlike some of the state’s other Democratic candidates, didn’t hesitate to criticize.
But few of those the dealt directly with Malinowski’s race against Rep. Leonard Lance, and though he did so on occasion, most of Kerry’s time during the event wasn’t spent praising Malinowski.
“At this moment in history when so many things are changing – there are so many clashes of culture, commerce, and internet, information – we desperately need to be more clear, more certain and in tune with the interests and the values that drive us,” Kerry said. “That’s one of the reasons that I appreciate this guy so much because he always in the state department was there pushing our values.”
Kerry’s appearance at the event was almost more reminiscent of the sort of dance that many prominent Democrats, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker included, have taken to as the 2018 election approaches its end and 2020 begins cresting the horizon.
The once-presidential candidate’s name has joined a growing list of others that could take on Trump for the presidency, and Kerry has consistently declined to rule out the possibility of a second run at the White House.
But, his credentials aside, many of the event’s attendees weren’t ready to support him in a possible presidential bid, even if they liked his policies or had voted for the former Massachusetts Senator in 2004.
“I think he had some pretty good positions on most things. There’s some history, but I was pretty happy with his support for Tom. I’d have to see where things were and what the alternatives were,” said area resident Gary Levin. “Again, I’d have to look at everybody’s positions at that point. We need to get some stronger candidates up there. But I would be inclined to look at a variety of people, and Some newer ones would probably be a good idea.”
Kerry’s political history could prove a deal-breaker for some, especially for swing voters dissatisfied with politicians and craving an outsider candidate.
On the other hand, being a known quantity could provide Kerry an early boost among voters who liked his policies 14 years ago and are already familiar with the former secretary.
But, that familiarity isn’t yet enough to clinch a vote when it’s not clear who else will be in the field.
“I can’t answer,” said Goutam Jois, who ran against Malinowski in the primary but is now backing the candidate. “Who you support is always relative to what the race looks like. I voted for him I guess twice, primary and general in 2004, so obviously I think he’d make a great president, but I don’t know what 2020 holds. I don’t think anybody does.”