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Kerrey Revamps Campaign Staff; Manager Quits

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sen. Bob Kerrey’s campaign manager resigned Monday as the Democratic presidential candidate shook up his political staff less than two months before the first presidential primary election.

Campaign manager Sue Casey stepped down, and Tad Devine was named campaign director. Devine, who was given responsibility for the campaign’s day-to-day operations, played a key role in the campaigns of the two most recent Democratic presidential nominees--Michael S. Dukakis in 1988 and Walter F. Mondale in 1984.

Additional changes in the campaign structure are expected in coming weeks, a Kerrey aide said.

The shifts reflect a view among Democrats, as well as among Republican advisers to President Bush, that the Nebraska senator’s campaign was not living up to its potential and needed to regroup before the Feb. 18 primary in New Hampshire.

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“He was falling short of expectations,” said a Bush adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Casey, who played a central role in Gary Hart’s unsuccessful campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988, declined an offer to stay with the Kerrey campaign with lesser responsibilities.

Democrats have been talking about the prospects of a shake-up in the Kerrey organization for more than a week. Although his campaign is seemingly well-established in New Hampshire, with eight offices scattered about the state, Kerrey has drawn unenthusiastic responses from the small audiences attending his frequent appearances there.

“Organizationally, they weren’t getting it together,” said one Democratic operative.

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The operative said the staff changes indicate that Kerrey, when confronted with a problem, is willing to say: “Something is not working--I’ve got to make a change,” and then take action.

As part of the shake-up, campaign Chairman Bill Hoppner, a longtime Kerrey confidante, will move to Omaha and play a central role in campaign fund-raising. He will relinquish his key political responsibilities but retain his title as campaign chairman.

Casey said in a statement: “With only a few short weeks until the first primary, it is critical that the campaign have a clear direction and move forward with one voice. To ensure that clear direction, it is best that I step aside.”

Kerrey put his campaign organization together in a rush after deciding at the end of the summer to heed the advice of political allies and join the field campaigning for the Democratic nomination.

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His youthful appearance, success as a businessman and status as a Vietnam War hero were seen as elements that could propel him to the front tier of candidates. Since becoming a candidate, however, he has been criticized for being unable to effectively communicate a compelling campaign message.


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