WASHINGTON (AP) – During the height of the 2004 New Hampshire presidential primary, Sen. John Kerry’s advisers gathered for an important strategy session.

But they weren’t huddled in some sleek campaign headquarters conference room. Kerry’s team squeezed into foot-tall plastic chairs in a cozy grade-school classroom, leaning over tiny desks with swirls of kiddie finger painting.

Alexandra Kerry, the Massachusetts senator’s eldest daughter, recounts the odd scene in her new book, “Notes From the Trail,” which goes on sale Tuesday, Aug. 19.

“This most serious business, the behind-the-scenes of a bid for a job many argued was among the most important on the planet, occurred in a room with mats piled in the corner for nap time, with the latest poll numbers being passed around like graham crackers,” she writes.

A filmmaker, Kerry enjoyed a front-row seat inside the campaign “bubble” for her father’s White House run.

Kerry turns her eye to telling details that political insiders might overlook –like the elaborate pecking order for reporters’ seats aboard the campaign plane or the smarmy young journalist who drops not-so-subtle hints about her Harvard education trying to impress Kerry staffers.

A politically savvy friend had warned Kerry that presidential campaigning would be like traveling 1,000 miles an hour in a comfortable chair.

“It was more like being attached to an EKG monitor on speed. … The laws of time and space seemed to warp according to levels of adrenaline, fatigue, and endorphins fed by sugar and caffeine,” she writes.

Given the campaign’s grueling pace, exhaustion often took a steep toll.

As the grade-school strategy session unfolded, Kerry’s father, weary from sleepless days of campaigning, napped downstairs in a darkened science classroom. He was stretched out on a black Formica-topped experiment table, flanked by an American flag. “He looked as though he was being given last rites,” Kerry writes.

She also braved the grubby atmosphere aboard the campaign bus during the early contests.

“Empty cold packets, drained coffee cups, discarded Diet Coke cans, and endless wrappers of rapidly devoured candy bars littered the floors,” Kerry writes. “The bus was a mobile medical unit. Everyone aboard was sick. These were not polite coughs, but deep and phlegmy hacks. All of it emanated from the reporters berthed in the bus’s stern and seemed to mist forward, spreading the human equivalent of a kennel cough.”

Kerry arrived on the trail armed with a video camera. She shot 300 hours of video, but decided to write a book instead of making a movie. She culled still shots from the video footage to help illustrate her book, along with photos from a few campaign photographers.

Kerry laments how the small-scale retail politicking in early primary and caucus states like Iowa and New Hampshire is abruptly abandoned as the race turns national.

“You move with such speed that when you actually do have a one-on-one connection, whether it is a rope line or someone stopping you on the street, the moments become so vivid,” she said in the interview.

At times, Kerry, 34, struggled to balance her family’s public and private lives.

She helped keep secret how her mother, Julia Thorne, was suffering from cancer during the race.

Shortly before the primaries, Thorne, who was divorced from Senator Kerry in 1988, was diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma. Thorne backed Kerry’s presidential bid. She died in 2006.

“It was very surreal,” Kerry said in the interview. “My father was running for national office to win or lose, and my mom was basically fighting for her life to win or lose. And the stakes for both were so high. It felt very strange that the markers in time were so drawn, almost as if they were in a fictional narrative, you wouldn’t believe it.”

Kerry recalls waiting for the campaign motorcade to depart the morning after the presidential debate in Miami. The campaign was in a celebratory mood in the wake of the senator’s debate performance. But the glow was shattered when Kerry made a phone call and got some bad news about her mother’s cancer.

She got out of an SUV to finish the call. As she paced across the parking lot, she saw the faces of reporters in three press buses staring down at her.

“That was just part of the surrealism, I suppose,” she said in the interview.

She rushed to find her father, who was ringed by a phalanx of Secret Service agents, advisers and supporters.

“I had to push through the crowd like the people on the rope line do,” she writes. “I was outside the circles, and with the burden of my news, I was outside the upbeat emotional tone of the moment as well.”

Kerry’s book also hits on the “Swift Boat” ads run by critics of her father’s Vietnam War record that surfaced during a late-summer lull in the race. She says her first instinct was to laugh them off.

“We waited, lulled by the impression that the advertisements’ clear bias and inaccuracy would ensure their rapid fall off the radar and out of the news cycle,” she writes. “We were wrong.”

The Swift Boat campaign began as a relatively small TV ad buy and grew into an issue that dogged the senator for months, even though he won multiple military honors and was lauded by his superiors.

The senator has said that the lackluster response to unsubstantiated allegations he considered unworthy of a reaction likely cost him the election.

With her book completed, Kerry, who directed the pilot of the hit reality TV show “The Hills,” is working on two feature-length film projects.


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