Dead Man Running

"Kucinich is, like, The normal laws of physics don't apply to me.'"

"I just can't believe a national politician is talking like that," enthused one volunteer after hearing Kucinich speak at a San Francisco rally. Neither can some of the folks back home in Ohio.

"[Clevelanders] may get in touch with God once a week, and pray that they have a job on Monday," says Tom Coyne, the Democratic chairman of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, who is running for Kucinich's congressional seat. "But getting in touch with the stars, tuning up the right way ... he doesn't talk like that when he's giving a speech at the [autoworkers' union hall]."

Until his run for president, the diminutive congressman steered clear of stardust in Cleveland's 10th Congressional District, where he was considered a "meat and potatoes" Democrat with a populist bent, says Coyne. In the Bay Area, however, Kucinich at times seems as much a spiritual leader as a political one, inspiring highly personal responses from supporters.

Prior to a recent Kucinich speech at Gonzalez's former campaign office in the Mission, while people milled around with drinks in hand, a man meditated in front of the stage on a carefully laid-out, Asian-patterned carpet. Two Kucinich fans from Marin passed around buttons with a picture of the candidate inside a hand-drawn heart. He looked a bit like the Dalai Lama, with a crinkly-eyed grin and his hands in prayer position. The button's slogan read: "Let there be peace on Earth... and let it begin with US."

Outside the building, John and Moriah-Melin Whoolilurie, of Joshua Tree, Calif., sang and danced in matching red, white, and blue velveteen-and-sequin jumpsuits, with the letters "VA" across the chest. They called themselves the "Vibration Army" and had been following Kucinich on the campaign trail, sending him positive vibrations, since the Iowa caucus. Recently, Kucinich's campaign began paying their expenses.

Such outpourings of affection are nice, but unlikely to help Kucinich politically. In order to get even a single delegate from San Francisco, for instance, he needs 15 percent of the vote in the March 2 primary in either of the city's two congressional districts -- roughly 24,000 votes. So far, Kucinich has managed to gain only two delegates nationwide.

The evening Hillsman Heath was handing out Kucinich fliers on Muni, the difficulty of her task was clear.

"The thing I hate most is when people won't even acknowledge you," she said, wincing as a blond woman refused her handout.

Heath turned to a reporter and asked, in all seriousness, "So who do you think is going to win the Democratic nomination?" After being told that most people would probably put their money on John Kerry, she paused, seeming to consider the information.

"I still think Kucinich could win it," she said. "It just kind of seems like Kerry is having his moment."

Rain came down and Heath opened her umbrella to protect her precious fliers. With what could only be described as inner knowingness, she grinned and said, "Kucinich is, like, 'The normal laws of physics don't apply to me.' I just kind of love that."

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