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You can buy a lot with half a million dollars. In Massachusetts, most homeowners could pay off their mortgages and have enough left for a new car or two.
All Sen. John Kerry hopes to buy with his $500,000 is some peace. The senator is hoping that his voluntary payment to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue this week will end the controversy stirred up by his purchase of a luxury yacht in Rhode Island, where he didn't have to pay sales tax.
But Jeffrey Berry, a professor of political science at Tufts University, told WBUR's Morning Edition that the payment may hurt Kerry's wallet more than it will help his public image.
"The damage has been done," Berry said. "He seems to have gone out of his way to prove that his reputation of being aloof and disconnected from ordinary citizens is actually true — emphatically so."
The hubbub over the Kerry yacht controversy should subside relatively quickly, Berry said, especially as Kerry grabs attention for the work he does in the Senate surrounding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Berry said Kerry's work as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, especially at a time when the Afghanistan war is the subject of heightened public scrutiny, will draw increased focus.
"He has the chance to show that he's a statesman, that he's 'the adult in the room,' so that might help him going forward to remind people that he's somebody of importance and not just someone who buys expensive yachts," Berry said.
Berry doubts the controversy will tarnish other Democrats running for office this fall.
"I think in this election there's one issue that's central and it doesn't involve John Kerry," Berry said, "and that's whether or not Deval Patrick deserves another four years in office. The voters are going to be weighing that and the John Kerry story is going to, I think, slip into oblivion."
Meanwhile, as the gubernatorial campaign picks up, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is already on the presidential campaign trail for the 2012 election.
In a poll released on Thursday, Romney trailed President Obama by a mere two percentage points in a hypothetical presidential race between the two, leading all Republican candidates.
"Romney is the front-runner in the polls but the polls have got to be taken with a grain of salt this far out," Berry said. "It's a long way between January of 2012 when Republican voters start meeting in the Iowa caucuses."
This program aired on July 30, 2010.
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