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Top Republican and Democrat strategists are curious about Sen. John Kerry’s choice of words to radio mega-host Don Imus concerning rumors burning up the Internet and newsrooms about a possible extramarital affair with a young woman.

Painfully similar to former President Bill Clinton’s careful parsing of words, Kerry told Imus in a morning interview yesterday the following when asked about an item first revealed in print by Internet guru Matt Drudge:

“Well, there is nothing to report,” Kerry told Imus. “So there is nothing to talk about. I’m not worried about it. No.”

The failure to issue a flat-out denial that he had an extramarital affair or relationship “is very Clintonian,” a top Democratic aide told Insight Online. “It’s worrying.”

A senior White House aide declined to speak directly on the issue but when pressed, smiled and said: “It was an interesting choice of words.”

News organizations have not been able to get responses from Kerry or his campaign on what the senator actually meant with the three-part response to Imus.

Democratic strategists in Washington are worried in private because Kerry lately has been fairly black and white in his answers on important issues. “Why didn’t he just say the rumors are false?”

Clinton, when confronted with rumors about Monica Lewinsky, told reporters early on in the scandal that “I’ve had no sexual relations with that woman. Miss Lewinsky.”

The use of a term of art, sexual relations, was subsequently revealed to be a coy way to deflect questions swirling around the former president.

In fact, Clinton had engaged in sexual contact of another nature with the former White House intern as was subsequently revealed.

“Kerry needs to come clean and be absolutely clear about this rumor and other ones now starting to surface,” a Senate source close to Kerry told Insight Online. “We need to know flat out if he’s [fooled] around with women besides his wife.”

Democrats still feel the sting of Clinton’s sexual escapade and lying about it and worry that failure to fully dispel rumors involving Kerry will open old wounds and let out steam from the front runner for the party thus far.

“People’s memories are not that short to forget the national embarassment Clinton caused and compounded with lies,” a top GOP strategist said. “We don’t want to touch this one with a ten foot pole but it’ll be interesting to see if the press pursues this further.”

Thus far, however, Kerry’s carefully worded response seems to have quelled immediate press questions about the rumored affair though parents of the former intern have stated they think Kerry’s character is less than desirable.

“This is a touchy subject because of Bill Clinton and it needs to be killed right away,” the Senate source close to Kerry said. “His answers on the Imus show were less than forthcoming.”

Meanwhile, reports that several news organizations are pursuing the alleged fling, and other sexual relations outside of his two marriages are being pursued.

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Previous stories:

Kerry: ‘Nothing there to report’

Report: Scandal rocks Kerry campaign

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Paul M. Rodriguez is the managing editor of Insight.

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