Monday :: Aug 4, 2003

Time For Kerry To Step It Up


by Steve

Those of you who have followed this site know that I support John Kerry, or at least have been leaning towards John Kerry since his announcement last year. To a lesser degree, I have been watching with interest how Bob Graham has been doing since he got in, because with his demonstrated success in a key state and his overwhelming knowledge of 9/11 and national security he has attributes that cause problems for Karl Rove.

Were it not for the fact that a Kerry/Graham ticket would deprive an already declining Democratic minority (especially with Fritz Hollins' retirement announcement today) of two more national figures, I would be enthusiastically supporting such a ticket. But in addition to the political difficulties such a ticket presents to the national party if successful, especially since both states have GOP governors, I am increasingly concerned that neither of these fine men have given a good reason why they should topple Bush.

Kerry came on the scene late last year as a front-runner. Even though the already known Lieberman and Gephardt were sure to run and announce later, much of the national media had coined Kerry as the front runner based on his background, ability to raise money, and assumed organizational and policy capabilities. He withstood the obligatory early “Massachusetts liberal” barrage from the Mighty Wurlitzer and effectively blasted any criticisms of him by the chickenhawk elements of the White House and GOP by reminding the media that unlike the deserter-in-chief Bush, he in fact had served with distinction in Vietnam. An early surgery put Kerry on the shelf for awhile, but it seemed to me that he has never come off of that surgery back to full speed until recently, when Howard Dean has passed him by for the media’s attention.

But Kerry has lost the lead to Dean in several New Hampshire polls of late, and now Dean is rolling TV commercials in the state to try and cement his frontrunner status, a tactic that Kerry refuses to follow. Dean’s earlier decision to run TV commercials in Iowa is now paying off, as he has caught up to Gephardt in that state’s most recent polls. Although Kerry obtained the endorsement of the huge Chicago Teamsters local today, in contrast to the national union’s endorsement of Gephardt, there is still not much evidence of an aggressive race being waged on the part of the campaign, even though he has proven adept at raising money and not spending it. His campaign has raised and retained the most money through June 30.

Part of this is a calculated effort to be a long-haul candidate, which is the same overly conservative, consultant-driven approach that doomed Al Gore in 2000 and the DSCC in 2002, when neither campaign went on the offensive to draw distinctions with the GOP and Bush. Since Kerry made the deplorable Jim Jordan his campaign manager, this was to be expected. But such an approach leaves you ripe for being outhustled and outgunned by a scrappier and aggressive bunch like the guys running Dean’s campaign. No matter how well prepared and knowledgeable Kerry is compared to his competitors, the choice will come down to passion version knowledge in a Kerry/Dean matchup.

Joe Klein in Time points out that Kerry’s attempts to loosen up and connect more with voters will help. But so would focusing on three issues that are the main reason for your campaign. Dean can run as the outsider on an angry, anti-Bush platform with credibility, and can go a long way on that message hammering the Administration for a range of sins. Kerry has yet to tell us what the three most important issues are for toppling Bush, and why he is the best man for the job.

In essence, keep it simple John. Tell us why Bush is a threat and what three things are the basis for your candidacy. And them pursue those three issues relentlessly and with as much passion as you can muster. Your attempts at bonding will then pay off.

Steve :: 5:12 PM :: Comments (44) :: Digg It!