Kerry Camp Is Faltering With No Tier Two Effort, Even As McCain Tries To Help Again
Allow me to take a different perspective than Yuval did this morning. A week or two in an election cycle can be an eternity at a critical moment. ABC News’ The Note I feel summarizes quite well this morning the problems that the Kerry campaign is having right now. I agree with everything they say. Yes, the Kerry gang is having problems, and no amount of “it’s early” or “the poll drops were to be expected when Bush began spending the money” will cover over the fact that Kerry, Bob Shrum, and Mary Beth Cahill have allowed Karl Rove to get off the ball first, without having to play any defense at all.
When you know from Rove’s record that he uses Bush’s weaknesses as his attack points against his opponents as a way to defuse the resulting counterattack as nothing more than response politics (as Paul Waldman notes in his book “Fraud” linked on the left of this site), it should have been obvious to the Kerry folks that combat-cowards Bush and Cheney would use the military against decorated veteran Kerry. No matter how reprehensible it is for Bush to blame Kerry for not providing sufficient combat equipment to the troops when in fact it was Bush who was responsible for this, it should have been anticipated that this lowdown smear would occur. Yet Shrum and Cahill are caught off guard by it and have to start out playing defense on an issue that Kerry should own.
I have said this before, and I will keep saying this until the Kerry gang gets off their asses and does it: there must be a Tier Two operation headed by a political killer to run the attack campaign who can use surrogates and the 527’s in an offense-based effort that hits Bush from all sides and pins him to the wall. This Tier Two effort must continue to hammer Bush’s record inexpensively through personal appearances and press conferences with good surrogates in strategic states so that Rove is playing defense and spending money to defend themselves. While this is going on, Kerry can present the positive, forward-looking message consisting of 3 or 4 issues and positions repeated over and over through a Tier One effort.
Instead, Kerry is left to carry the offensive by himself, fending off attacks from both Bush and Cheney, without a coordinated Tier Two effort using surrogates hammering Bush on a range of issues. Kerry has no running mate yet to help with the load, and worse yet, his Shrum-produced media sucks and isn’t effective. The attacks from Bush, by design, are coming fast and furious, again as you would expect they would from a candidate with boatloads of money to burn. Yet even with an abundance of issues to hammer and ready surrogates to use in hammering them, there is nothing from the campaign except an exhausted candidate going on vacation and bad commercials in response.
Worse yet, what are the 3 or 4 issues and themes that Kerry plans to run on? There is no rocket science here. Consumer confidence is tanking with folks more and more worried about the future and a lack of jobs. Our partners in Iraq will be bailing out on us over the coming months, leaving the American taxpayers footing the full bill in dollars and our soldiers’ lives. There is no Bush plan to deal with our health care needs in this nation. And there is a growing problem with the integrity and competence of this administration in everything from domestic policy (Medicare for example) to foreign policy.
Yet the Kerry camp can’t get a surrogate and attack operation off the ground, even though John McCain is helping his fellow Vietnam vet once again by undercutting Bush’s attacks against Kerry on defense. Why isn’t the campaign having Wesley Clark and Sam Nunn touring the South blasting Bush on defense and military issues? Why haven’t Bob Graham, Bill Richardson, and Richard Holbrooke been touring the country for weeks blasting Bush on foreign policy, national security, and 9/11? Why hasn’t Dick Gephardt been used in the critical region of Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia blasting Bush on jobs and labor issues? Why hasn’t Al Gore been used in the larger states, especially in the Northeast and West Coast to blast Bush on the environment? Why hasn’t Howard Dean been used on college campuses and the larger northern states to blast Bush on health care, a lack of integrity, and domestic issues? And why hasn’t Bill Clinton been trotted out to major fundraisers in New York, Chicago, California, Florida and all large states to raise a quick ten million in the next two weeks to hammer Bush on everything?
None of this is rocket science to anyone, except it appears to Bob Shrum and Mary Beth Cahill, who have let the momentum from the last several weeks evaporate in a torrent of easy-to-anticipate Bush attack ads and a single-handed and underfunded response from Kerry himself. Get a running mate, get the Tier Two operation with a political killer and surrogates going now, and get the Big Dog in the hunt raising cash and bashing heads. If you don’t keep the base fired up and the media busy covering Bush in defense mode, you risk Rove succeeding at discouraging the base and painting Kerry negatively on their terms once and for all.
There is a reason why Bob Shrum has never won a national race.