Kerry's Offensive And A Tier Two Campaign
Our GOP friends who frequent these boards are very quick to point at the Rasmussen daily tracking polls when the numbers are heading in Bush’s way. Rasmussen has been noting since late last week Bush had opened up a three and four-point lead on Kerry and maintained it for consecutive days for the first time in weeks. Now, we can all stipulate that daily tracking polls in April are not particularly relevant indicators of what will happen after Labor Day unless one is looking for trends.
Since Monday, John Kerry has awakened from his relative slumber and began responding to the RNC and White House attacks on his service medals and post-war activities. For the last two days, Kerry has attacked Bush and Cheney by pointing out that neither has any claim on patriotic superiority over him given their efforts to avoid combat and Bush’s ongoing failure to fully account for his Guard duty disappearance in 1972-73.
So today, is it a coincidence that after several days of going on the offensive right at Bush and Cheney that we find that Bush’s recent advantage over Kerry has evaporated?
I think not. Despite the hypocritical catcalls from the White House and GOP supporters that Kerry is going negative and making military service an issue, the truth is that voters and especially swing voters want to see what Kerry will fight for. Base voters and swing voters had seen evidence recently that Kerry was willing to disappear into a Rope-a-Dope posture and make Bush spend money. That may be a fine strategy in boxing, but in the world of political opinion and voters’ perceptions this can be lethal as your opponent smears you without a response. You then find yourself using your hard-earned fundraising dollars to overcome a negative impression put into voters’ minds that should never have been unchallenged in the first place. If you won’t fight to defend yourself and aren’t willing to point out why your opponents are hypocrites, then why should voters support you?
I have said it before and I will say it until I see evidence that the Kerry campaign is finally doing it. They need a Tier Two campaign to wage an ongoing offensive effort against Bush and Cheney and their records. In its simplest terms, it looks like this as compared to the Tier One effort.
Tier One: Led by Shrum and Cahill, focusing on organization, fundraising, and main messages; no more than 3-4 main themes and messages that will be hammered over and over again by Kerry himself that are positive, forward-looking reasons why voters should dump the incumbent and vote for Kerry. Kerry only goes negative when attacked directly and then he responds with overwhelming fire from a variety of sources. The maxim to be followed in responding is the line from Sean Connery to Kevin Costner in the “The Untouchables”, namely the “Chicago Way.”
Tier Two: Led by a consultant with a successful background either in dealing with Rove (John Weaver) or a political killer experienced in attacking his opponent to keep them on the defensive and paint them negatively (Garry South), this effort’s sole purpose is to run an offensively-minded campaign to attack Bush’s record and lies and pin Bush/Cheney to the wall continuously defending themselves, and work with and coordinate the messages and campaigns of the various 527 committees. The primary messengers in this effort, aside from the 527 campaigns, would be surrogates assigned to certain issues and certain parts of the country where they can make an impact with swing states and voters. The campaign’s costs here are relatively small outside of travel, as the media campaign is left to the coordinated 527 effort, the press conferences and speeches by the surrogates who will get free local media, and the national campaign media. The concept is not hard to figure out, as Wesley Clark can work the South on military issues, Dick Gephardt and regional governors and mayors can work the Midwest and Ohio/Pennsylvania on jobs, Howard Dean can work the coasts and college campuses, Dick Holbrooke and Bill Richardson can work the large metropolitan areas on foreign policy, Al Gore can work anywhere on energy and the environment, John Edwards can work anywhere on his “Two Americas” theme, and Bill Clinton can go anywhere at any time to do whatever he wants to raise money or go to Florida and other key states. Clinton can score many points by simply visiting key states to remind voters of how close he came to Middle East peace, and how far Bush has taken us away from that. And having Clinton hammer Bush with seniors on Medicare and Social Security is money in the bank.
It’s not rocket science folks, and with Kerry’s recent success at fundraising, the money is there to launch it. Again, like Rove does with Bush, Kerry would not be doing the dirty work of slinging mud and could stay above it hammering a positive, 3-4 message, forward-looking agenda of change that he can contrast with Bush’s record. The Tier Two campaign through the surrogates and 527’s would do the heavy lifting and go on the attack, giving the media something to cover and providing a Rovian payback in setting the agenda for the media coverage.
It can, and will work.