Should Kerry Have Shut Down His Campaign This Week?
A short note and a ďyou be the political consultantĒ question for you this morning.
We know that upon Ronald Reaganís passing over the weekend that John Kerry decided to put his campaign on hold for the upcoming week. Aside from some comments over the weekend and yesterday to reporters about the differences between Reaganís style and that of the current incumbent, Kerry also stopped campaign appearances this week. To his credit, he appeared in person in California to pay his respects to Reagan, but also cancelled several large-dollar fundraisers this week that will be difficult to reschedule.
And after an initial spate of, as Bush would call them, revisionist history media accounts that painted a glowing account of Reaganís tenure in the 1980ís, the media is at least now putting out the rest of the story. The Post runs a fine piece this morning on Reaganís policies towards African Americans, while others write about his policies and how they affected the poor and ignored or undercut domestic problems. (The Post also runs a story on how Reaganís deficits have led the GOP to minimize the impacts of deficits, which is the basis of their defense that Bushís deficits donít matter either. There are two problems with that defense however: foreigners still own that debt, and if the GOP is saying that deficits now donít matter, then their argument for spending cuts is also eviscerated.)
But the political question for the day is this: if you were Kerryís campaign consultant would you have suspended campaigning this week? We know that the White House and RNC have publicly said they would suspend campaigning this week, while they went ahead and encouraged comparisons between Bush and Reagan, both in print and on their website. Conventional wisdom is that campaigning this week would have hurt Kerry and seemed inappropriate. But to whom? And couldnít Kerry have kept campaigning with a more moderated tone while still pointing out that Bush is not Reagan? Sure, this would earn him some flack from the GOP media, and some voters would have been upset. But letís be real here: any voters that would have been upset about Kerry campaigning (with a more moderate tone) and pointing out that Reagan-Bush comparisons are faulty come from voters who werenít going to vote for Kerry anyway. And its not like Kerry can moderate the tone of his campaign much more anyway. So why not keep up some level of campaigning and fundraising?
If the shoe was on the other foot, do you think for a moment that Bush and Rove would have suspended their campaign? If the media is already pointing out the strained relationship between the Bushes and the Reagans, is that enough, or should Kerry have used this week to talk about optimism through the prism of Reagan, the future, and how Bush isnít Ronald Reagan?
Should Kerry have turned this week into a purely Bentsen-like moment?
"Mr. Bush, I knew President Reagan, I met him several times, and appreciated his approach to politics. Youíre no Ronald Reagan."