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May 1, 2004
Are The Vultures Circling?

While George Bush has taken a pounding for the past several months from an extended Democratic primary run-up, the fallout of overblown insurgencies in Iraq, and the release of two tattletale books from former advisors, the Kerry campaign has managed to move backwards in its battle against the President. In fact, the Kerry campaign has been so inept that even Democrats are willing to go on record to discuss their concerns, as the New York Times reports in tomorrow's paper:

"George Bush has had three of the worst months of his presidency, but they are stuck and they've got to move past this moment," said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

While Ms. Brazile said she thought Mr. Kerry had the time, the political skill and the money to defeat what many Democrats described as a highly vulnerable president, she said, "This is a very crucial moment in the campaign." ...

Last week, after completing the most in-depth poll of his campaign, Mr. Kerry unveiled yet another theme for his candidacy: "Together, we can build a stronger America." It was, by the count of one aide, the sixth message Mr. Kerry has rolled out since he announced his candidacy nearly 18 months ago.

"We need to be honest with ourselves: Our candidate is not one who's good with a 30-second sound bite," said Representative Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee, co-chairman of Mr. Kerry's campaign. "He is very thoughtful and it takes him a while to say things."

Of course, the problem with Kerry is that he takes a while to say nothing, and that's what he's said more often than not. While he and his surrogates have attacked Bush on Iraq, as an example, the only response Kerry has to questions about what he would do differently is that he would exert "personal diplomacy" to convince France, Russia, and China to join us in Iraq and would "formally" rejoin the community of nations, as he put it, without explaining what specific policies he would put into place to do any of the above. What does Kerry propose to trade for French and Russian military participation in Iraq? He doesn't say. What specifically does it mean to rejoin the community of nations? He doesn't say.

Nagourney documents the frustration Democrats have at the continuing failure of the Kerry campaign to develop a consistent theme for his candidacy. In the primaries, he notes, all Kerry had to do was to remind Democrats of his Vietnam experience to argue that he had the resume to beat Bush. But Nagourney isn't entirely accurate here. Kerry also stole Dean's message halfway through the primary run-up when it became apparent that Dean had started to run away with the race. Kerry, who had a moderate-to-hawkish record on Iraq II, voting for military action, suddenly pulled a 180 and claimed his vote only signified the threat of military force, putting him in the ridiculous position of insisting that he voted to bluff Saddam. On the $87 billion supplemental spending bill that he told ABC he would support in the end regardless of the funding as leaving the troops without funding would be "irresponsible", he reversed himself and voted against it when Congress voted down an amendment to raise taxes to do it.

The Democrats who spoke on the record did so with caution, expressing confidence that Kerry was just getting his "sea legs" and would begin stretching out a lead over George Bush. However, a behind-the-scenes look at a recent strategy meeting makes one wonder about the Kerry team's ability to build a national campaign at all:

The growing pains reflect in part an organization that, aside from the two senior media consultants Bob Shrum and Mike Donilon has little experience in running presidential campaigns. Mr. Kerry's campaign has been hindered, some aides said, by a turnover in staff members and internal bickering, albeit nowhere near the level that occurred in the campaign last fall.

At a recent meeting of senior staff members, Democrats said, Mr. Kerry's aides became entangled in a lengthy debate over what might seem to be a less than urgent issue: whether they should send a Democratic operative to Bush rallies dressed as Pinocchio, a chicken or a mule, to illustrate various lines of attacks Democrats want to use against Mr. Bush. (They say they want to portray him as a liar, a draft avoider and stubborn.)

The fact that the Democrats are talking like this to the New York Times, and that the Times prints it, communictates more than just a sense of frustration among the Left. They intend on sending a message to Kerry that their patience has run out and that they don't intend on waiting forever for him to get his act in gear. Nor does it appear that Kerry is capable of turning things around; he's been the front-runner for two months now, eight long weeks where, tired or fresh, he's consistently tripped over himself.

Their grand strategy of getting a candidate out early from the primaries has backfired immensely, and they now are stuck with a nominee who can't campaign effectively nor make personal connections with voters, and whose only message so far is the leftover Bush-bashing from last year. They're telling Kerry that they won't wait two more months for him to get his act together.

UPDATE: My Northern Alliance colleague Hindrocket at Power Line notes this same article, with the following observation: "The Democrats are always complaining about the Republican "attack machine," and they fall over one another, as in this Times article, to call Kerry "thoughtful" and "nuanced." Maybe the Democrats should consider the possibility that the reason why Kerry's campaign hasn't gotten off the ground is that he really doesn't have anything to say, beyond slandering President Bush."

On the plus side, it's hard to go off-message when you don't have one ...

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 1, 2004 6:14 PM

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