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May 21, 2004
Kerry, The Reluctant Bride

The presumptive Democratic nominee for President, John Kerry, wishes to remain "presumptive" as long as possible, it seems. Party activists now propose to have Kerry wait as long as possible to accept the nomination in order to avoid campaign-spending limits that kick in once the nomination is made:

Sen. John Kerry may postpone accepting his party's presidential nomination at the July Democratic convention -- a tactic aimed at reserving his campaign war chest for the fight against President Bush.

Under federal campaign rules, once a candidate accepts the party nomination, the campaign is limited to spending around $75 million.

So, just as with the proliferation of 527s and MoveOn, we have the party of campaign-finance reform manipulating the rules on which they insisted for their own gain. If nothing else illustrates the futility and hypocrisy of classifying money into silly little categories, the spectacle of a major-party nominee addressing a nominating convention at its climax while pretending that he's not really the nominee should drive it home like never before. What will he say to the gathered delegates? "I pledge to win this election, assuming I accept your nomination at a later undetermined date!"

Needless to say, Republicans managed to suppress their laughter long enough to note the silliness to which the Democrats have no shame to stoop:

The Bush-Cheney campaign took delight in the issue.

"Only John Kerry could be for a nominating convention, but be against the nomination," Ken Mehlman, the Bush-Cheney campaign manager, said in a written statement. "This is just the latest example of John Kerry's belief that the rules are for other people, not for him."

Democrats countercharged that Republicans played the system by scheduling their nominating convention so late in the season (first week of September). However, no one has ever proposed rules for the scheduling of conventions, and at the time, Democrats were delighted by the schedule as it caused ballot problems for Republicans in Illinois. What Kerry proposes is to walk out of his own nominating convention and lie about his status in order to spend money illegally. Is this the campaign finance reform about which Democrats have lectured us for last two sessions of Congress?

UPDATE: Matt from Blogs For Bush wonders why Democrats need to worry about this if all the recent stories about their fund-raising prowess are true. He thinks it shows a weakness they're trying to keep covered up. I'd say he's right.

UPDATE II: Another perspective from the myway news portal, via Memeorandum:

When the Democratic Party scheduled its convention, it didn't know it would have a nominee who opted out of public financing for the primaries and the $45 million spending limit the program imposes through the spring and summer.

At the time, the party anticipated it would face the same situation it has in previous elections: a nominee who emerged from the primaries hovering at the spending limit and had to limp through several months awaiting the convention and the campaign-sustaining government financing.

The Democrats claim that the Republicans created a situation from the scheduling of their convention that created an unfair advantage, which they want to correct by this ridiculous subterfuge. However, as this report makes clear, the decision to schedule the Democratic convention in July intended to make federal financing available as soon as possible for a candidate expected to be limping towards the convention, bloody from the front-loaded primaries. It appears that they were just too clever for their own good, and now want to whine that its all the Republicans' fault. All they're doing is making the case that the Democrats have become the party of arrested development.

And from the AP comes more of the questions this desperate move provokes:

Television networks were uncertain Friday how Kerry's plan would affect their convention coverage, still in the planning stages. ... "It's one more thing that's not happening at a convention," said Mark Lukasiewicz, in charge of special events coverage for NBC News. "It's one more thing to factor in as we decide how much resources financial and editorial we have to give to convention coverage."

While convention coverage has dropped in the past couple of decades, a nominating convention that won't end in a nomination will matter even less than normal. Nominees count on the free coverage of their speeches and the enthusiasm of convention delegates to give them a bounce in polling immediately afterwards. By postponing accepting the actual nomination, Kerry risks losing that promotional capacity of the convention.

The FEC may not sign off on the plan in any case:

The convention is defined as when the nomination takes place, Noble said. Having delegates vote in Boston, but Kerry put off his acceptance, might not pass muster, he said.

"They would have to come up with an argument that would basically look at the convention as continuing past the convention dates," Noble said. "Could they do it? It's possible. In the end it would be up to the FEC and possibly the courts, if it's challenged."

The Kerry campaign and DNC would be wise to ask the FEC's advice before trying to change the nomination process, said FEC spokesman Bob Biersack, adding that the commission has not faced such a question before.

In other words, suck it up, buttercup. You picked the July date when the strategy suited you. Now that it doesn't, it's no one's fault but your own. Their failure to accept responsibility for their mistakes reminds me of Kerry's famous retort on the Idaho slopes this past winter when he blamed his Secret Service security detail for falling off his snowboard, referring to an agent as "that son of a bitch".

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 21, 2004 7:39 PM

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