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September 15, 2004
Bush's Lambeau Leap?

Jam VanderHei looks to an incident in Green Bay last month, which I noted at the time, to explain Kerry's sudden erosion in Wisconsin and elsewhere. VanderHei explores the underlying issues of Kerry's phoniness on the campaign trail, revealed in his error-filled invocations of sports references, and how the Bush campaign has taken advantage of it with voters:

At a campaign event last month, the Democratic presidential nominee called it Lambert Field -- a slip of the tongue carried on television, in papers throughout the state and on ESPN's Web site.

That's akin to calling the Yankees the Yankers or the Chicago Bulls the Bells. This is a place where Packers jackets often outnumber sports coats in church and thousands of fans wear a big chunk of yellow foam cheese atop their head with the pride of a new parent. President Bush's warning to terrorists is apropos to the passions of Packers fans -- you are either with 'em or against 'em.

"I got some advice for him," Bush told Wisconsinites a few days after the Lambert gaffe. "If someone offers you a cheesehead, don't say you want some wine, just put it on your head and take a seat at Lambeau Field." Vice President Cheney made the obligatory pilgrimage to Green Bay last week to pile on. "I thought after John Kerry's visit here I'd visit Lambert Field," Cheney told a crowd at a Republican fundraising dinner Thursday night. Then he went in for the kill. "The next thing is he'll be convinced Vince Lombardi is a foreign leader."

It's all pretty funny, but it points to a character deficit on Kerry's part -- trying constantly to be something he's not. He made a similar but more foolish mistake in Michigan last month when he praised Ohio State Buckeye football to an audience of Wolverine fans. Apparently, Kerry wanted to leave the impression that he's just a football-lovin' reg'lar guy, but the Michigan attendees were not impressed. Stunned at first, they began to boo Kerry until he was advised where the campaign stop was, gave a mumbled statement about Michigan's great football tradition, and quickly moved away from sports talk.

VanderHei links that performance with Kerry's nosedive in Wisconsin, where he's coughed up eight points to Bush in a state Al Gore (barely) carried in 2000. Again, VanderHei may use a humorous approach, but he's serious about the issue of authenticity. Voters have pegged Kerry as a big phony, in part because of silly incidents like this. Not only did Kerry fail to get the names correct, he did so while claiming to be a big fan of the sports teams. In fact, it's not just being phony that's an issue here, it's a lack of preparation indicating that Kerry could care less about whether he gets it right or not.

The Packer fans are known for their tight relationship with their team. At a time when player safety has been a concern for NFL officials, the Packers created the Lambeau Leap, where players jump into the throngs of adoring fans whenever they score a touchdown. Kerry's fumbles on sports and unmasking as a phony may have given Bush the electoral equivalent of a Lambeau Leap.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 15, 2004 5:28 AM

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Tracked on September 15, 2004 8:04 AM

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