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September 18, 2004
Democrats: Kerry Dragging Anchor On House Races

The Washington Post reports that Democrats are increasingly frustrated with the performance of John Kerry, and now expect to fall far short of their goal of recapturing the House in November:

Democrats' hopes of regaining the House majority this fall -- never bright at best -- appear increasingly dim, in part because of Sen. John F. Kerry's lackluster campaign performance over the past six weeks, numerous analysts say.

In late July, as upbeat Democrats held their convention in Boston, party leaders said they had capable, well-financed House candidates poised in several states to exploit a nationwide trend that seemed just around the corner. "Democrats can win the House back if this breeze, this movement for a change, continues," said Rep. Robert T. Matsui (Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Since then, however, Republicans conducted a sharp-edged convention in New York, Kerry was slow to respond to attacks on his character and policies, and many of the Democrats' most promising House challengers seemed frozen in place.

When the Massachusetts senator appeared to gain momentum entering and exiting the Boston convention, "the theory was it would all seep down to the House races," said Amy Walter, who tracks House contests for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "But it hasn't happened." Among top Democrats, she said, "you just don't hear that same level of enthusiasm you did a month ago."

This is the price the Democrats will pay for hastily selecting a candidate through an artificially rushed primary season. The Democrats purposefully "front-loaded" the primary elections in order to compress the time their candidates would have to attack one another so as not to seriously wound the winner. For much of the pre-primary run-up, the winner looked to be Howard Dean, but when he imploded and Kerry stole his message, Democrats rushed to his banner.

Unfortunately, after having pushed him into the ticket in record time -- he had been scoring in single digits six weeks before Iowa -- the Democrats have discovered that John Kerry is a terrible campaigner on the national stage, where Ted Kennedy's aura does nothing to protect him. Even if he inspired the base, he could create enthusiasm that would reach down the ticket and boost Democrats across the country. Recent polling shows that not only has Kerry never really inspired the hard-core party members, but that the little enthusiasm he generated has slipped significantly over the past month.

All signs point to an electoral disaster for the left this year. Democrats have begun to realize their folly. If it comes to pass, expect the Democrats to tear their party apart, and the Deaniacs should be the ones ejected from the leadership. Whether that happens depends on if the Democrats recover their senses after November.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 18, 2004 11:38 PM

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