Tags: Kerry's | Close

Kerry's Close

Wednesday, 22 September 2004 12:00 AM

As best as I can tell, he started yesterday; the truth is, he really started today, taking questions and saying the same thing he did yesterday.

For John Kerry, closing means discipline. It means defining the message, and sticking with it, hammering everything through it, until the end.

"As I said in my speech yesterday," John Kerry kept saying in answer to questions today, and then indeed, repeated what he said the day before, which was about the present and the future of Iraq, not the past. Sticking to message.

A message is not a synonym for a slogan, which campaigns that are behind tend to have many of, often a different one every day. It is an idea that captures the case for or against a candidacy, through which all issues and all questions can be seen. "It's the economy, stupid" meant take every question, every opportunity, and turn it back to the economy and how they botched it and we'll fix it. "Lower taxes, smaller government" requires no explanation. Neither does: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" The more complicated it is, the worse. Often campaigns have difficulty articulating a winning message for the very simple reason that they don't have one, or because the winning message that year simply doesn't match the candidate the party has nominated.

At the Democratic Convention, John Kerry did not make the case against Bush or his presidency - it was against the rules even to mention his name. It seemed, then, that people did not need to hear it, that they would react negatively to a negative convention. Hindsight is 20-20, and a total waste of time with six weeks to go. Victory will have a thousand fathers (and mothers) - defeat is always an orphan.

John Kerry has to make the case against Bush and for himself. It has to be based in what is happening to real people now and in the future. You could find it with a highlighter pen in yesterday's speech.

President Bush took the country in the wrong direction. He mislead the country based on bad/tainted facts to gain our support. He stubbornly refuses to face reality and admit his mistakes. Real people suffer the consequences of these mistakes. Kerry has a plan to make things better - to succeed, where he has failed.

The strategy is clear:

George Bush's tough has to become stubborn and wrongheaded, the way it was earlier this summer. That won't happen when the debate is about what happened in votes two years ago, or 10 years ago, much less in the Guard 30 years ago. The debate has to be about where we are, and where we're headed - about the present and the future, about the country, not John Kerry.

This is, I should add, precisely the message that Bob Shrum was selling the night of the president's acceptance speech in New York. Which is more evidence, if more were needed, of the other truth, which is that it's always "the candidate, stupid" - particularly when you're talking about John Kerry. So put away the obituaries.

The conventional wisdom consensus of the latest inconsistent polls, including the internal campaign polls, puts the race at about 5 points in Bush's favor. That's still striking distance at six weeks and three debates. John Kerry has finally stripped away the bark on the Iraq issue. And maybe off himself.

The close has begun.

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As best as I can tell, he started yesterday; the truth is, he really started today, taking questions and saying the same thing he did yesterday. For John Kerry, closing means discipline. It means defining the message, and sticking with it, hammering everything through...
Kerry's,Close
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2004-00-22
Wednesday, 22 September 2004 12:00 AM
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