John Kerry is down in the polls, and his campaign is now the political equivalent of a hooved animal on a frozen pond. The news for Kerry keeps getting worse. Why? For the Democrats, the textbook definition of “insanity” comes to mind: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Months ago, it all seemed so promising for Kerry. He came back from a distant third to win in Iowa, he had the best hair of any other Democrat seeking the nomination, and, most importantly, among core party voters, he had the only thing that they were looking for in a candidate – he wasn’t Bush.
According to polls at the time, the race between Kerry and Bush was a dead heat. This was the time for Kerry to make his move. Speculation swirled around who would be his choice for a running mate. Would it be Hillary Clinton? Dick Gephardt? Would John McCain cross over? Kerry decided to add some youthful integrity to the ticket, figuring that nobody exudes this quality to Americans like a senator and attorney, if you’ll pardon the redundancy. A fellow wealthy liberal lawyer from an Eastern Seaboard state with a meticulously cared-for coif, Kerry’s choice of John Edwards as his running-mate was like adding salt to caviar.
The Dems’ convention was another problem. Their week in Beantown was like a USO show in reverse, with the entertainers in the crowd, and the troops on the stage. Throw in Edwards reminding the crowd that “Hope is on the way”, and the USO feel was uncanny. Unfortunately, Bob and his trademark golf club didn’t show up, and the Democrats’ version of a USO show turned off any voter with the audacity to be curious about anything that has happened since midway through Nixon’s first term.
Things got even worse shortly after the DNC gathering in Boston, when pollsters observed that, after an entire week of speeches and rallies, the biggest convention “bounce” any Democrat enjoyed involved Alyssa Milano jumping for joy at a fund-raiser.
Just when things seemed to be going quite wrong for Kerry, a hint of potentially good news hit the campaign. Dan Rather and CBS were going to air a report, complete with documentation, that would offer proof positive that George W. Bush received preferential treatment while in the Texas Air National Guard, which allowed him to skirt the usual requirements, keeping him out of Vietnam. At last, something for the Kerry campaign that would turn off Bush voters!
By the time it was over, the CBS flap cost Kerry in two key areas: 1) The documents ended up being forgeries, making Bush opponents appear desperate, and 2) In order to push this story forward, they had to admit that Bush was actually in the National Guard.
Now, Kerry has some big guns on board. Carville, Begala, Shrum, et al., are involved in advising the campaign. This is a “good news, bad news” situation for Kerry. The good news is that Carville and Begala advised Bill Clinton in 1992, and Clinton won. The bad news was that Clinton got 43 percent of the vote, which is what it looks like Kerry is on track to hit. Nobody will enjoy this consistency more than Bush. Throw in several more advisers, campaign managers (a job with a turnover rate second only to kamikaze pilots), deputy campaign managers and many speechwriters, and “Team Kerry” outnumbers its potential voters.
When Kerry’s loss is analyzed by the “experts,” part of the problem will be discovered to have been, in essence, “too many chiefs, not enough disenfranchised Indians.” Politics is a lot like driving – you turn into a skid. Proper steering with 35 people yanking on the same wheel ensures nothing but a crash. The only question is when and where.
In a scant few weeks, when the defeated Heinz-Kerrys are in Nantucket, drowning their sorrows – christening the “S.S. Depression” with a couple bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac – Democrats, many of the same ones who ran campaigns for McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis and Gore, will be trying to figure out what caused them to lose the election.
As Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” That’s advice Kerry should heed, but never would – perhaps because it’s coming from somebody with notoriously lousy hair. If Einstein’s words hold true, the GOP can expect quite a bit of good news in the coming years, barring Republican scandal or Democrat enlightenment.