In my copious spare time [i.e., none], I have perused some of the blogs [i.e., Instapundit], and have seen the joyous lambasting of candidate Kerry, and I get depressed. Not because they are right [I don't know that they are], but because the Kerry campaign is running such a lousy campaign.
I have said all along that Kerry has got to dispel the notion of "Northeastern Liberal." He really has not done that. He had to dispel the notion that he is a flip-flopper. He has not done that. He had to craft and convey a "message": a vision of the U.S. that he wanted to bring to the table. He has not done that.
Instead, his campaign has allowed itself to get sucked into the minutiae of who did what, when and where 35 years ago in Vietnam. Who cares? The campaign is REacting, not PROacting. The campaign is not on message, because it seems to have no message at all.
If I were running the show, this is what I would be pushing:
1. The economy: deficit spending tends to depress the economy. Bush has gone from surplus to record deficits in four years. That kind of incompetence takes some doing. And Bush is the first president in history to seek tax cuts in wartime. What's that about? People are most concerned about how they are going to live and thrive. There are many, many people who are not doing as well now as they were four years ago. Tap into this dissatisfaction. Refute the propaganda that Bush had a recession when he entered office in 2001. Evoke memories of how good things were when Clinton was president. It's not all about 9/11. The Bush Administration is letting jobs slip away from us, trade deficits are at an all-time high, and the economy is at best sluggish. It's the economy, stupid. Don't forget healthcare.
2. National Security: Kerry voted for war in Iraq based on misleading information, if not out and out lies from the Administration. While it's generally a good thing for Saddam to be out of power, Americans don't like to be misled -- or lied to. At best, the Bush Administration myopically went to war where the need did not exist. At worst, the Bush Administration went to war based on a vendetta to oust Saddam, no matter what the cost. Whichever is true, it is undeniable that the Administration is giving us now a different rationale for war than it did before we went in [see credibility, below]. However, now that we're committed, we must finish the job, with a coherent plan to win the peace, as well as the war. I don't know what Bush's plan is; Kerry needs to formulate one and articulate it.
3. Credibility: Kerry must refute, simply, the accusations that he cannot be consistent on a position. Seems to me they said the same thing about Clinton in 1992 and 1996. The problem is that Kerry seems to keep shifting, and is not fighting back against those charges. At the same time, Kerry needs to go after Bush and the Republican establishment he controls for their lack of credibility on life and death issues, on civil rights, on the envoronment, on cronyism, and a host of other issues.
4. Distance Kerry from any aspect of the 1988 Dukakis campaign. The Bush people are crowing about John Sasso's possible involvement in the campaign. Comparisons between Kerry and Dukakis are starting to happen. Take steps to stop the references; Kerry must establish himself as his own man, and stay the hell away from Dukakis
There are a lot of people, including Republicans, who are mad as hell at the Bush Administration right now. The Kerry people have got to give them a reason to vote for their man. It's not too late for the Kerry campaign to turn this around, but it's go to get its collective head out of its collective ass and move. Where's James Carville when you need him?