How Kerry Lost The Election
At the beginning of the summer, numerous people thought that John Kerry stood an excellent chance of winning the Presidency. It was the belief of many in the "Punditocracy" that the election was John Kerry's to lose. The reasoning was sound because:
At the outset of the campaign, President Bush was saddled with a number of serious handicaps:
- a bloody, expensive, and unpopular war, with no end in sight.
- a net loss of jobs
- declining purchasing power for those that are working
- the continued destruction of the American manufacturing base
- out of control illegal immigration
- a legacy of bitterness resulting from the disputed 2000 election
- a relatively united opposition in the Democratic Party.
- the largest federal spending deficit in history
- vulnerability concerning his own military record during the Vietnam era.
- Osama Bin Laden still unaccounted for, and presumably alive (later proved true in shockingly clear terms)
How Kerry Blew It:
- The one strength that Kerry had was his military service. Bush's biggest vulnerability was his lack of active military service. In a catastrophic strategic blunder, Kerry allowed Bush (via the Swiftboat Veterans For Truth) to make Kerry's service record an issue, thus shielding Bush's weak record from criticism, and neutralizing John Kerry's greatest strength.
- Kerry did not effectively use John Edwards as an "attack dog." (a la Cheney) When the Bush camp started making noises about Kerry's service record, they should have turned Edwards loose to make "comebacks" such as, "What are you talking about b***h? At least John Kerry went to Vietnam! George Bush went and hid behind his mamma's apron strings!!" (OK, maybe not those words, but a little righteous indignation at that moment would have stopped the criticism of the Kerry record from the Right dead in its tracks.) For whatever reason, the Kerry camp chose to keep their best public speaker, John Edwards, out of view, relegating him to a series of low-profile speaking engagements.
- If any of Kerry's children/stepchildren had actually enlisted, put on uniform, and joined the war effort, (that their father/stepfather professed to support) that in itself would have been worth several hundred thousand votes. (This kind of example-setting is sadly missing from both camps.) The impression that many voters have is that the group that initiated the Iraq War are not having to share any of it's burdens. A kid in uniform would have been very appealing to the W.W.II generation.
- Teresa Heinz Kerry's behavior alienated a number of voters. The thought of Teresa being only a "pillow's distance" from the President was disturbing to many. (including the EdWonk) Someone in Kerry's high command should have planted a few tranquilizers in Teresa's food dish.
- Kerry went on vacation for the entire month of August, allowing Bush to seize the national spotlight uncontested both during and after the Republican National Convention. A stronger, more business-like work ethic might have paid Kerry big dividends.
- Public Relations Disasters: when Kerry had his bicycle accident, it wasn't about his injuries, it was about the $5000 bike. When Kerry "went a hunting" it wasn't about the gun, it was about the borrowed camouflage jacket. When Kerry bought a round of beers, it wasn't about his generosity with other drinkers, it was about the $5.00 tip for the bartender. When Kerry was photographed windsurfing, it wasn't about his vigor, it was about his Nantucket Beach House in the background. When Kerry said we should reduce oil consumption, it wasn't about conservation, it was about his wife's private jet, The Flying Squirrel and his "family's" numerous S.U.Vs.
- Related to the above, (but different) Kerry allowed himself to be photographed in a number of ridiculous situations. The bunny suit photos will live in infamy. Kerry should have fired whoever it was that kept allowing that to happen. (At least Kerry's handlers were smart enough not to allow him to be photographed with a golf club in his hands during the campaign season.) These photographs did not portray Kerry as Presidential, which is never good for a challenger. Worse, they made him appear trivial and silly.
- Kerry's message was not consistent, and worse, the message was sometimes confusing to voters. He would have done better to avoid the waffling, taken some firm positions, and thereby avoided the label of "flip-flopping Massachusetts Liberal."
- John Kerry's refusal to take a firm stand against illegal immigration alienated quite a few potential supporters that were angered by the President's ridiculous "Guest Worker" proposal. Worse, Kerry slavishly copied the Bush strategy with his own "Guest Worker" scheme.(Aside: guest worker programs have never worked!)
- That asinine comment about Vice President Cheney's daughter during the debate was seen by many as a "cheap shot." Voters did not like the fact that Kerry had brought the kids into the debate.
- His worst error: Kerry's idiotic response to the question: "Knowing what you know now, would you have voted to authorize the President to use military action in Iraq?" By answering in the affirmative, Kerry confirmed Bush's original decision and alienated the substantial anti-war sentiment that is found within his own party.
Kerry had so many chances to turn his campaign around that he reminds The Education Wonks of an errant child that keeps getting a "second chance" after misbehaving at school. And like that errant child, his second chances finally ran out.