One thing I’ve tried to studiously avoid at this site is analysis of election strategy. I’m not suited to it because I have no idea what convinces “swing voters” of anything. However, I can’t resist talking a bit about Kerry’s speech last night, in which he came out swinging and took on the lies and deceptions that have been heaped upon him for months head on, and clouted the administration over its own record as well. Will it work? Like I said, I have no idea. What I wonder about is whether it was the product of genius or desperation.
Half of me says it was desperation. For weeks, Democrats have been begging for red meat. Pundits have been beseeching Kerry to come out strong against the Bush administration — to start the negative campaign in earnest. There have been rumors that Kerry’s campaign staff is in disarray, that changes were coming, and that the wheels are coming off completely. The conventional wisdom is that Kerry, who seemed content to let his name be trashed by a host of second rate hatchet men, was so offended by his treatment at the hands of the Republicans at this week’s convention that he finally had to come out and challenge them. Or maybe it’s that he is too much of a wimp to go negative but seeing the wheels fall off, he realized he had no other choice. That things are just that desperate.
Maybe that’s what has happened. I’m not a Kerry insider, so I have no idea. Or maybe Kerry is smarter than people are willing to give him credit for. Maybe Kerry knows that trashing the President, the Commander in Chief, and the in some ways symbolic representation of our country when we’re at war is a dangerous move. Maybe he had well founded fears that people would see that as undermining the country when it needs to be as strong as possible. Everybody knew that Kerry was going to get hammered at the Republican National Convention — the Republicans said as much in the run up to the convention.
Or is it that given that we have two months of campaigning still remaining, Kerry was a genius to let the Republicans sink as low as they could, to take their absurd caricature of him as far as possible. At this point, Kerry can say almost anything and still not seem as negative as the Bush campaign, and who but the most bitter Republican partisan wouldn’t understand? They’ve defamed everything he’s done in his life, and now he has two months to hit back. Look at Bush’s record, Kerry has enough material to bury Bush without leaving the context of his term as President. And he has free rein to do so because of the way he’s been treated.
So has Kerry sunken as far as you can sink before starting to climb back up, or has worked the “rope a dope” to perfection? Will he lose anyway? Beats the Hell out of me.