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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Frontrunner John Kerry

As I've blogged before, I'm not sure there's anything wrong with John Kerry as the Democratic party nominee for President. He's been a pretty good Senator, with an excellent voting record on the environment and other important issues. His foreign policy positions tend to align with mine, though I would not have voted as he did on the Iraq war resolution in October 2002.

Some bloggers, however, are convinced that Democrats are making a terrible error. Kerry is a dull speaker, they say, and his anti-Vietnam position will eventually come back to haunt the party. Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest isn't excited.

Specifically, many worry about Kerry's appearance in the front cover photo of his 1971 book, The New Soldier. Republicans have already noticed. As has Fox. Fox even has a photo of the cover, which you can also find on various right wing websites. The Acting President of the Virginia Republican Assembly has written about this book and Kerry too, so it might become an issue this week (Virginia votes next Tuesday).

Still, there are answers.

First, I saw Kerry's speech from Washington state late Tuesday (though it was prime time there). It was prety good -- he delivered nice applause lines (pausing appropriately) and had a couple of zippy zingers aimed at Bush. He smiled and seemed genuine. A guy lots of people could vote for. Gore was no Clinton and he got more votes than Bush.

To me, Bush (and just about any other politician for that matter) is virtually unwatchable in canned speeches. I much prefer to read the texts. Admittedly, when I've seen Edwards he's better -- and Dean is interesting too.

Kerry is beating Bush by 7-8% right now in head-to-head polls. Bush seems quite beatable and I think Kerry is one of many Dems who can do it. There are a litany of reasons, but the Dems will start with the fact that millions of jobs have been lost since 2000 and by this measure, Bush will have the worst economic record since Herbert Hoover. The "long, hard slog" of the Iraq war continues and American soldiers keep dying at a sad rate. The tax cuts are readily framed in populist terms and Kerry's anti-PAC stand helps him accomplish that task. Edwards is emphasizing this last point and there are Veep rumors surrounding him.

Second, it seems like Bush's National Guard records are about to ignite a media feeding frenzy comparable to Hillary CLinton's missing files. Kerry helps make this an issue because everyone knows exactly what he did in the war. The Atlantic cover article on Kerry helped -- and Terry McAuliffe of the DNC is talking about aWol.

When I get some time, I'll examine Kerry's old anti-Vietnam testimony. I had to read it in college, but haven't looked at it in years.

Update: Just a reminder from Digby, it is both early (on the calendar) and late (by the number of primaries) in the election season:
Here's the breakdown:

IA caucus: Harkin 76.4%, Tsongas 4.1%, Clinton 2.8%, Kerrey 2.4%, Brown 1.6%

NH primary: Tsongas 33.2%, Clinton 24.8%, Kerrey 11.1%, Harkin 10.2%, Brown 8.0%

ME caucus: Brown 30.3%, Tsongas 29.0%, Uncommitted 16.1%, Clinton 14.8%, Harkin 5.2%, Kerrey 3.0%

SD primary: Kerrey 40.15%, Harkin 25.25%, Clinton 19.12%, Tsongas 9.6%, Brown 3.9%

CO primary: Brown 29%, Clinton 27%, Tsongas 26%
GA primary: Clinton 57.2%, Tsongas 24.0%, Brown 8.1%, Kerry 4.8%, Uncommitted 3.8%, Harkin 2.1%
ID caucus: Harkin 29.7%, Tsongas 28.4%, Uncommitted 17.2%, Clinton 11.4%, Kerrey 8%, Brown 4.5%
MD primary: Tsongas 40.6%, Clinton 33.5%, Brown 8.2%, Uncommitted 6.4%, Harkin 5.8%, Kerrey 4.8%
MN caucus: Harkin 26.7%, Uncommitted 24.3%, Tsongas 19.2%, Clinton 10.3%, Brown 8.2%, Kerrey 7.6%
UT primary: Tsongas 33.4%, Brown 28.4%, Clinton 18.3%, Kerrey 10.9%, Harkin 4.0%
WA caucus: Tsongas 32.3%, Uncommitted 23.2%, Brown 18.6%, Clinton 12.6%, Harkin 8.2%, Kerrey 3.4%

ND primary: Clinton 46.0%, Tsongas 10.3%, Brown 7.5%, Harkin 6.8%, Kerrey 1.2%

AZ caucus: Tsongas 34.4%, Clinton 29.2%, Brown 27.5%, Harkin 7.6%
SC primary: Clinton 62.9%, Tsongas 18.3%, Harkin 6.6%, Brown 6.0%
Note that Clinton really didn't start rolling until he hit the South and then had a great Super Tuesday after attacking Tsongas on a number of Senate votes.

If I were campaign manager for Howard Dean or Wesley Clark, I'd be pouring over Kerry's votes and trying to figure out a way to get the media to pay attention to specific points of difference. Jim Lehrer quoted Ed Rollians, "Clinton has come back from the dead."

Kerry did too, in Iowa. Can Dean?

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