Ramesh Ponnuru has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that is worth considering. He argues that--so far--Kerry’s tactical caution has paid off. He has put himself foward as a centrists, a la Bill Clinton, candidate. He has not taken on any faction within the Demo Party, and has not needed to. He can just assume that the looney and loud Left within the party will support him even if he keeps his mouth shut; a reasonable assumption. But that doesn’t mean that the Michael Moore crowd will not continue to alienate voters that Kerry needs. He is not Dean-like in his views on Iraq, and even his boring personality seems to be useful, for now. Ramesh is right in saying that there is a very large assumption here: Kerry assumes that they are starting the campaign "with the loyalty of nearly half the voters," and he thinks he can court the remainder he needs by tactical means (stay quiet on gun control, obfuscate on abortion, etc.), and "not because people were excited about a Kerry presidency." This is all sensible, even though I don’t think the assumption is true. Yet, he doesn’t have the moderate credentials that Bill Clinton so laboriously cultivated before he ran; Kerry has a long record as a Liberal, both before and during his Senate stint. That will be hard to shake off. It isn’t going to be enough to keep talking about the fact that he served in Vietnam; the massive fact of what he did after he returned will be the thing that makes him into a candidate that cannot be trusted with the well-being of the country during this war. But, above all, Kerry has not yet turned anyone who wasn’t already opposed to Bush in his direction so they may hear what he has to say. This is what his people claim he is supposed to start doing at next week’s convention, as long as they can keep the convention from turning into nothing but Bush bashing. And the biographical story will not overwhelm anyone, in the end. This guy is not from Hope. He will have to--above all else--lay out some serious ideas on the war (which includes Iraq) that are different from Bush’s. If Iraq had fallen into a civil war, enough people would have turned in his direction to listen to him articulate a different option; he would have had the chance of persuading them. But this hasn’t happened, and Kerry is now at a large disadvantage relying almost solely on the Demo votes cobbled together by Clinton, and later used by Gore. But Kerry, not being a centrist Democrat, will have to re-earn those Democratic votes. The overly ethusiastic anti-Bush Left has obscured this fact. Besides, he is not running against the governor of Texas. He is running against a fellow who has been president for almost four years, and one who continues to conduct a war, a serious war. That’s the leadership issue that Bush wins hands down in every poll. Besides, Bush is well liked as a person; not a small matter. Here is my prediction for the convention: Kerry will only be partly successful, and will not come out of the convention with a "bounce" of more than five percent. That will prove to be devastating because Bush’s authority will continue to rise through the Fall, and Kerry’s failure will be perfectly clear a week before the election.
Kerry draws in the low 80s among his base. The President has never dropped below the 90s. That tells me that Kerrys assumptions are bad, and that the President has great latitude to reach for the middle. So he lines up Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, and Miller (a Dem!) to speak at his convention.
Aside from Clinton, who can reasonably claim the middle among the Dem speakers?
Trouble lurks for Kerry.
If 55+ million people really VOTE for Bush this November then statesmanship is definitely a lost pillar for the institution of government. Dont remember who said, but since Bush is the consummate, yet ill-equipped other choice, this certainly sums it up, "A politician is an arse upon which no man has sat."