Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Kerry choke:
Here's my latest column in The Star about John Kerry's lost campaign.
Watching our home state Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign break down over the last couple of months has not come as a big surprise. People who watch politics have been waiting for this moment for a long time.
For over four years, Kerry has made it known that he desired the Oval Office and his place in history. We knew that he had all the qualities of a good presidential candidate - war hero, a former prosecutor, former Lt. Gov., three terms in the Senate, tall and handsome good looks. On paper, Kerry is the perfect Democrat. But at the same time, a lot of us knew the collapse would be coming. Whether it took months or years, Kerry was never going to be able to close the deal.
Here's why.
As many political watchers know, Kerry is not a very good campaigner when it comes to meeting with people one-on-one, and Iowa and New Hampshire are all about retail, door-knocking politics. He is fuzzy, aloof, and has never been able to identify with "the common people," if you will. All the Harley-Davidson rides and denim jeans were never going to save him. As well, he peaked too early. His crash is what happens when a candidate is the frontrunner two years away from an election. But a larger part of the problem is Kerry's own time in the Senate.
As someone who has watched Kerry over the years, seen him in other races, and observed him lose all spine when the tough votes came along, the disintegration is not a big surprise. For 18 years, Kerry has done very little he can point to by way of accomplishment.
When he first came to the senate, Kerry was a champion of campaign finance reform, refusing political action committee [PAC] money and only accepting $250 donations. Then he changed his mind and started taking big money - even forming his own presidential slush fund PAC. He paints himself as a champion of the environment but what has he actually done for the environment? Just voting against drilling in ANWR isn't enough.
For the most part, Kerry has had a safe seat in the Senate. Politicians who have safe seats are the ones who are supposed to be the visionaries. They can afford to take chances as big thinkers and float the new ideas. Despite the opportunity to forward meaningful legislation and really affect people's lives in a positive way, Kerry hasn't done the job.
As he ramped up his road to the White House, Kerry could have started building his legislative resume, laying the foundation for the ideas to come. But instead, he coasted or even hurt his own cause, by ignoring political opportunities to shine in the gentlemen's club. In fact, his actions on legislation are coming back to haunt him on a massive scale in this campaign.
Take organized labor.
Kerry has always had a bad relationship with the unions in Massachusetts. But lucky for him, most of these voters had nowhere else to turn. Anti-union zealots Jim Rappaport (1990), Bill Weld (1996) and Michael Cloud (2002), were Kerry's challengers. However, instead of making some inroads with the union folks, Kerry kicked the shins of the working class time and time again, by voting for NAFTA, GATT and the WTO, and PMFN trade status for China.
Kerry, like Sen. Kennedy and other Democrats in Massachusetts, took advantage of the fact that many voters had nowhere else to go. Instead of standing up for workers, Kerry helped pass bad corporate and workers' legislation. His reaction to working folks has been a blasé toss of the hand, while reciting nonsensical globalist gobblygook: If Americans can't compete with 10 cent labor in China, too bad. At an event in Manchester, he said precisely that to a handful of unionized Verizon workers complaining about outsourcing. They were all pretty shocked but I wasn't.
All across middle America, working families are struggling to put food on the table because the factory jobs are gone. People have to work two or three service slave jobs at a fraction of the wages they once earned. Kerry helped these people lose their economic advantages as Americans and now he wonders why the voters don't support his presidential campaign?
Then there is the war vote which has cost Kerry dearly.
Supporting the president's invasion has hurt other campaigns, and it is one of the reasons former-Vt. Gov. Howard Dean is even taken seriously at all. At the time of the vote, Kerry and others were worried about being painted as too liberal for not backing the war. Well, it has come back to haunt them. In an interview with Rolling Stone last week, Kerry reacted to the bite back, saying he didn't know Bush was going to screw up the war. "Screw up" weren't his exact words, but since this is a family newspaper, we won't quote him directly.
Rep. Dick Gephardt also voted the same as Kerry but isn't being treated as badly by working folks because, for the most part, Gephardt has stood with working people. Kerry doesn't have that to fall back on and the brie and wine crowd became Republicans years ago.
In the end, all the staff changes are not going to whip this campaign into shape. It is a sinking ship unless Kerry can find a direction - any direction - as to where he plans to lead the nation.
Campaigns are strange things. Anything can happen and Kerry might pull it off, despite the fact that the Democratic insiders are now rallying around Dean in droves [Former Vice President Al Gore endorsed Dean Tuesday morning]. But with recent poll numbers showing he will lose Massachusetts, one has to wonder if Kerry shouldn't save face and hang it up now.

San Francisco update
Wow, wow, wow: Democrat Gavin Newsom holds on to win by 11,000 votes: Newsom with 118,651 to Gonzalez at 107,030. Good job Greens! Keep sending them wakeup calls.

More reaction to the debate
Guess who was at the debate last night? Ralph Nader! ["Supporters show NH's spirit for politics"].

A Dennis Kucinich supporter, former Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, said, "I always wanted to go to a debate that had eight or nine people," a reference to his exclusion from the 2000 Presidential debates. "The key is to beat Bush," said Nader, who called former Vermont governor Howard Dean a "work in progress."

Campaign ads
I have seen a bunch of the presidential campaigns and some of them are pretty impressive. C-Span has run them during breaks in their coverage which is good because unless you live in New Hampshire [Boston media market], Iowa, or some of the later states like South Carolina, Oklahoma, Arizona, or Delaware, you probably haven't seen any of these ads.

The Wesley Clark has two black and white bio ads which are pretty good. I would love to know who produced these because both are impressive. However, a good ad doesn't mean I would actually vote for the guy. I personally don't like him for a whole lot of reasons I have already gone into here on Politizine.
Joe Lieberman's "I'm was McCain voter and I'm with Joe" ads are annoying. Sorry Joe, McCain was a rightwing populist and you're no populist. The other ones where he is sitting in the cafe trying to act like a regular Joe aren't too bad though.
Dick Gephardt's fighting for American jobs ad is short, sweet and to the point. NAFTA is one of the big problems and Dick was at least trying to stop Clinton and the Republicans.
John Edwards has some town hall meeting clips which emphasize strong labor planks and trade issues.
John Kerry also has a town hall meeting ad which isn't too bad either, mainly harping on prescription drug coverage. The "100 Days" ad is a good collection of ideas.
Howard Dean's stand alone field ads are quick, cheap, and thoughtful but just look homemade. Taking back our country? From who? Why? Please be more specific. The bio ad is pretty good and the response to the Club for Growth attack ads isn't bad either, even if they were telling the truth. By rescinding the entire Bush tax cut, taxes on regular families will go back up another $1,900. That is a fact. Not all tax cuts are bad. Ending the marriage penalty tax and giving the working class more of their money back are essential. Some candidates, like Dean and Gephardt, don't get this.

More polls
The Howard Dean juggernaut continues. Muhlenberg College Institute released a poll from Pennsylvania this morning: Dean has 19 percent, Joe Lieberman at 12 percent, John Kerry and Wesley Clark tied with 10 percent, and Dick Gephardt with 6 percent. Gephardt's low numbers in a major labor state is not a good sign. Shockingly, Bush beats all the Democrats by 7 to 12 percent. In a one-on-one, Kerry does best: Bush 47, Kerry 40.
The Virginian-Pilot reports Dean with 21 percent, Lieberman far behind with 13 percent, Clark with 11 percent, Gephardt at 8 percent, Kerry with 7 percent, the Rev. Al Sharpton with 6 percent, John Edwards at 5 percent. However, in a general election match up, Bush clobbers all the Dems by 15 to 19 percent.