Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

And then there was one
The Democratic presidential-nomination contest ends. John Kerry’s next challenge: Surviving the pre-convention months without getting destroyed by the GOP’s flying monkeys.

THIS WEEK MARKS the end of the beginning for John Kerry. His coast-to-coast victories on Super Tuesday forced out his last serious rival, North Carolina senator John Edwards. That means no more televised debates, thus cutting off the oxygen for Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich and the Reverend Al Sharpton. Kerry is the nominee. It’s over.

And that represents a danger for the Massachusetts senator. For months, the spotlight has been on the Democrats. With the media focused on the campaign — and on the sharply worded critiques of George W. Bush put forth by Kerry, Edwards, Howard Dean, et al. — Kerry finds himself tied with or even ahead of the president in public-opinion polls.

But now the spotlight shifts. Kerry’s next moment on the national stage won’t come until the last week of July, when he’ll give his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, in Boston. Meanwhile, the Bush-Cheney campaign — flush with some $130 million in campaign funds — will be able to spend the next four and a half months attacking Kerry, softening him up and raising questions about his character and his qualifications before the campaign can begin in earnest this fall.

How bad is the Bush barrage likely to be? "Remember the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz? Kind of like that," says Francis J. Connolly, of Kiley & Company, a Boston-based polling firm whose clients include the Kerry campaign. Connolly adds, hopefully, "But in the end, they didn’t win."

So how does Kerry get through this period? How does he fight off the flying monkeys and keep his presidential hopes alive during what has traditionally been the slow season between winning the primaries and basking in the glow of the convention? Herewith, a few ideas from political and media experts.

Fight back hard at the first sign of attack. In 1988, then–Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, refused to believe that voters would be swayed by all the nasty things that George H.W. Bush’s campaign was saying about him. Dukakis was wrong. Four years later, Bill Clinton defeated Bush in part because of his "war room," an instant-response operation designed to knock down incoming monkeys as soon as they appeared on radar.

Kerry is off to a slow start. Already, the Republicans have managed to portray him as a tool of special interests (based on a Washington Post report that he’d taken more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator during the past 15 years) and as a consistent opponent of spending on military hardware and intelligence capabilities. Neither charge is even remotely true. As Peter Beinart recently reported in the New Republic, Kerry’s refusal to accept contributions from political-action committees means that he actually takes less money from special interests than all but eight of his fellow senators. And as Fred Kaplan noted in Slate, Kerry has voted in favor of at least as many military programs as he has opposed; in addition, his vote to cut $1.5 billion in intelligence spending was aimed at getting a refund on a spy satellite that had already been canceled.

Yet the Republican spin has gained traction, managing to blunt Kerry’s charge that Bush is a tool of special interests and harming Kerry’s image as a pro-defense Democrat. "He’s been in the Senate for 1047 years and he’s cast roughly 13 trillion votes, and it’s very easy to pull out votes and cast them out of context," says the Nation’s Washington editor, David Corn, who wrote a favorable cover story about the Massachusetts senator — WHAT’S RIGHT WITH KERRY — that appears in this week’s issue.

Michael Goldman, a Boston-based Democratic political consultant who worked on the 1988 Dukakis campaign, says that Kerry "has to have the most aggressive quick-response team in political history. He cannot let a single negative story or image of himself be out there for more than 12 hours without a response. Because he is the empty vessel in this race."

Spend wisely — but spend when necessary. Kerry is ending the primary season with his campaign funds nearly depleted. The Bush-Cheney campaign, on the other hand, plans to spend massively during the next few months. But Kerry has an advantage, if not over the Republicans, then at least over challengers of years past. Last fall, when former Vermont governor Howard Dean, then the Democratic front-runner, opted out of the public-financing system, Kerry followed suit. Now Kerry is free to raise and spend money during the pre-convention months without worrying about federally imposed limits.

"John will have the ability to go on the air and buy media if it’s deemed necessary," says a source with the Kerry campaign. But he adds an obvious caveat: "The campaign is going to have to be far more prudent in their spending than Bush will have to be."

Use the pre-convention period to roll out substantive ideas. After Al Gore wrapped up the Democratic nomination in the spring of 2000, he more or less disappeared until the convention. By contrast, Bush, after vanquishing Arizona senator John McCain in the Republican primaries, fed the media — and burnished his image — by releasing detailed policy proposals on subjects such as health care and education.

"The Bush campaign, very cleverly, every two or three weeks laid out a new piece of their platform," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. "And week by week, he started gaining on Gore. This was not paid media. This was all free media. And that’s what Kerry can do."

Adds Jay Rosen, who chairs the journalism department at New York University and whose weblog, Press Think, challenges reporters to get beyond the horse-race paradigm: "We don’t have a lot of coverage of the idea race, and it’s not something that journalists take all that seriously. If there were an idea race, now would be the time."

page 1  page 2 

Issue Date: March 5 - 11, 2004
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group