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A Good Day for Kerry

July 8th, 2004

Well, you probably already know about Kerry choosing Edwards; that kind of news travels faster than the speed of blogging, so I tend not to try to “announce” such things here. What I can do is comment on it all.

Edwards was the odds-on favorite, and for good reason: he brings a good deal to the ticket. While Veep choices often don’t seem to help a ticket too much, they can make a contribution, and if chosen badly, can hurt the ticket. But the Edwards choice–and the fact that it came out just now, so early at 20 days before the convention (usually it’s a week or less before)–has helped Kerry to dominate the news, and hopefully put him in true election-year quasi-equal footing with the incumbent.

But Edwards was a good choice for other reasons as well: he’s energetic, young, handsome, and likeable; he can bring in southern voters, and is talented at addressing themes in a way that is both compelling and easy to understand (in other words, he’s a good orator). He’s a clean-cut American with a down-to-earth blue-collar upbringing, and a self-made man, now wealthy from his past law practice. The downside: he’s relatively green, being just a 6-year veteran of the senate, he is a senator, like Kerry, and therefore his voting record can be more easily skewed and misrepresented, and the fact that he was a trial lawyer will make him a target for the GOP smear machine.

However, those negatives are mitigated; most recent presidents have had little pre-office political experience (Bush only had 6 years, too, for instance); his voting record is relatively short and can’t be misrepresented as much (not to mention that he’s had a more conservative record, approving of the Iraq War, for example, though not its execution); and his trial lawyer experience will be less of a liability than Republicans think–a CNN poll found that a majority of people felt this was a positive, not a negative, and Edwards is said to have chosen his cases carefully, and not argued frivolous or questionable ones, rather cases where the plaintiff was truly wronged, and deserving of sympathy in the eyes of observers.

I watched Kerry as he made a speech soon after the announcement, and he ripped into Bush, but with style, class, and conviction. He laid out a laundry list of failures of the Bush administration, along the theme of “Don’t tell us that this is the best you can do; we can do better.” This is Kerry beginning to hit his stride, and is a sample of what the media hasn’t been showing us: the speech was a variation of one he’s been giving for a while, but the “liberal” media has until now neglected to air. I’m waiting for a transcript of the speech to appear on the web–when it does, I’ll post it, it’s a good one.

Over the next week, we will finally see what has long been coming, many–including myself–feeling it was long overdue: his real definition. Not the asinine, snide and falsified “Kerry is an ultra-liberal flip-flopper” garbage spewed out by the Bush campaign, and not the “long-winded” label slapped on him by the “liberal” media, but Kerry as he can be, has been and will be for the rest of the campaign: a speaker with a strong message and even stronger conviction. And the speech he delivered at ooo was dead on target. There is no question whatsoever, Kerry can do better.

The Edwards announcement, though early to the point some thought was premature, may have been a brilliant idea. Instead of just one week in the spotlight and in the minds of the people, he has a good chance of being in a good light right up to the convention. Hopefully he will be able to spend all that money he’s been raising in an advertising blitz before the convention and the subsequent $75 million cap until the election. After the convention, he will be at a disadvantage: he will have to make his $75 million last a month longer than Bush’s, and Bush will get the later convention bounce–in large part by shamelessly and sleazily capitalizing on 9/11 in New York less than a week before the third anniversary. And the Bush campaign did not miss a beat, starting a massive smear campaign and a steal-the-thunder press blitz against Edwards just minutes after the announcement was made.

But in the next month, if Kerry can indeed maintain the spotlight, then you can expect his positives to rise and for him to jump ahead in the polls even before the convention. This will have a feedback effect of making him and even bigger focus on the news, which up until now has largely focused on Bush, both on his capitalizing on his incumbency and the perks it brings, and on the series of massive blunders, lies, scandals and crimes that he and his administration have committed. Kerry stayed quiet while Bush beat himself up with Abu Ghraib and other filthiness, but when Bush did not fall much in the polls it became increasingly clear that Kerry had to define himself, to make a forceful entry back into public view–and today’s events were the perfect platform for that.

It will be interesting to see the poll numbers for next week, in this newly Kerry-aware, post Fahrenheit 9/11 atmosphere.

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