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Kerry Changes Tactics and Recasts Campaign (posted Sept. 3, 2004)
Following weeks of gloves-on treatment of President George W. Bush,
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has taken the gloves off.
Hours after a Republican convention that spent all week questioning
his fitness and vision for office, Kerry held a midnight rally where
he denounced GOP attacks on him and said "I'm not going to have my commitment
to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when
they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq."
The sharp response represents a major change in tactics for the Democratic
contender and the start of a much more confrontational phase of the
campaign. At their convention in Boston, Democrats prided themselves
on being nice to President Bush and not being too negative in their
attacks. However, with state and national public opinion polls showing
Bush edging up to a two-point margin over Kerry and with Republicans
having spent a week attacking Kerry's fitness for serving as Commander-in-Chief,
Kerry clearly has decided to go on the attack.
In addition to striking back at Bush and Vice President Cheney, Kerry
criticized the administration for its close ties to Halliburton and
the Saudi royal family. "Handing out billions in government contracts
without a bid to Halliburton while you're still on their payroll makes
you unfit," Kerry complained.
With eight weeks left until Election Day, look for this campaign to
become very negative and very personal between the two camps. Nearly
90 percent of voters have made up their minds, so the swing vote is
down to single digits. Whatever marginal issue or event moves a couple
of percentage points one way or the other will be decisive. Kerry needs
to get the race back to bread and butter issues, such as education,
health care, and the economy. It is unlikely he can beat Bush on security
or terrorism issues. Democrats traditionally have done well when they
stick to domestic issues. If in the next few weeks, Kerry has to spend
more time discussing the Vietnam War instead of the Iraq War and the
domestic economy, it will not be good news for him.