CONCORD, NH: In what seems like a first for a flagging Presidential run, Democratic contender John Kerry recently admitted the obvious, and publicly stated that his campaign wasn't up to snuff. After blowing an early lead in NH in the race for the nomination to face President Bush in 2004, Kerry dumped his campaign manager and revised his strategy.
None of this is unusual in a waning political effort. What it is striking is the degree of candor Kerry exhibited in discussing his campaign thus far. A November 21 AP story quoted him as saying, "Let me tell you, running for President can be a difficult, humbling experience. Here in New Hampshire, I started out ahead, and then I fell behind. But I'm going to fight back."
He accompanied the baring of his political soul with a wide-ranging attack on his most formidable obstacles to the White House: Democratic front-runner Howard Dean and Bush. Without referring to Dean by name, Kerry suggested that his opponent's antiwar views are too extreme to win out in a general election. At the same time, he criticized the business connections of some Bush associates to the lucrative contracts involved in the rebuilding of Iraq. Kerry also outlined his first 100 days in office, touting tax cuts for the middle class, environmental initiatives, and the closing of corporate-tax loopholes.
In this savvy political move, Kerry was able to supplement his persona as an introspective candidate with an aggressive political instinct.
He directed some sharp digs at his opponents, thus carving out a position in the crowded Democratic field, but without resorting to vindictive attacks. The timing was also helpful, as Dean endures questions over his use of a medical explanation for avoiding the Vietnam War draft - something Kerry, a decorated Vietnam vet, will not have to worry about.
For a bold strategy coupled with smart tactics, the reinvented Kerry campaign wins PR Play of the Week.