Tuesday, March 30, 2004

217 days to find the middle 30 per cent 

The Democrats cannot depend on Bush to go down in flames -- he's not going to start swearing in public, or screwing interns, or embezzling money, or giving the finger to the 9.11 widows. And as for saying something stupid, he's been doing this for four years and the American electorate doesn't appear to care.
In 217 days, at least 35 per cent of the American public will vote for Bush because they like his "straight-talking" persona and his macho war-mongering. Another 35 per cent of the voters will vote for John Kerry because they are democrats who hate Bush and like Kerry.
What the Democrats have to worry about are the middle 30 per cent. This group doesn't hate Bush, perhaps they even like him, but they can be persuaded to vote against him and for Kerry if they have a good reason. So the Democrats must give them a reason. Showing that Bush was cowardly and misguided on 9.11 won't be enough -- if they come to distrust Bush, they won't necessarily go to the polls to vote for Kerry instead, they're just as likely to stay home.
The Democrats need to get them off the couch.
First, they need some excitement. Kerry needs to make himself into a better public speaker -- sure, he's been making speeches for 30 years in the Senate, and maybe that's the problem. Quit being so ponderous! Establish the 10-word sentence as a personal goal. Tell a joke or two. Go on Leno, Oprah, The Daily Show.
Second, he needs to stop using the "Bring it on" line and any other line that is linked to Bush. This was OK during the primaries, when he had to convince the faithful that he could take Bush on, but it doesn't work anymore with people who were not offended when Bush first said this.
So third, Kerry should be making his own lines, now -- this campaign needs to be focused on John Kerry, front and centre, and no toe-scuffing or shilly-shallying or gracious self-effacement. To counter the Bush persona, he needs to create a cult of personality for himself and he has to do it in 217 days.
He needs a slogan like "The Kerry Way" or "It's time for the Kerry way" or some such phrase that focuses on himself. He can mention jobs and security and health care and the deficit and international alliances and all that other stuff in passing, but don't clutter things up. Don't make the mistake of thinking this campaign is about the issues. Its about being the person that the voters can "trust" -- and maybe this isn't so bad really. If 9.11 taught Americans one thing, its that shit happens, and so they must trust president to do the right thing. Their trust in Bush was misplaced, of course, but too many don't realize it -- they need to feel they can trust Kerry before they will vote for him.

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