When Democrat Edwin Edwards was running for Louisiana governor in 1983, he said that the only way he'd lose is if he were caught in bed with a live boy or dead girl. (He beat Republican Governor Dave Treen 2 to 1).
John Kerry's campaign staff seem to share the silver-haired cajun's confidence. They would be well-advised to temper their enthusiasm. Put down the coffee and drink some water.
Kerry's poll numbers are going down. President Bush's are going up and that's before the Republican National Convention. Is this the beginning of a Kerry campaign meltdown? It sure looks like it.
Consider this. Kerry got zero post-convention bounce -- nada, zilch. The Old Media treated it as something to be expected: the country is evenly split, all voters have already made up their minds, yada yada. The truth is that it was a stunningly poor showing.
Now as questions are raised about his Vietnam war service and as details emerge about his anti-war activity, his poll numbers are headed south. It would be easy to say that those issues, alone, have caused his problems, but that's not the whole story.
Kerry was never the favorite among Democratic voters. He's not very likeable, not down to earth. He's about as inspiring as Pat Paulsen, but his résumé looked better than the other Dem candidates: war veteran, long-time U.S. Senator, deep pockets.
Howard Dean may have stoked the passion of the Lefties, but his résumé wasn't exactly awe-inspiring -- governor of Vermont. (You are probably saying, "Yeah, but the only thing on Bill Clinton's résumé was governor of Arkansas, even worse and look what he did." Point. But Bill Clinton is the Elvis of politics. Howard Dean is just an angry little man).
Anybody But Bush? No. Anybody Who We Think Can Beat Bush. Yes.
So John Kerry is da man! Hardly. Who the Dems really want is Bill Clinton, but Elvis has left the building and they've been in a funk ever since.
Indeed, John Kerry is making them feel even funkier. He is inept on the national stage. His nuanced positions are not inspiring. His flip-flops are fodder for late night comedians and the RNC. He has replaced "Triangulation" with "Boomerangulation". Everything he says comes right back at him.
Now enter the Swift Boat Veterans For The Truth with their new book Unfit For Command and their devastating ads. The Lefties can shout "liars" until they are blue in the face. It will not help.
As a result of the Swifties' efforts, John Kerry has backed off his "Seared-In-His-Memory-Christmas-In-Cambodia" claim and has finally admitted that he received his first Purple Heart not as a result of enemy fire, but as a result of his own fire. He fired an M-79 grenade at nothing in particular. There were no enemy about. The grenade hit a rock on shore and a small fragment from the ricochet lodged in his arm. It was removed with tweezers.
The Swifties are mad as hell -- mostly about Kerry's anti-war activities. In Kerry's testimony before the U.S. Senate in 1971, he used a broad brush to paint all who served and were currently serving in Vietnam as war criminals. Already one Swiftie ad features a P.O.W. stating that Kerry gave the enemy for free what the P.O.W.s took torture to avoid saying. Powerful message and utterly devastating.
The only way John Kerry can control the damage to his campaign is to hold a press conference complete with a Questions & Answers segment and try to make right. He needs to convincingly apologize for his 1971 Senate testimony and take as many questions as necessary to explain the medals fiasco. And he needs to release his FULL military records at least a day before the press conference.
If he doesn't do something like the above, he is toast. On the other hand, if he can pull it off and make good about Vietnam and help the country put it behind us (where it was before he pulled it to the forefront with all his chest thumping), he's still got a fighting chance, but not much of one.
And here's why: President Bush.
We are at war with a fanatical enemy determined to destroy us. President Bush is responding in a common sense fashion: Destroy them before they destroy us. Go it alone if we must, but keep sending them to Allah for as long as it takes to secure our great nation.
This is no time for playing pattycakes at the U.N. Quite a lot of them hate us anyway. This is a time for action. Unilateral if we must. Pre-emptive as needed. You're either with us or you are with the terrorists. If you're with us, but don't want to help, then stay out of our way -- for we will let no one stand between us and the security of our nation and the continuance of our way of life.
This is what resonates with the majority of the American people and they trust President Bush to stay the course.
John Kerry and the national Democrats don't understand this, but a lot of the registered Democrats out in the Red states do. They don't want nuance. They want action. When it comes to the survival of our nation, they don't see shades of gray. They see black and white.
The 1980s saw the Reagan Democrats. In the months and years since 9/11, the Bush Democrats have been quietly gathering.
That will be a very difficult thing for John Kerry to overcome.