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Still more buyer's remorse over the prospect of a Kerry candidacy?

by Paul C / March 19, 2004 7:33 AM PST

This time from Noam Scheiber writing in The New Republic:

One of Kerry's bigger problems is the difference between the two candidates' gut-level instincts. Bush in his natural state is an anti-intellectual cowboy: heavy on bravado, light on nuance. When he lets slip what he's really thinking--like his ill-advised "bring it on" comment from last year--and that comment gets repeated by political opponents, it probably alienates half the country, but it galvanizes the other half and ends up a wash. Kerry at his most authentic is a committed internationalist--someone who values the stability of alliances over the freedom of unilateral action. There's nothing wrong with this position per se. Except that, when expressed in a single, unguarded comment capable of being distorted by political opponents, it probably alienates considerably more than half the voting public.

I'm obviously thinking here of Kerry's recent line about having met with "more leaders" rooting for him to beat Bush. (More than what? Unclear.) In addition to the very real possibility that the statement isn't true--a possibility Bush and his surrogates have used to raise questions about Kerry's honesty--it gives the Bush campaign an opportunity to invoke its most potent wedge issue: the perception that Democrats can't be trusted to defend American interests in the face of foreign opposition. (One Bush commercial has already accused Kerry of wanting to "delay defending America until the United Nations approved.") As **** Cheney said in response to Kerry's remark on Tuesday, "We are the ones who get to determine the outcome of this election, not unnamed foreign leaders." Bottom line: Assuming the two candidates are equally likely to commit gaffes, the fallout from Kerry's gaffes is going to be more damaging.

Mr. Scheiber's conclusion is revealing:

Kerry sympathizers will respond that this kind of analysis reads way too much into what was, after all, only one week. Would that they were right. But a simple look at some recent polling data suggests that's unlikely. Several weeks of favorable coverage during the Democratic primaries and a couple of months of White House missteps had conspired to give Kerry a statistically significant lead over Bush in most polls by late February. This week, a New York Times/CBS poll showed Kerry suffering a 10-point net reversal in his favorable/unfavorable ratings since that time. Maybe that's the kind of thing that happens even to fundamentally strong candidates when they suffer a couple of bad days. But, given the speed and size of the turnaround, the numbers seem far more likely to suggest that Kerry is settling into his natural equilibrium. Unfortunately for Democrats, that's not the one that has him winning in November.

Seems that even those who should be most excited by this candidacy are already thinking the worse. While there are yet over 7 months to go, all this doesn't seem to bode as well for Mr. Kerry as the establishment media would have us believe...

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