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Discussion Starter #1
Both from the NY Times

Kerry Enlisting Clinton Aides in Effort to Refocus Campaign

Former President Bill Clinton, in a 90-minute telephone conversation from his hospital room, offered John Kerry detailed advice on Saturday night on how to reinvigorate his candidacy, as Mr. Kerry enlisted more Clinton advisers to help shape his strategy and message for the remainder of the campaign.

In an expansive conversation, Mr. Clinton, who is awaiting heart surgery, told Mr. Kerry that he should move away from talking about Vietnam, which had been the central theme of his candidacy, and focus instead on drawing contrasts with President Bush on job creation and health care policies, officials with knowledge of the conversation said.

The conversation and the recruitment of old Clinton hands came amid rising concern among Democrats about the state of Mr. Kerry's campaign and criticism that he had been too slow to respond to attacks on his military record or to engage Mr. Bush on domestic policy. Among the better-known former Clinton aides who are expected to play an increasingly prominent role are James Carville, Paul Begala and Stanley Greenberg, campaign aides said.

Mr. Kerry's aides emphasized that this was an expansion of the staff for the fall campaign and did not represent another upheaval of the Kerry campaign. Still, several Democrats outside the campaign said the influence of Mr. Clinton and his advisers could be seen over the past few days in Mr. Kerry's attacks on Mr. Bush's domestic policies. They said the Clinton team had been pressing Mr. Kerry to turn up the intensity of his attacks on those policies after a month spent largely avoiding engaging the president.

The installation of former Clinton lieutenants is creating two distinct camps at Mr. Kerry's campaign headquarters on McPherson Square in downtown Washington.

The first is the existing Kerry high command, which includes Mary Beth Cahill, the campaign manager; Bob Shrum, a senior adviser; Tad Devine, a senior adviser; and Stephanie Cutter, the communications director. The second is the Clinton camp, which includes Joe Lockhart, a former White House press secretary; Joel Johnson, a former senior White House aide; and Doug Sosnik, a former Clinton political director. And Howard Wolfson, a former chief of staff to Hillary Rodham Clinton, joined the campaign yesterday.

Members of both camps played down any suggestion of a Clinton takeover of a troubled campaign and insisted there was no tension between the two groups. Still, these days, Mr. Lockhart is stationed in an office on one side of the campaign war room; Mr. Shrum's office is on the opposite side.

The Comeback Prez

Washington — All that sustained thumb-sucking you heard about this being a polarized electorate, with only a tiny sliver of undecideds, has just ended with a loud pop. Polls that showed John Kerry ahead by a few points going into his convention a month ago now show President Bush up 11 points. That means the old "swing vote" still swings and the battle for voters is in the political center.

The Labor Day Bush trend (which could, by the nature of swing voting, be reversible) has Democratic politicians between dismay and panic. As usual, they are crying foul at a veterans group's answer to Kerry's blunder of running on his Vietnam war and anti-war record. As insiders shake up the staff, outsiders pre-emptively lay the basis for post-election excuses, positioning themselves for embittered told-you-so's.

Longtime Democratic pollsters have been calling journalists to note that the sophisticated "internals" of the current polling were even more gloomy for the Kerry campaign, showing a two-to-one advantage for the president on the paramount issue of the war. Retiring Senator Bob Graham, whose failure to dissociate himself from Pat Buchanan's anti-Israel screed on "Meet the Press" yesterday will not help Democrats in Florida, complains that Kerry's campaign is "still a little out of focus."

Other Democratic pols had harsher advice: no more Mr. Nice Guy. Harold Ickes, the rejected Clintonite who has been directing millions of dollars into supposedly independent TV spots savaging the president, cries that Kerry should "throw caution to the wind." Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania advised that Kerry "has got to start smacking back."

The gibes from his own side caused Kerry to overreact. Instead of moving away from the Vietnam issue, which has been a real toothache for his campaign, he bit down on it. Uncharacteristically, he took the low road, overtly contrasting his war duty with Dick Cheney's draft deferments.

That flailing-out was done more in anger than in calculation. Millions of Americans of draft age in the 1960's who are voters today were deferred from service by virtue of student status or fatherhood. They do not appreciate having their deferment attributed to lack of patriotism. Now Kerry has unnecessarily upset a lot of non-veteran swing voters.

What can swing the pendulum back? What are the presently ascendant Republicans worried about?

Not another new Kerry position on the war in Iraq; he has learned that issue is a loser and no "I shall go to Baghdad" stunt would sway the undecideds. Despite the wishes of both Democrats and Republicans, however, Iraqi insurgents presumably think it is in their interest to increase American casualties in October - thereby to defeat Bush's unequivocal "whatever it takes" policy. Nobody can be certain how a terrorist Tet offensive would affect U.S. politics.

We can be certain that bad economic news, if it comes, will hurt Bush. When the recovery stuttered this summer and Kerry's political fortunes rose, we had a brief "Kerry market" - stocks declined sharply at the prospect of dividend and capital-gains tax increases, recovering along with Bush's recent comeback. If the figures near election time are not good, a worried market will drop as Kerry's stock rises, accentuating investor gloom. Public pessimism cheers the challenger.

And then there are the debates, with all their gaffe potential. In that big moment of the swing voter lies the main hope of the Kerry supporters after their botched Boston convention, its mistaken theme highlighted by the successful G.O.P. affair.

Yet Kerryites cannot hold out hope publicly that their man will out-debate Bush and thereby reverse fortunes lest they raise expectations of a Kerry triumph; in that case, September's much-needed Democratic morale booster would enable Bush to do "better than expected" in October's debates, vitiating any victory. (It's not easy being behind.)

31,975 Posts
Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
The theme of these two articles is similar. The Kerry campaign is in trouble, and Kerry can't win a campaign based solely upon his Vietnam service record.

What I've heard few people talk about is the two recent hurricanes in Florida. At a time when Kerry badly needs to slow down the momentum of the Bush campaign, which has surged to a big lead in the most recent polls, Frances has literally sucked the air out of the room and has dominated the airwaves.

Ironically, GHW Bush's campaign may have been somewhat torpedoed by a different Florida hurricane, Andrew, which hit Florida in August of 1992. As a 2-term VP and 1-term president, GHW Bush spent 12 years under the protection of the Secret Service, hadn't driven a car, didn't carry a wallet or credit cards, shop for food at a grocery store, etc. And he looked out of touch with regular Americans because of it, especially when it came to making public personal appearances.

This Bush does not suffer from the same problem. Governors aren't sequestered the way presidents and vice presidents are. And his response to these past two hurricanes has been extraodinary. It doesn't hurt that his brother is governor of Florida this time around.

Here's an excerpt from Meet the Press, with Bob Graham, Senator D FL:

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, we didn't need to have another hurricane. Hurricane Charley was a very high- intensity storm, did a tremendous amount of damage right over the center part of the state. Now, we have this second hurricane, which is going to be a very wet hurricane. So we could have some serious problems. There are apparently already about two million people who are without electricity. There'll be thousands of people whose homes will be damaged. We've got a big challenge ahead of us.

I'd like to just say how much I appreciate the good work that's been done by the federal, state, local officials in preparing for this hurricane and picking up the pieces after Hurricane Charley.

MR. RUSSERT: President Bush, Governor Jeb Bush--will they receive high marks for their work, and will that be a political boost for the president?

SEN. GRAHAM: Frankly, they deserve to receive high marks. I think they have both acted aggressively, appropriately and are providing a significant amount of comfort as well as direct assistance.
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