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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


What should John Kerry say? As David Kusnet, one of the Democrats’ preeminent wordsmiths, wisely points out:

Pundits are saying John Kerry’s acceptance speech needs to be “the speech of his life,” when he “reintroduces himself,” sounding more like a “regular guy” and less like a JFK wannabe–and, Peggy Noonan helpfully adds, “He might take this opportunity to actually redefine what liberalism is.”
None of this is true. Kerry need not try to give a great speech; he should try to give a good one.

And then Kusnet goes on to give a cogent summary of the ingredients for such a good speech, all sensible and all well within Kerry’s rhetorical capabilities. Check it out.
And while you’re at it, also check out Kusnet’s excellent analysis of Clinton’s excellent speech last night. A lot there for Democrats to play close attention to!

17 comments on “WSJKS?

  1. Aexia on

    Bush didn’t win the debates. He won the spin war afterwards.
    After the first debate, the consensus from pundits and undecideds was that Gore had won.
    But it wasn’t long before the RNC served up its talking points and the media started parroting them and suddenly things were back onto script (Gore is a big fat liar).

  2. Keith on

    I don’t underestimate Bush as a debater. He has a great advantage of having the bar always set low. Fortunately for Kerry, the same seems to be happening. I remember the last time Ted Kennedy debated during his re-elction. It seemed everyone was expecting a bumbling drunk to be on the stage. He went on to destroy his opponent, the now governor Mitt Romney I believe, by having a firm grasp of all of the issues. I don’t think either has an advantage on the “low bar” issue. Thinking about it, I guess it’s pretty sad when you don’t expect a lot from the leader of the free world!!

  3. Dave on

    Re: The debates
    The recent issue (jul/aug) Atlantic Monthly had a good article on the upcoming debates. They were calling it assymetrical warfare.
    Basic points: Do not underestimate Bush. He has ‘beat’ a number of qualified opponents in debates – including Ann Richards and Al Gore – by staying on point, on message. Kerry wins debates by out-thinking his opponents and staying in control and command of everything going on.
    A very worthwhile read.

  4. Keith on

    I’m sure that Bush’s people going to try and minimize the height issue by wanting them to sit, etc. But, one of the debate formats is going to be a town meeting style. That will mean, no podiums, or anything else for Bush to hide behind. Even in the other formats, they will meet at center stage both before and after the debate to shake hands. But, I’m sure that the Bushies are probably going to try and stop that too.
    The good thing is, Kerry will overshadow him on the issues , as well.

  5. Mara on

    I remember reading about Kerry agreeing to something that would equalize the height gap – sitting down or allowing Bush to stand on a soap box, something. Wish I could remember where I read it. Anyone else hear about this? I am serious.

  6. Keith on

    I have no worries about Kerry’s speech. Being originally from Massachusetts, I have seen him speak on a number of occasions. If they are purposely setting the bar low, it will look like he hits a home run. Where he’ll really take it to Bush will be in the debates. I remember the one when he was in a tough race for the Senate against, the then popular governor, Bill Weld. He is great in a debate format. Plus, he’ll tower over Bush physically. Never a bad thing when you’re trying to look “pesidential.”

  7. demtom on

    Political pundits are like sports reporters — today’s game is always the most crucial..at least until tomorrow’s rolls around. It’s obviously helpful if a candidate gives a solid speech at the convention (and most, even such dullards as Gerry Ford and Mike Dukakis, have been proclaimed to have done so). But the effects are ephemeral, and the election in the end comes down to basics: how is the incumbent doing, and is the challenger minimally acceptable as alternative? By the standards of today’s thinking, Reagan was a spectacular flop at convention 1980, since he couldn’t establish a convincing lead against an incumbent with 40% approval. In that case, pundit conventional wisdom is that Reagan “made the sale” at the late debate with Carter (so I guess there’s more than one “last chance”), but even there, post-debate polls didn’t show an instant jump: the race was considered too close to call right up until the returns started flowing in. So maybe Reagan was always going to get the anti-Carter majority, and none of the rest mattered.
    For Kerry’s future, there are far more important things than his speech — specifically, continuing news from Iraq, and the upcoming economics/jobs reports.

  8. Steve on

    Agree that Kerry’s speech is of limited importance. Remember, Gore gave a fine speech at the 2K convention, but it didn’t seem to have much impact on election day. The October-November ad blitz and the debates will be more important.

  9. reignman on

    Bob–if you feel confident that your political beliefs are correct, I recommend that you test them by reading “We’re Right, They’re Wrong” by James Carville. If you’re sure that your way of political thinking is really what it should be, then what’s stopping you? I read “See, I Told You So” by Rush Limbaugh, and I was not convinced. If it gets too tough, just read this exerpt:
    There’s always “Had Enough?” but that’s a pretty long one–it’s James Carville writing a book about the Bush presidency.

  10. Bob on

    You know, it must be nice for Democratic Despots to have a bunch of mindless followers for ‘Crats to vote for them. Some of the crap that I heard slithering out of Clinton (x2) just amazed me. How do you people believe that stuff?
    Don’t worry, I am not a Bush supporter either…he is waaaay too liberal. Yes, Bush is a liberal. Kind of harsh, but a liberal in sheeps clothing.
    Does anybody realize that Kerry has no plan, except that he has a plan? Hows he gonna reduce debe? hows he going to provide socialized health care, without turning this nation into a socialist one? does anybody read the great philosopher historians??
    But alas, seems that the only thing we learn from history, is that we don’t learn from history. And liberalism is just what the mindless clinton coolaid masses need.

  11. Brandon R. on

    Good article. I agree. It’s too late for Kerry to attempt to reinvent himself. Besides, that would only play into the Republican’s referring to the convention as the “extreme makeover.”
    I’m also tired of hearing all the pundits talk about how Clinton or Edwards might overshadow Kerry. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Everyone knows who the nominee is. They’re all building up Kerry. Quit making controversey where there is none.
    If the ability to give a rousing speech was so important to the public in choosing a president, then Bush would be a political dead man.


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