Newsweek reports the soundbite du jour: Kerry's New Call to Arms. Seems Kerry will now roll the dice and make Iraq the main issue.
This is a sensible, but high-stakes strategy. On the merits it's Kerry's best issue: while people still don't agree on the merits of the attack, everyone honest agrees Bush's post-invasion plan was to collect garlands from the happy natives. It sure didn't work out that way.
While some will say Kerry has adopted this tactic now out of desperation, and who knows they might be right, the fact is that there was no sensible way Kerry could have done it any sooner. Facts on the ground were too fluid, and there was the danger that something might work out right. Now that danger seems attenuated.
A different danger for Kerry remains: that the Bush admin will lean on Pakistan to scoop up 'Osama bin forgotten' sometime during the next four weeks. That would — very unfairly but very effectively — take a good chunk of the wind out of Kerry's sails.
So it's a good strategy, a timely strategy, but still something of a risky strategy. That's in a way good too: any challenger who doesn't take risks usually loses, and there haven't been any risks taken since Kerry mortgaged his house to pay for Iowa.
Hmmm. That risk worked out OK, didn't it?
Pretty much agreed that he needs to do it and that the timing couldn’t have come earlier. I also think it really *shouldn’t* have come earlier, and not just because of events on the ground. A typical Dem pattern has been to let fly with just about everything at the beginning of a campaign and keep repeating. This is a losing tactic. One of the things I’ve liked about Kerry’s campaign is that he’s clearly holding stuff back. You have to have reserves to throw in, and with BushCo in particular, you have to come at them from different angles to try to get the initiative back. And a lot has clearly been directed at bush personally, to get under his skin and keep him from getting his rest. I think this is to encourage him to give his mean streak free rein. bush has been very, very carefully handled so his essential snippiness and vindictiveness aren’t allowed out. But suppose he loses it and ends up snarling like Zell Miller in one of the debates? If I were Kerry, I’d sure be pushing on him just in hopes he’d go there.
This isn’t to say there haven’t been problems with the campaign. For a long time they’ve lacked message accessibility, for example. On the other hand, they’ve been mostly flying under the radar by campaigning in a lot of smaller places and relying on local media. The sound bites matter most in the last month or so, we’re almost there, and there are now some pretty seasoned people in charge of message discipline. In any conventional terms, this election campaign is really just beginning.