September 07, 2004

Bush's advantage

Robert Novak on John Kerry's campaign performance:

President Bush's advisers cannot believe their good fortune of how badly John Kerry and his campaign have performed the past month. What's more, that assessment is shared by many Democrats outside the Kerry campaign.

The Republican National Convention here did everything intended, climaxed by President Bush's competent though overly long acceptance speech. But Bush's real advantage has been Kerry. At the Labor Day traditional campaign start, the Democratic candidate still seems undefined. In his latest about-face, he has gone into an attack mode, however blunted.

On the Republican convention's last day, word spread about Kerry's newest tactic: going to Springfield, Ohio, for a midnight rally targeting both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for missing combat in Vietnam. That puzzled the president's strategists, who figured Kerry would want to close the door on investigation of his own combat record. He instead delivered a glancing blow at Cheney's student draft deferments 40 years ago and then, in a meandering stump speech, drifted from health care to Iraq and back to health care. His late-night audience, in the picturesque Ohio town square, seemed anesthetized.