But the exotic nature of some of the sports he plays (say, kite-surfing in Nantucket) and the great lengths he goes in order to play them (say, flying from Idaho to Oregon to windsurf), can have the unintended effect of making him seem out of touch with the hard-pressed middle class whose cares he says have been his concern.
As his plane was flying from Oregon to Idaho on Saturday, Kerry defended his taste in sports, saying, "The guys who do it are all local guys -- plumbers, construction workers."
Asked if these regular folks fly from one state to another, the husband of the condiment heiress downplayed the cost, saying, "What? 250 bucks for a ticket?"
Luckily for Kerry, the moment was not on camera. But it was the kind of moment -- if captured on camera -- that could undo months of work. (Think of George H.W. Bush looking perplexed at a super-market scanner in 1992). [Emph. added]
It's Kerry's race to lose! And he's racing as fast as he can. ... P.S.: He's right, of course--ordinary Americans pay $250 bucks to go windsurfing all the time. Which of the "Two Americas" are they in, again? ... 8:14 P.M.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Friday, August 13, 2004
Prognostication Throwdown--CW vs. Markets: Alert reader R.H. notes that we now have an interesting test case pitting the judgment of non-expert profit-seeking crowds against the judgment of professional elites. As reported in ABC's The Note, the Conventional Wisdom (CW) of political reporters holds that it's now "John Kerry's contest to lose." This isn't stupid, insular CW--like the 1980 Washington belief that Ronald Reagan would get chewed up once he hit the big leagues. It's well-informed, irony-capable CW, by non-hacks like Mark Halperin and Charlie Cook who really do know more than the rest of us. ... At the same time, take a look the Iowa Electronic Market, where non-expert non-insiders can bet real money on the campaign. Bush is still favored. ...One of these institutions--the market or the CW's "Gang of 500"--is wrong. ... My money is with the market, but not out of any principle that says markets are always right and experts always wrong. I just think Halperin's "Gang" is still influenced--if only subconsciously--by sympathy for the Democrats and (more important) for those Democratic operatives who are their sources. Correct for that and it's probably not Kerry's contest to lose after all. ... P.S.: See also RCP's not-quite-convincing rebuttal to Halperin and Cook. ... P.P.S.: On the other hand, I admit I scoffed when Halperin & Co. declared, a few long months ago, that things wouldn't change in the presidential race until the Democratic convention. Due to a complex and unpredictable array of geopolitical circumstances, Halperin turned out to be right. Of course, the convention didn't change anything either. ... 1:16 P.M.
John Ellis makes a rare blog appearance to offer some rudimentary speculation on what the real McGreevey story is (e.g. not the first-day story, and not the N.J. governor's "life of tortured identity"). ... 12:26 P.M.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
It seems silly to give John Kerry advice after the CW, announced yesterday by The Note, has congealed around the idea that "this is now John Kerry's contest to lose." Even some avowed Kerry supporters believe he is up to that challenge, however. Here are two ideas that might help him avoid the fate of Michael Dukakis (who, just between you and me, was actually a far more charismatic candidate than Kerry is):
1) Fly! Hendrik Hertzberg recently noted that most voters probably don't even know Kerry is a pilot. Why not show them? Kerry could fly his campaign plane (or a press "zoo" plane) to a campaign rally--or land some other plane in front of reporters. Voters aren't crazy to worry whether Kerry is steady and trustworthy. Well, pilots must be steady and trustworthy, at least on one level. They are almost by definition leaders. It would beat snowboarding. (If Kerry crashes he can always blame the Secret Service!)
2) Return to Normalcy, Deluxe Edition: I've noted Peggy Noonan's idea that Americans yearn for a respite from all of President Bush's hectic history-making. My friend E.L. adds the suggestion that a pledge to return to a normal style of life could be cast as a manifestation of strength. We've been living in fear, after all, jangled by constant terror alerts and disquieting warnings. Victory over terror would involve not going around in a perpetual state of worry, right? Protecting us would mean allowing us to in fact return to normalcy emotionally. There's a plausible argument that Bush, who depends on the memory of 9/11 and fear of another 9/11 as the core of his political appeal, isn't likely to let us return to that normal state. He promises four more years of conflict and yellow alerts. Kerry a) doesn't have this political need and b) has a better chance at calming down the world, post-Iraq, so normalcy becomes at least conceivable. Add in vigorous pursuit of Al Qaeda and Kerry can reasonably pledge that, while we can never go back to the world before 9/11, we can go back to a world in which a peaceful state of mind--the pursuit of happiness--isn't continually preempted by alarm about potential attacks. [Update: Slogan suggestion from reader M.F.: "When I'm president we won't live in fear. Bin Laden will."] Bonus pro-Kerry angle: Credibility. Kerry can argue that when he is president, we won't have to worry whether a terror alert is real or political. He'd presumably have less to gain politically--constant alerts might even be a distraction from his domestic program. There'd be no reason for him to issue a warning unless it was really necessary. (This would be true, anyway, until his domestic program bogged down in Congress and he sought vindication in the national security arena. But it will take months to get to that point! ...) Bonus bonus angle: Pre-election progress in unraveling Al Qaeda (such as the recent arrests) only plays into the "RTN" theme by making normalcy seem within reach.