Chris Suellentrop suggests Kerry should be worried if he pulls ahead, because under Ron Brownstein's "spotlight" theory that's the kiss of death. Why? The polite way to phrase the Spotlight thesis is, as Suellentrop writes:
Given that a slight majority of the electorate doesn't want Bush, and that a different but similarly slight majority doesn't want Kerry, the winning candidate will be the one who manages to keep the spotlight on his opponent's flaws, rather than his own.
The less polite way to phrase it is:
When voters see a lot of either one of these candidates, they don't like that candidate. They don't like Bush because they don't like the results of his policies. They don't like Kerry because they don't like Kerry.
I think Kerry might hold on to any new lead, however, because the Spotlight Theory may no longer operate in the final two weeks of the campaign. The reason: there's too much news for either of the candidates to really break through and alienate the electorate the way they did earlier. In the cacophany and clutter of battleground scene-setting and electoral vote gaming and Florida nightmare scenarios and prepackaged Neutral Story Line take-outs on new voters or Hispanics or local issues, each candidate now gets only a few seconds every day to deliver some iconic, cartoonish statement about how he is guided by faith or is going to kill terrorists or lower taxes or protect moms, etc. Voters can't possibly get to know these men in these brief snapshots. That should be good news for Kerry. He's the candidate with the least appealing personality. How off-putting can he be in four seconds, even if he dresses up in camouflage? ... In other words, just when he may be poised to blow his final lead of the year, the end-of-race crowding-out effect should start working to prevent him from self-destructing. ...
Caveat: There is, however, one way to cut through end-of-race clutter--paid media. In what appears to be a desperate, last ditch attempt to lose the election, Kerry's genius strategists have chosen to end their campaign with three official paid ads featuring the flawed, unappealing standard-bearer himself, talking directly to the audience! Nothing less, apparently, would do the job. In one of these spots Kerry is actually pretty good. But the other two (here and here) show the more familiar stiff, unlikeable Kerry. If the Spotlight theory holds, they could go a long way toward taking the Senator's momentum and turning it around! ... 1:55 A.M.
The Hunt for Tora Bora Criticism: Alert kf critic J.H. emails that:
At an event my organization (NJDC) cosponsored at the DNC, Hillary stated, for what it's worth, that Kerry gave her contemporaneous criticism in the Senate cloak room.
Hillary is not exactly an unbiased source when it comes to Kerry [Which way?-ed]. But it would at least be some evidence. If anybody has a transcript of this event, please send it. Thanks. ... Update: A second earwitness confirms that Hillary said this. But no transcript yet. ... 12:12 A.M.
Saturday, October 23, 2004