Joel Mowbray

For very good reason, the rule of thumb is that a presidential candidate gains ground following his party?s convention: It almost always happens.

It happened four years ago, despite Al Gore?s nearly incoherent rant.  It happened in 1984, after Walter Mondale reaffirmed his pledge to raise taxes.  It even happened for Jimmy Carter in 1980 after a brutal civil war with Ted Kennedy.

But it didn?t happen for John Kerry.

According to the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, conducted Friday and Saturday, Kerry lost a total swing of 5 points from the week before, head-to-head against Bush.  Kerry declined 1 point, from 47% to 46%, and Bush bumped up 4 points, from 46% to 50%.

Heading into the convention, fully one-third of voters told pollsters that they didn?t know enough about Kerry.  After a week of exposure to him and the Democratic Party, voters clearly didn?t like what they saw.

Despite the glittering pronouncements of greatness from the chattering class while the auditorium was still packed (Howard Kurtz covers this well), the poll results should hardly be surprising. 

The speech stunk.

Any number of Democrats I chatted with Thursday night in Boston roughly held the same view: The speech was garbage, yet the delivery was decent?for Kerry.  Not even the party faithful were revved by Kerry?s address.

Who could blame them, though?  What it lacked in subtlety and organization, it made up for with pomposity and bloviating. 

Before the audience had even had time to sit down, Kerry had already reminded us how literate he is, never mind that he bastardized the very meaning of Thomas Wolfe?s classic.  There was also the pearl of wisdom where he reminded folks, ?That flag up there. We call her Old Glory.?  Thank you, John Kerry.

Without any thematic structure to tie together many disparate points, Kerry?s meandering 55-minute address felt impossibly longer.  It veered from autobiography to targeted digs at Bush to a detailed recitation of policy prescriptions.

Weirdest was his at attempt at humanizing himself.  Never has someone recounting personal details felt so impersonal.  The entire section was overtly mechanical, an offensively obvious ploy to portray himself as just another American.  He was a Cub Scout, his mother a Girl Scout, and his father a State Department diplomat.  Yep, John Kerry, average Joe.

His mother, he told us, ?[W]as the rock of our family, as so many mothers are.?  His father, as it happens, ?did the things that a boy remembers.?  And for good measure, the young diplomat?s son, ?like all children, found the world full of wonders and mysteries.?

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

Be the first to read Joel Mowbray's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.