Matt Towery

But throw in old Ted's smiling face, and that's a different story. It would also be ironic. Just as Gingrich had policy dimensions that should have appealed to liberals -- his love of education and technology, for example -- Kennedy in truth is well-liked by some of the nation's top political leaders. He's bright, funny and a genuinely friendly person. Unfortunately for Kerry, he is also still the poster boy for unabashed, in-your-face, over-the-top liberalism.

To date, Kennedy has only done nominal damage to the Kerry campaign. Kennedy has appeared to be the unofficial emcee at virtually every Kerry victory party. And at Kerry press conferences, Kennedy seems to shadow the Democratic nominee's every move. But voters pay these antics little mind.

What they do notice is paid media. And the Kerry campaign has to be thanking its lucky stars that the Bush team has been spending its time and money on inside tricks and milquetoast statements, rather than pulling out the tried-and-tested political "atomic" weapon so skillfully employed by Bill Clinton and company just a few years back.

Will the Republicans wise up and discuss the voting record of the "Kerry-Kennedy" team? Perhaps, but if they wait too long, it may not matter. If Kerry moves quickly in naming a vice-presidential candidate, the GOP will have lost any mileage it could get from a Kennedy ad. After all, those "Dole-Gingrich" ads didn't make sense once there was an actual "Dole-Kemp" ticket. Following that, Newt's name could no longer be used in such close connection to Dole. But it didn't matter; the damage was already done.

With strong American allies like Spain repudiating their own leadership over their role in the Iraq war, with the stock market getting jittery, and with endless media stories about a jobless economic recovery, even old Ted may not be able to save the president.

Nevertheless, if the Republicans are going to talk about the Democrats being soft on security and big on increased government spending and higher taxes, why not attach an unpopular face to those attacks?

It may be early in the presidential sweepstakes, but the Bush campaign might want to salute the NCAA basketball tournament by throwing out the zone defense in favor of a full-court press. Because right now, Kerry is streaking down the court for an uncontested shot.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
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