Although I believe this is a badly misguided strategy, it is possible that it could work. We can just about count on escalating violence in Iraq as the American elections get closer. If Kerry can use this week's presidential debate to place the whole mess squarely on the president's shoulders, public opinion might start to reverse toward an insistence that the whole thing be over sooner rather than later. That will require Kerry being able to make Bush look as helpless as Jimmy Carter did during the 1980 presidential election, when Carter appeared unable to do anything about the American hostages in Iran.
Kerry's essential difficulty is the lack of precedent in U.S. history of a presidential candidate being able to oppose his nation's war at home while its troops are dodging bombs and bullets in far-away killing fields.
Moreover, a heavy concentration on Iraq by Kerry ignores the very reasons why so many men early this summer were apparently willing to abandon Bush -- the economy. Kerry is forgetting what made so many states battleground states. Chalk it up to outsourcing or tax cuts or whatever, but many voters in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania are near-desperate for solutions to their financial binds. Were Kerry hammering on those frustrations as hard as he now is on foreign affairs, he likely would be closer to Bush. After all, the leading economic indicators are still a mixed message at best.
No candidate can have it both ways. Kerry has chosen to highlight his Vietnam heroism and to morph into an anti-war combination of Howard Dean and Eugene McCarthy (from Vietnam days). The Bush team has to be relieved at the Democrats' misreading of the tea leaves. For Kerry to win now, he must, in effect, hope for more sour news from the war front. And that's risky business for the man who insists he's best qualified to be commander in chief.