Ross Mackenzie

So a second Massachusetts JFK presidency is not going to happen. John Forbes Kerry, planning for the presidency since Yale - complete with hokeyed-up Swift Boat stories to rival Kennedy's PT 109 - wound up running worse than Al Gore. John Kerry proved he is no John Kennedy.

You remember the 2000 election. The message went out that the Republicans stole it from Al Gore in Florida. Visceral Democrats detested Bush for that, never forgave him, and insisted they would prove their point and take back the presidency in 2004. They would gin up votes among minorities, women, immigrants, the young - you name it - and they would field legions of lawyers to prevent the Republicans from stealing again.

It didn't happen, or to the extent it did the Republicans matched the Democrats vote for vote, and called them. Kerry took but one state from Bush's 2000 win column - New Hampshire - and added two Gore states to it - Iowa and New Mexico. That's it. Gore won the popular vote by 540,000; Kerry lost it by about 4 million. In state after state, and especially so in the South, Bush's victory margins this year were astoundingly larger in states he carried in 2000. Behind Kerry, the Democrats lost four seats in the Senate and about the same number in the House - making Bush the first incumbent to win re-election with corresponding party gains in both houses since 1964.

As late as noon on Election Day, gloom pervaded the Bush election nerve center; the game seemed lost. But a number of things gave the president a famous victory:

- Veterans and the military, who (1) love Bush, (2) resent Kerry the poseur with his bogus medals and his phony Vietnam stories and the damage he did as a leading peacenik, and (3) comprehend better than most the lunacy of changing commanders in chief in the middle of World War IV.

- Hispanics, notably in Florida.

- Women, who narrowed the "gender gap" perhaps because they didn't trust Kerry or they couldn't take Teresa ("just call me Mama T").

- Small business people, who understand the salvational importance of the Bush tax cuts.

But it was Middle Americans - the people who get up early each day to raise the kids and make this nation work - who just blew John Kerry away. He couldn't connect with them, didn't get it even in his concession speech that they voted against him in droves. These real people with a keen nose for the phony, clearly sensed this windsurfer looked down on them, even disdained them. In President Bush, up against the greatest debater since Cicero, they saw a man with whom they could relate: one of us.

The election results exposed several myths. For instance:

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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