Of course, things can still go dreadfully wrong for George Bush. The economy could tank, Iraq could explode, terrorists could attack, Bush could have an embarrassing, deer-in-the-headlights stammering pause during the debates, the sky might fall. Crossing the street is fraught with lethal possibilities, too. But only professional political pundits would refuse to predict a successful street crossing based on random and not too likely events.
So it is none too soon to suggest that George Bush is likely to win the November election rather handily. True, Republicans must take nothing for granted and campaign as if they were down 10 points. I'm sure they will do exactly that.
But what deserves remarking is the truly desperate state of the John Kerry candidacy. Being a Bush supporter, I try to guard against conflating my hopes with my expectations. So I have looked to objective criteria, such as the behavior of professional Kerry operatives and advocates. If they appear to be in agony, things must be looking good for Bush.
I first noticed a couple of weeks ago that one of the shrewdest, coolest, most rational of Kerry's television advocates -- with strong professional ties to the Boston-based Democratic players -- was going nuts on TV shows with me. Normally polite and well bred, he suddenly started shouting and interrupting on air. Normally astute, he put forward the risible assertion about a week ago that Kerry had Bush exactly where he wanted him, that the Swift boat matter was playing into Kerry's hands. He maintained this charming idiocy even in the green room before and after the show. This put a spring in my step (no small accomplishment, as I have regretfully put on 20 pounds in the last year).
Next came the flood of leading Democrats going on the record with their searing advice to Kerry. It is worth noting that such major players would never go on the record (or even in print on background) if they hadn't first failed to get Kerry's attention in private. Basically they said he should bring on Clinton's men to replace, functionally, Kerry's current mob.
One unfortunately sexist Democrat put Kerry's female chief of staff in the same category as the failed female chiefs of staff of Dukakis and Gore. In other words, the Democratic Party honchos are violating their own sensibilities and telling Kerry to bring on the white men. They must be desperate. They have also suggested that Kerry get an "adult" on the campaign plane with him. Someone who can talk back to him. Thus, enters John Sasso -- the smartest Democratic Party gunslinger north of Bill Clinton.
It is always bad news when there is no one around who the candidate will listen to. This problem became evident last Thursday at midnight when Mr. Kerry, with a Nixonian 5 o'clock shadow, growled in the dark about the vice president's deferments. That seemed to have broken the cone of silence. By Sunday afternoon, as Bill Clinton was only hours from being put on the gurney for his heart operation, he had time both to give Kerry some confidential campaign advice -- and to leak the advice to the press for emphasis.
Clinton's advice: Stop talking about Vietnam, and focus on jobs and the economy. Herein is the heart of Kerry's problem: The dynamics of the election is turning against Kerry. Since the beginning of the primary campaign, he has boldly premised his strategy on the assertion that he will be a better commander and chief during war time than President Bush.
Yes, he has also talked about jobs, the economy, health care, the environment, etc. But as his convention demonstrated with his band of brothers on stage, his medals and heroics constantly praised, and his opening salute to the nation that he was reporting for duty, it was his fitness for command that was to be the reason for his election.
Now, with his heroics credibly questioned, his 18-year Senate record of voting against a strong defense, a fully funded intelligence revealed and with the polls showing more than a 20-point negative gap for Kerry on that very issue of fitness for command -- the smartest Democratic strategists, including Bill Clinton, are urging him to drop the topic and run on jobs and the economy.
I suppose it is possible to make the case. But with unemployment at 5.4 percent (lower than when Bill Clinton rode to re-election in 1996), inflation and mortgage rates low, over a million jobs created in recent months -- and with the public telling pollsters that the war on terrorism is the most important issue -- only a world-class politician would be likely to be able to pull it off. John Forbes Kerry would not seem to be such a candidate.
Twice married to heiresses, his mansions scattered about America and Europe, windsurfing off fashionable Nantucket, riding a $5,000 bicycle, speeding around in a six-figure or higher racing boat, flying his hairdresser cross country for a trim, served by a butler -- John Kerry might have been able to pull off the role of aristocratic military officer on a white horse.
But he surely doesn't look like the kind of demagogue who could turn a 5.4 percent unemployment rate into a cause for rebellion. What he looks like is someone who, two months from now, will have many sneering words to say to his filthy rich liberal hangers-on about a benighted electorate that didn't even have the common sense to elect him president.