Kerry in crisis

Posted: Sep 03, 2003 12:00 AM

Over a month ago (when John Kerry was known as the front-runner), I predicted on the "McLaughlin Group" TV show that by September, Senator John Kerry's campaign would be in crisis. And here we are in the first week of September, and Sen. Kerry is in third place in Iowa (Dean-Gephardt-Kerry) and behind Howard Dean in almost home state New Hampshire by 21 points. Yesterday's CBS national poll of Democratic Party voters had Lieberman at 14, Dean at 11, Gephardt at 10, Kerry at 5, Sharpton at 5, Graham at 4, Edwards at 2, Mosley-Braun at 2 and Kucinich at 0. One of Kerry's Boston aides said that "We're in this no matter what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire." All but writing off New Hampshire by Kerry must be spooking his troops. After all, as recently as a month ago, New Hampshire was considered both safe and a must-win state for Kerry. Mr. Kerry explained Dean's lead in New Hampshire by claiming that Dean had "been out there, very visibly spending money on TV and elsewhere." But, according to pollster John Zogby, Kerry has visited New Hampshire 38 times, has eight regional offices there and flooded the state with TV ads during his recent Senate re-election campaign.

In any event, Kerry admitted on "Meet the Press" last Sunday that "I don't think I've kicked my campaign off sufficiently. We are coming out this week (in South Carolina.)" According to Mr. Kerry, the Massachusetts liberal, he picked the bastion of the old confederacy because "It's a great place to begin. I want to prove that my campaign is prepared to go all around the country." If his supporters were spooked by the bad numbers in New Hampshire, they must be jumping out of the windows at the Post-Modern Literary Deconstructionist Department at Harvard once they heard the South Carolina strategy.

I understood Nixon's and Reagan's southern strategies. I even understood Father and Son Bush's South Carolina firewall strategy. But John Kerry's South Carolina strategy is nuts. (And he accuses President Bush of not being a good strategist.) I've been to South Carolina. In fact, I was there just a few weeks ago at a barbecue stand. There was a young man waiting for an order, dressed in full confederate uniform. Inside, they were selling beautiful color T-shirts that portrayed General Robert E. Lee in battle uniform on his fierce white horse leading a magnificent confederate charge against the Yankee intruders.

Down the road a piece from that stand was a restaurant named The Swamp Fox -- which I believe invokes the fond memory of Confederate guerrillas sneaking up on Yankee encampments to deliver justice to the blue bellies from Maine, Michigan and Massachusetts. If ever there was a figure from Massachusetts, it is John F. Kerry. The senator is a man who doesn't look all that comfortable dining at The Four Seasons in Georgetown. The thought of this quintessential moralizing, haughty, Boston Brahman campaigning over drawn pork down at The Swamp Fox could persuade even a cheapskate to pay the price of admission. And what on Earth would he say to the South Carolina voters?

Perhaps he would repeat a line he used on "Meet the Press" last Sunday regarding Iraqi policy: "I think this administration has made an extraordinary, disastrous decision not to bring the United Nations in a significant way. I have said repeatedly that we must go to the United Nations, we must internationalize this effort ... (and if France, Germany and Russia want us to share command with the U.N) We should share." South Carolinians only begrudgingly recognized the command authority of the U.S. Army. Somehow I don't think calling, yet again, for the grand old dream of liberal internationalism is going to be a winner in South Carolina -- even among its Democratic voters. Or perhaps he could repeat his support of Bill Clinton's affirmative action policy or his equivocation on Bush's tax cuts? South Carolina is not going to be John Kerry's firewall -- but a firestorm. A strategy for a New England liberal to lose in New Hampshire and win in South Carolina is not a strategy at all. It is a delusion. Politically speaking, Sen. Kerry is campaigning while dead. Johnny boy, we hardly knew ya.