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Is this a case of too little too late? Read:

Declaring that he is “not a redistribution Democrat,” Senator John Kerry told a group of wealthy and well-connected supporters on Thursday that he would soon start an aggressive campaign to define himself as a centrist, in hopes of peeling moderate Republicans from President Bush.


One of the advantages of incumbency is that you usually don’t have to run against anybody in the primary. Everybody knows that means avoiding an ugly partisan fight (remember Pitchfork Pat in ’92?). What’s less well understood is that the incumbent gets to define himeself during the time when all of his potential opponents are busy defining one another in the worst possible light.

Love him, hate him, whatever, we’ve had four years to get to know President Bush, and we know him pretty well by now. Kerry is hardly known at all outside Massachussetts, as even he admits:

“A lot of people still don’t really know who I am,” Mr. Kerry, a four-term Massachusetts Democrat who has everything but the official title of presidential nominee, told the audience of 100 people. “The level of communication that we still need to undertake here is enormous.”

What most of the electorate knows about Kerry is three things: He isn’t Howard Dean; he’s older than John Edwards, and; he’s the nominee. Everything else is blanks to be filled in, and the Bush campaign has been doing just that in a series of TV ads.


Ads like Bush’s can be countered by a fast-moving, nimble, and smart campaign, like the one Bill Clinton waged in ’92, or Bush ran in ’00. And the Kerry camp? Even top aids say they have “no specific plans or timetables” for presenting their man to the public in a positive, defining way.

In our modern era of 365/24/7 election cycles, it may already be too late.


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