. . . Monday July 12, 2004

Weekend at Brian’s: Edwards, Kerry, Chinese Food

My wife was out of town with a friend for one night over the weekend, so I acted as any self-respecting husband slash political nerd would. I cracked open a high carb brew, ordered Chinese food (which yes, I inhaled) and proceeded to watch about seventeen straight hours of C-Span. Man, it felt good to be dirty.

My viewing time included thirty fantastic minutes of Prime Minister’s Questions (scalpers could get five grand a ticket if W would ever agree to participate in such a forum – you’d hear panic, confusion and more nicknames than you do in an episode of the Lil Rascals), but the highlight of the weekend was the coverage of the Kerry/Edwards and wives and families coming out party.

We saw the candidates playing catch with a football in a parking lot somewhere in America. I question this tactic as I am about twenty years younger than these guys and had long ago decided not to play catch with a football in public (and Mary Beth Cahill should’ve considered the impact that the pigskin would have on Muslim and Jewish voters). Maybe it was Kerry’s way of establishing dominance early on. Yeah, Edwards is cute and he can stump speak a lot better than me, but still, he sort of throws like a wimp. The campaign is still working on a photo-op during which the two men travel up a river in a camouflaged boat and shoot at the enemy.

The other big news of the first week of the dynamic campaigning duo was the realization by Kerry that he had selected a Diet Coke addict as a running mate. Edwards’ often gulps down about four DCs by lunch (which helps to explain both his energetic campaigning and his soon-to-be legendary regularity). I guess we’ll still have to wait another four more years to welcome the century’s first Sugar Free Red Bull candidate.

During a well-attended campaign stop in Edwards’ North Carolina, the candidates both performed as billed. Edwards was smooth, relaxed and rhythmic. Kerry was better than in the past, but still a bit choppy as he wandered around the stage. It’s actually an interesting contrast between the two candidates. Edwards is best when he rocking the house with a handsfree mic attached to his lapel. I think Kerry is actually better when he keeps it short and formal, standing at a podium wearing a suit and tie. Kerry was at his best in the weeks just following his Iowa victory. He had a series a excellent lines (George Bush speaks of strength, Bring it On, etc.) and he didn’t wander off the script. The mix of the young, gesticulating Edwards and the Lincolnesque Kerry is the right way to play things. Kerry shouldn’t try to be like Edwards on the stump. Otherwise it feels like we’re watching a concert in which Journey opens for Night Ranger. It makes no sense. The two guys should do what they do best and the stump speech traveling show should look like Journey opening for the Boston Philharmonic.

One red flag to keep in mind: During their joint 60 Minutes appearance, Edwards seemed to interrupt Kerry several times. It was always to defend Kerry or to make a positive comment about the man atop the ticket. But Kerry doesn’t need Edwards to speak for him. When you are a smooth talker with a history of making arguments that stick and win people over, it takes a lot of discipline to sit back and let someone else give a less smooth or less compelling answer to a question. You feel an urge to do that person a favor. Note to Edwards: Don’t do it. Tone down the Diet Coke a few notches in these situations. Why? One, it makes you look irritating. Two, it makes Kerry look weak. And three, he just might sock you if you do that again.

Overall, the two candidates seemed to work extremely well together. Edwards seems quite at ease using his charms to boost the ticket’s main man. During Edwards’ speech in North Carolina, the crowd broke out into a chant of Kerry, Kerry, Kerry. One couldn’t have drawn it up better in a campaign playbook.

That’s all for now. As you might expect, I”m nursing a pretty nasty C-span hangover.

Concentration is important!