. . . Thursday September 23, 2004

Coaching Michael Jordan

Allan J. Lichtman tells Kerry to do something big; and to start by getting rid of the consultants:

About a year after the election, Gore admitted that listening to the hucksters was the biggest mistake he made in 2000. Instead, he said, much too late, that he should have spoken directly from his heart to the American people.

Kerry, unlike Gore, has time to change course in real time, not dream time. Yet Kerry has astoundingly sought to recalibrate his campaign by taking on yet more advisers. Even his consultants now have consultants. Kerry needs to clear his decks and his mind. After some three decades in politics, he surely must know what he wants to say to the American people. Otherwise he doesn’t deserve to be president. John McCain became a national icon as the guy who cut through the blue smoke of politics with the searchlight of truth and candor. Why not Kerry? follow the campaign seem to agree that his best moments are the unscripted ones.

Over the past few months, I’ve run across many people right here in Northern California who are introduced as Kerry advisors. In fact, almost every Democratic event seems to have at least one. In San Francisco, you can find a Kerry advisor almost anywhere from a Starbucks to a line at a supermarket. We are all Kerry advisors here. Yet, as I’ve suggested before, campaign decisions may be better managed in the hands of the few as opposed to the many. When it comes to national politics, there is no message more wrong than a muddled or inconsistent message.

Here’s a question: If Kerry had never signed up any of the advisors who now manage his message (and stuck instead with a small team of campaign operatives) could he be doing any worse than he is right now?

At the risk of being labeled a whining Democrat by my own political brethren, let’s look at some of the latest numbers. Only 9% of voters polled said they want a second Bush term to look a lot like the first one. Nearly sixty percent of voters say that they’d want major changes if Bush is re-elected.

And yet Bush currently leads in the overall race. Folks, that’s just plain remarkable.

While it does seem like the latest team of advisors from Camp Clinton have been helping Kerry to tighten his speeches and hone his messages, I still wonder about the amount of legendary status we give to folks like Carville and Begala.

Sure. They make for some great television and they played notable roles in the Clinton victories. But come on. These guys were advising a guy who could be the greatest, natural political force in a generation. Even with wrong advice and bad tactics, the Clinton charisma and talent could get, well, the W.

Just how much credit does one get for coaching Michael Jordan?

Like Jordan at crunch time, the ball will be in John Kerry’s hands – and his hands alone – over the last few weeks of this campaign.

Concentration is important!