Kerry's Challenge

By Nichols, John | The Nation, March 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

Kerry's Challenge


Nichols, John, The Nation


The John Kerry who won nine of ten Super Tuesday states, and with those victories Democratic nominee-in-waiting status, was not the John Kerry who officially launched his presidential campaign six months ago. Kerry underwent a campaign-season "extreme makeover" that transformed him from a tiresome noncontender who echoed the failed themes of the Democratic Party's disastrous 2002 campaign into a credible alternative to George W. Bush. It is this evolved John Kerry who has won twenty-seven of thirty Democratic primary and caucus contests. And while the fall campaign will turn on factors as diverse as unemployment figures and Osama bin Laden's fugitive status, the extent to which Kerry embraces and expands upon that evolution could be decisive in determining whether he beats Bush in November.

To get a sense of how radical the remake has been, consider the issue of trade. A pre-makeover Kerry appeared this past September before the Detroit Economic Club and declared himself "an entrepreneurial Democrat." He condemned Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt for advocating a "retreat from the global economy" because they were critical of free-trade agreements. Dean's pledge to insert environmental and labor standards into trade agreements "would mean we couldn't sell a single car anywhere in the world," Kerry griped. Five months later, with Dean and Gephardt out of the race, Kerry was sixty miles south of Detroit in Toledo, where he rallied Ohio primary voters with a pledge to "create a fair playing field for our trade relationships in the world" by launching a 120-day review of all trade agreements as part of a push to assert labor and environmental standards.

Kerry's changing colors have already provided fodder for charges that he's a hypocrite. Two days after Super Tuesday, the Bush camp fired round one of the TV advertising campaign that will be the public face of a $175 million re-election effort. …

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