America Asks: Who is John Kerry?

Who is John Kerry is a question that many voters are asking.  According to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey, performed between the second and third debates:

* 77% of voters say that they have a clear idea of where President Bush stands on key issues and 16% do not.

* 56% of voters say that they have a clear idea where Senator Kerry stands on key issues  and 34% do not.

* 91% of Republican voters have a clear idea of where the President stands along with 65% of Democrats and 76% of unaffiliated voters.

* 76% of Democrats have a clear idea of where Senator Kerry stands on the key issue. Only 34% of Republicans and 50% of unaffiliated voters share this view.

In addition, on the economy 49% prefer Bush and 45% prefer Kerry.  For the war on Terror, 52% prefer Bush and 44% prefer Kerry.  50% feel that Bush is a better leader, 40% prefer Kerry.

What does this tell us?

Either the majority of people do not like Senator Kerry, or he has been having trouble getting his views and positions out to the voters.  Let’s assume for the a while that the latter is the case.  The main reason for this is that he has not been focusing on making this happen.  Instead, he has gone the way of tearing down his opponent instead of building himself up.  While this was good for getting the nomination, the Democratic nomination was a hard fought battle mostly won by the person that democrats felt would attack the president the hardest, it is not going to be enough to sway undecided voters going into the polls.

Senator Kerry had the perfect opportunity to move from the attack phase of the election and into a mode of getting out HIS message during the convention.  This was when we were to know who he was, what he stands for, what his record is and how he is different.  Instead, we got a lot of information about Kerry the Vietnam veteran.  Lots and lots of talk about Vietnam.  Why did Kerry do this?  Was this a miscalculation on his part?  Was it incompetence by his handlers?

It is hard to say at this point.  We do know that Kerry has changed some of his campaign staff, moving in some new people.  This was spun as needed more workers for this stage of the election, but the people brought in were put in high levels of advising, which points to more than just a beefing up of staff.  Then when the polls started to show a major swing away from the Senator, he went back on the attack, missing the opportunity he had to focus on himself.

We also know that Senator Kerry has many flaws in his Senate record.  There is much more bad there than good, including missing a large number of committee meetings, no substantive amount of meaningful legislation authored by him and being named the “Most Liberal Member of the US Senate”, a fascinating label considering the members of the Senate over the past 20 years.  President Bush, on the other hand, has had the benefit of being in office for 4 years and establishing who and what he is and stands for.  While many may not like it, it’s a known value.

It’s simply not enough that Kerry has been getting the message out that Bush should be voted out of office.  While this is the position of a number of voters, these are the same voters that feel that Bush “stole” the 2000 election and were calling for his impeachment even before he had been sworn in.  They feel that Bush has been “divisive” while the reality is that it’s their actions that have caused this situation, not Bush.  For these voters Bush was never given a chance to govern in any way.  Nothing is going to change these voter’s opinions, there is too much hatred to even consider voting for Bush.

Many on the right though are not happy with Bush either.  They might have been willing to vote for a democratic presidential candidate, as long as he were more of the more centrist of the party.  Someone like a Bill Clinton; perhaps Joe Lieberman or Evan Bayh.  However, Kerry’s record in the US senate is causing most of the republicans that might have voted against Bush no option but to vote for him now.  And he has been unable to convince them otherwise.

There are also undecided voters.  These voters are concerned about what is going on in Iraq and the economy.  However, what they are hearing from the Kerry camp is worrisome on both of these issues.  Kerry would not bring the troops home anytime soon, he voted for the resolution authorizing it and has made many statements that the war was the right thing to do.  Then, when the campaign started in earnest, he started championing the cause of the “wrong war at the wrong time” crowd.  This is going to do little to appeal to anyone who is upset about the war but not a liberal democrat or Bush hater.  In this they really see no difference between the two candidates so there is no impetus on selecting Kerry over Bush on that issue.

Kerry’s economic plan does not sit well with undecided voters either, again this bears out in the survey numbers.  Most people are rightfully skeptical when someone promises a large number of federal programs to take care of problems while saying that they are going to cut spending.  It just doesn’t ring true and it is a problem most liberal candidates face.  While most voters realize that when a conservative candidates will claim they will cut spending by gutting wasteful programs it will most likely not happen, they feel that this is the lesser of two evils.  The facts of the matter are mostly irrelevant if they are not convincing enough to the voter to override this natural perception.  If Kerry does have a plan that they would rally around, he is not doing a good enough job getting that message out to them.

Finally, the attack ads of both sides (not necessarily the campaigns, but the 527s, DNC and RNC ads) have turned a lot of voters away from the process.  This is part of the reason that Kerry is having trouble getting his message out, how long will a normal undecided voter listen to the distortions, lies and rhetoric long enough to sift out the gem of a plan?  I’m a political junkie and love being able to follow both sides of the issues, but I even get disgusted and tune out the campaign from time to time.  It’s just too hard to follow.  And to be honest, if I were to take everything that both sides are saying to heart I would feel very scared and worried about the future of humanity.  Doom and Gloom.

Of course, it’s not real.  Fear and Hatred are the mainstays of the two campaigns, Republicans want you to fear another terrorist attack, preying upon this natural fear of the next 9/11.  The Democrats hate the rich, the Republicans, anyone who isn�t politically correct, etc.  They pit classes and races against each other for political power grabs.  The problem is that both sides want you feeling so uneasy that you vote for THEM, THEY are the only ones who can save you from certain destruction.

But the reality is that we will do what we have always done, make it through and try to make things better for ourselves along the way.  And we will succeed, despite the election year rhetoric.  My suggestion to everyone is to take a step back and decide to vote for the person you think is or will do a good job.  Don’t vote against the guy you think is going to “lead us to devastating destruction” because you perpetuate the system that feeds off that.

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