Kerry Retools Campaign After Lackluster Poll Numbers, Talk With Clinton
John Kerry is endeavoring to get his campaign on track after a luckluster month of August, in which he had lost the advantage he enjoyed in the polls. The New York Times reported yesterday on a front-page story that the Democratic nominee called Bill Clinton at the hospital, on the eve of the former President's heart surgery, and the two talked for 90 minutes about campaign strategy. The ailing Clinton who will likely be sidelined from an active campaign role by his heart bypass surgery "told Mr. Kerry that he should move away from talking about Vietnam, which had been the central theme of his candidacy, and focus instead on drawing contrasts with President Bush on job creation and health care policies."
The conversation coincides with the increased role of former Clinton aides Joe Lockhart, Joel Johnson, Doug Sosnik, James Carville, Paul Begala, Stanley Greenberg, and Howard Wolfson, a former aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton. The Times notes the addition of the former Clintonites creates "two distinct camps" and could set the stage for further campaign discord with the "existing Kerry high command."
The Kerry-Clinton talk was a big story on Sunday's network news, with ABC World News Tonight reporting Kerry "has hired new advisers and Bill Clinton has given him advice from his hospital room," and NBC Nightly News saying Kerry acted because "the President is leading in three post-convention polls."
Kerry Said To Be Leaning Heavily On Dukakis Strategist Newsweek reports that Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill "is likely to survive the turmoil, but Kerry's friends and closest advisers say the senator is already leaning more heavily on another old chum: John Sasso. Last spring Kerry installed Sasso, who ran the Dukakis campaign in 1988, as his general-election manager at the Democratic National Committee. According to a source familiar with the campaign, Kerry wanted Sasso to run his campaign from the outset, and asked him again to do so when he fired his first manager, Jim Jordan, last year. Sasso and Cahill already meet several times a week and talk daily about the campaign's field operations."
Finger Pointing A Sign That Democratic Unity May Be Weakening
The Kerry shakeup story continued to receive media attention this morning with one more aspect added to the mix: Democrats are increasingly frustrated with the course of the presidential campaign, and there are increasing signs that the debate over which course Kerry should take is degenerating into infighting in the Democratic camp. In fact, media reports on the Kerry campaign makeover are rife with suggestions that the factions of the Democratic Party that quickly unified to back John Kerry are beginning to fray. The Christian Science Monitor says Kerry "is right where he wants to be, Democrats ruefully joke: behind in the polls and remaking his campaign team."
The Wall Street Journal reports, "Democrats responded to the new shape of the race with finger-pointing, as veterans of Bill Clinton's successful campaigns accused Mr. Kerry's team of bungling the response to attacks by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and of failing to properly frame their attacks on Mr. Bush." Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call that if Kerry "starts dictating the race's agenda, he can put Bush back on the defensive and score points on issues of his choosing. If he fails to do so, Democrats will form a circular firing squad and begin shooting at each other. If that happens, it will mark the beginning of the end of the Kerry campaign." In his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne says, "It's always a bad sign for a campaign when the media run stories about impending campaign shakeups, usually in accounts full of disparaging quotations from (often anonymous) party leaders."
Heart Surgery To Diminish Clinton's Campaign Efforts
Former President Clinton's open heart surgery on Monday will sharply curtail his campaign efforts on behalf of the Democratic ticket this fall. The Washington Post reports the surgery "means that he will miss most or all of political trips and Democratic fundraisers in September." Clinton "hopes he will have recuperated sufficiently to resume a political schedule by October, including appearances on behalf of Democratic nominee John F. Kerry, but his aides and political handlers said this remains uncertain pending doctor's orders." Political analyst Charles Cook "called Clinton's temporary sidelining unwelcome news for Democrats, including Kerry." The New York Times reports Clinton "seems unlikely to play a major role in Senator John Kerry's campaign for the White House this fall if his recovery follows the pattern described by his doctors on Monday."