Political Pundits on How to Win the White House

Kerry's 2004 presidential bid began in earnest, though unof?cially, days after the 2002 midterm congressional elections. These had been a disaster for Democrats. Bush, invoking his party's credentials on national security, and revving up a turnout machine run from the White House by Karl Rove, led the Republicans to House and Senate gains. But the Massachusetts senator believed Bush might yet be vulnerable in his own reelection. What was needed was a way to make plain to voters what seemed painfully obvious to Kerry: Bush was an incompetent president. Kerry hired a campaign manager, veteran Capitol Hill operative Jim Jordan, who set out with consultant Bob Shrum and a wide circle of Kerry advisers to take inventory of the Democrat's strengths and vulnerabilities. They might have been wise to start with his hair.

By conventional measures, the thick mane atop Kerry's lean, craggy face should have registered in the strengths column. His hair had grayed but not receded by a single follicle over his six decades. Kerry was a bit vain about his locks, and he gave them careful attention. As it happened, folks at the Republican National Committee had been paying attention, too. Sometime earlier, a tasty nugget of news raced around RNC headquarters. Would you believe that Kerry gets his hair cut at the Washington salon of Cristophe? Yes, exactly, that Cristophe -- the same guy who did Hillary Clinton's hair.

Cristophe was also the stylist who was trimming Bill Clinton that time in 1993 when Air Force One sat on the tarmac in Los Angeles for two hours while the whole world cooled its heels (never mind that reports about delayed air traf?c turned out to be false). No one at the RNC was surprised by the Cristophe news. Barbara Comstock, the party's savvy research director, had been in television green rooms with Kerry and witnessed him fussing over himself before going on air, utterly oblivious to anyone or anything around him. Jim Dyke, the party's communications director, sensed the Cristophe information would come in handy, and tucked it away for the right occasion.

On Sunday, December 2, Kerry publicly announced his candidacy to Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press. Ordinarily, this was the kind of news that would echo positively through the media for the rest of the week. With a well-timed placement, however, Dyke and his colleague Tim Grif?n made sure that something else was waiting for Kerry, ?rst thing Monday morning.

"**Exclusive**" promised the Drudge Report. "Cash and Coif!" read his headline, using the alliteration Drudge favors. "Democrat all-star John Kerry of Massachusetts is positioning himself as a populist politician while he takes the ?rst step for a White House run. . . . But the self-described 'Man of the People' pays $150 to get his hair styled and shampooed -- the cost of feeding a family of three for two weeks!"

Like many Drudge Report exclusives, this one implied rigorous reporting, including direct quotations from well-positioned sources to whom the author supposedly talked on a not-for-attribution basis. In this case, it was a "stylist source," who allegedly told him: "When it comes to his hair, Mr. Kerry is very, very particular. The coloring and the highlighting, the layering. But the results are fabulous." Drudge also claimed he had spoken to a "green room insider" at Fox News's Washington bureau: "It's always a ?ght to get mirror time. He obsessively primps and poses before he goes on the air."

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