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57 days until Election Day


Every winning presidential campaign has:

A. A candidate who is in control of his public image.

B. A clear and consistently delivered positive message that thematically derives from the candidate's biography.

C. A clear and consistently delivered negative message that thematically derives from what the American people are already predisposed to dislike about the opposition candidate.

D. (Semi-)clear lines of authority at the upper levels of the campaign about who does what, put in place by a strong candidate with vision and animated by a shared passionate desire to win.

E. An "adult" staffer on the plane who has known the candidate for years, can tell him anything, knows his rhythms and moods, and who understands politics, policy, PR, and campaigns at the highest levels.

F. A traveling press corps whose belief that the person they are covering can win in November not-so-subtly informs every syllable they write and broadcast.

Are John Kerry's chances of winning the White House imperiled by the fact that there were more frustrated-blind-quote-driven, sausage-making-process-oriented stories from inside his campaign this weekend than there have been cumulatively about the Bush campaign this entire cycle?

Think of that stark fact as more a symptom than a disease — although it is both.

It has caused no amount of "how-could-that-be?" head shaking within the tight-knit circle that runs the president's re-election campaign that the details of Saturday's Bill Clinton-John Kerry tutorial phone call could leak so fast and so fully.

And as the Bush campaign just laughs and laughs and laughs behind their poker faces at how easily they have banished the economy, health care, poverty, jobs, and the chaos in Iraq from the national debate, the biggest danger for Kerry right now in the wake of the president's Swift post-New York lead is that the left will give up on him.

You can put money on this: BC04RNC will subject John Sasso to their innovative gimmick of press releases attacking the pasts of any new Kerry operatives.

Still, we are pretty sure most Americans don't care where Joe Lockhart's office is in relation to Bob Shrum's. And the media's desire to find "shake ups" and conflict just might, might be overstated in this case.

Still (Note Note: only on holidays do we break our rule of not starting two consecutive paragraphs with the word "still."), two important weekend must-reads give insight into the pre-elex post-mortems already being penned.

On Sunday, Frank Rich offered up a gut check on how the presidential campaign has gotten out of hand — and way off issues — to being about who did what during Vietnam, who's a bigger tough guy, and "castration warfare." LINK

"Don't believe anyone who says that this will soon fade, and that the election will henceforth turn on health-care policy or other wonkish debate. Any voter who's undecided by now in this polarized election isn't sitting around studying the fine points. In a time of fear, the only battle that matters is the broad-stroked cultural mano a mano over who's most macho. . . . It's Mr. Kerry's behavior now, not what he did 35 years ago, that has prevented his manliness from trumping the president's."

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