The Note

The Republican and Democratic Parties proudly present — Bush versus Kerry!!!!

Much has been written and said about the president's political strengths and weaknesses, but here's where we see Senator Kerry at this writing.

Kerry advantages:

1. Democratic Party (relatively) united and determined to beat Bush

2. emerges with no significant character questions/problems to fix (think Gore/lying liberal '00 and Clinton/womanizer/draft dodger '92)

3. strong favorable/unfavorable ratings

4. grew stronger through nomination process, while Bush grew weaker (as if Bush had the nomination challenge and Kerry didn't)

5. can raise unlimited money because he didn't accept the federal campaign matching funds

6. didn't get forced (much) to the left by the nomination process

7. the overlay of the job loss and electoral college battleground maps

8. no major conflicts with liberals, labor, African-Americans, or the congressional wing of the party

9. newly elected, politically savvy governors in many of the battleground states

10. a distinguished war record running against two men who didn't see combat

Kerry disadvantages:

1. will have to spend a lot of time raising money in the spring

2. the president's unprecedented campaign cash — more than $100 million in the bank and counting

3. despite his momentum, has yet to put any Bush "red states" play, leaving the president with a big Electoral College base

4. a long record of votes in Congress to pick over, with lots of liberal votes and statements (all catalogued already by BCRNC)

5. still struggles to regularly perform effectively on the stump — especially in driving a positive economic message

6. Bush in-roads with Hispanics and Jews

7. Bush overwhelming support among men

8. no deep personal connection with the American people — with his base or the broader electorate

9. the never-gonna-fully-go-away "likeability" questions

10. easy nomination means he and his team haven't been forced to be disciplined and consistent in message and organization

Two more things about Kerry:

ABC News has learned that the person considered the leading and most likely candidate to head the Kerry Veep selection process is Democratic wise man Jim Johnson.

Johnson is the vice chairman of Perseus, L.L.C., a merchant banking and private equity firm, and chairman of both Brookings' board of trustees and the John F. Kennedy Center.

He was Vice President Walter Mondale's executive assistant from 1977 until 1981, when he founded Public Strategies, which advised corporations on "strategic issues," to say the least.

He joined Lehman Brothers as a managing director in the mid 1980s and in 1991 became the chairman and CEO (and "$7 million man") of Fannie Mae. [Mickey Kaus once called him "Washington's equivalent of Michael Eisner."] He lives with his wife and son in Washington, D.C.

And various Democratic sources tell us that the Kerry high command, including campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, have some pretty specific ideas about the role the Democratic National Committee should be playing — and let's just say that we might see some visible and not-so-visible DNC players with diminished roles in the days and weeks ahead. (Over to you, Jim VandeHei — what with Rick Berke out of the writing game.)

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