"Here's what you really need to know about them," Kerry said. "They're funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They're a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the president won't denounce what they're up to tells you everything that you need to know. He wants them to do his dirty work."
Reporting on the speech for MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olberman, the host announced that "in Boston, Kerry took the gloves off."
A Midnight Deadline Passed?
While Kerry was relentlessly — sometimes unfairly — attacked throughout the Republican convention, he vacationed, which included windsurfing. But — apparently peeved at a Washington Post headline characterizing the vice president as having characterized Kerry as "unfit" to be commander in chief, a word Cheney never actually used — that soon changed as well.
Before the president could even deliver his acceptance speech, the Kerry campaign told the media that immediately after the convention, Kerry would respond. "He'll be talking about Dick Cheney's five draft deferments," NBC's Tim Russert told Chris Matthews on Hardball. "John Kerry is taking his gloves off at midnight tonight, basically saying, I've had enough when it comes to challenging my patriotism and my military record. This campaign is really engaged as of midnight tonight."
Said Kerry to a crowd in Springfield, Ohio, "I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq."
CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts presented a broadcast the evening of Sept. 3 featuring a crowd chanting in unison before Kerry's speech: "Take the gloves off! Take the gloves off!"
"And just as the crowd urged him to," Pitts said, "he took off the gloves."
Trying to Connect
Some wondered if the new presence of former aides from the Clinton White House — like Joe Lockhart — was responsible. "Many Democrats have urged John Kerry, as you know, Joe, to come out swinging, to take the gloves off," Katie Couric said on Today. "Well, I think there will be an aggressive campaign," Lockhart responded.
Kerry continued that line of attack throughout that day in Newark, Ohio, where he campaigned. But by Saturday afternoon in Steubenville, Ohio, Kerry was mildly scolding Democrats who attacked the Bush and Cheney Vietnam service records, telling them he preferred to focus on other subjects.
Then on Sept. 8, Kerry aides previewed another big speech. "He rushed to war without a plan to win the peace," Kerry said in Cincinnati.
"Aides say Kerry wants to take the gloves off," reported Ed Henry on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight.
Twelve days later, Kerry gave his speech at NYU. "You know, there's a time for everything," wife Teresa Heinz Kerry told supporters Monday evening. "And it was time for him to take the gloves off."
So the fact that Kerry attacked the president today is not new. What remains to be seen is if, with 43 days left to go until Election Day, this time it resonates with more voters.
After all, how many pairs of gloves could John Kerry possibly have left?
ABC News' Marie Nelson and Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.