Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Fiddling, Fiddling....While Carville Burns

What is John Kerry doing? Sure, this week he has to lay low, but he had a month between conventions. He spent it defending his record (all seven months of it) in Vietnam.

He is sinking in the polls.

The animals are out in NY, making the Repubs look rational.

And people who should be singing Kerry's praises are scratching their bald heads. And again. And again.

Excerpt from WaPo on Aug 30:

Carville's Complaint
By Howard KurtzWashington Post Staff WriterMonday,
August 30, 2004; 8:52 AM
NEW YORK--James Carville is off the reservation.
With the Republicans having taken over this city for a week, you'd think the Ragin' Cajun, one of the masterminds of Bill Clinton's nomination at Madison Square Garden 12 years ago, would be sticking to the Democratic script. A hardy band of Dems, like the Republicans in Boston, is here to stick some pins in the Bush balloon.

As the cohost of CNN's "Crossfire," Carville is no longer a party hack. But he raises money for the Democrats, gives high-level advice and is a certified insider.

So it was surprising to hear him declare at a Time Warner party last night that the Kerry-Edwards message is muddled. That there's no bark, no bite to what the candidates are saying. That the Democratic campaign is too timid when it comes to attacking the Bush-Cheney team. That too many people are in charge, so no one's in charge. "They're a perpetual committee listening to a perpetual focus group, and it's got to change," he says.

The campaign was particularly derelict, says Carville, when it comes to deploying John Edwards. "He's a racehorse, and you've got to get him on the track."

On the day the Census Bureau announced an increase in poverty and millions more Americans lacking health insurance, "the event they did was credit card debt," he says derisively. "Because someone in a focus group must have said something."

What the Kerry operation sorely lacks, Carville says, "is someone who can drive a communications message." This has created a "vacuum" at the heart of the campaign.

Carville has made this argument to the Kerry leadership and believes a change will take place by the time the senator hits the trail again on Thursday. "I know that what they're doing now ain't gonna stand."

The Louisianan has his own candidate for message meister--could it be Joe Lockhart, who gave up a CNBC gig to join the Kerry team?--but wouldn't tip his hand. He says he's talking about someone to win the news cycle, not a high-level shakeup. We'll see if he's right.

(Thanks to SdM for the tip)