The Corner

The Kerry Surge

Given that Kerry now has a five-point lead in Iowa, a lot of pundits are going to have explaining to do. I recall being on Fox with Eleanor Clift a couple of weeks ago and she all but said that Kerry was toast. Then, the first thing she said back in the green room afterwards was something like, “Gee, maybe I shouldn’t have said that. What if he comes back?” She remembered that the Clinton people produced a video compilation of all the pundits counting him out during his primary troubles in 1992, and said the Kerry people could have fun doing the same if he ever revived his campaign. I confidently assured her she had nothing to worry about. When I saw Kerry in New Hampshire to write an NR piece he seemed pretty awful – aloof and hesitant. Shortly afterwards, the first stories began to appear in the press about Kerry finding his stride and getting a more favorable reception from voters. Given what I had just seen, I didn’t believe any of them. But apparently they were right. What seems to be going on is that the Democrats may be regaining their senses, or the sensible voters who weren’t fully engaged in the process yet have now begun to pay attention. It seemed bizarre that given a bevy of relatively responsible and tested Democrats – Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, and maybe even John Edwards – that the party would swoon for Dean and Wes Clark, both of whom are such risky, inexperienced candidates. The dynamic of the race now may be surprising, but at least it doesn’t seem quite as bizarre. I saw Kerry at a Council on Foreign Relations event a month or so ago and after a lavish introduction of him that cited his excellent political skills, Kerry said something like, “Well, if I was such a great politician, I wouldn’t be in the fix I’m in now.” People laughed, but awkwardly, because it seemed a light comment that hit too close to home. Later at that event, asked about his troubles, Kerry said not to worry, that “I’m a good closer.” Maybe it wasn’t just idle boasting…