October 23, 2004


Two Visions, Two Styles in One Race to the Finish: For better or worse, stump speeches give way to ad-libs as he reaches out to the uncommitted. (Stephen Braun, October 23, 2004, LA Times)

For better and sometimes for worse, the Massachusetts senator keeps straying from script as he tries to energize Democrats, win over uncommitted voters and edge out President Bush in battleground states.

The inner perfectionist in Kerry seems compelled to fill in every empty minute and blank spot on a page. Then he crams in more minutes and more pages. The speechmaking prowess that led him into public life three decades ago remains the most daunting weapon in his personal arsenal.

Yet with everything on the line, Kerry, the celebrated strong finisher, has turned out to be an elusive and inconsistent word master in the final stretch — sometimes seeming incandescent and lyrical, at other moments baffling and uninspiring.

Democrats and the media convinced themselves of many silly things as regards the Senator, none sillier than that he's an effective speaker and a good closer.

Of course, even they never deluded themselves that he has so much as an ounce of self-discipline, which makes him the polar opposite of his opponent as a campaigner, Two Visions, Two Styles in One Race to the Finish: Passion and predictability are hallmarks of a campaign aimed to turn fans into foot soldiers. (Robin Abcarian, October 23, 2004, LA Times)

"Door knockers, this way!" a young woman yelled, directing some of the 17,500 people who were streaming into a local park on a faultless autumn Saturday. President Bush was due to arrive in three hours, and the "door knockers," folks who had volunteered to canvass neighborhoods in the afterglow of his visit, were eager to claim the prize for their work: VIP seats in their own special bleachers, next to the stage.

The coveted seats put Ashley Johnsen so close that Bush might have been able to read the hand-painted "I Love George W" T-shirt she had made the night before. Johnsen, 16, was already volunteering at Bush-Cheney headquarters in St. Paul, but for a VIP seat and a chance to see the president up close, she eagerly signed up to do more. After the rally, she would knock on neighborhood doors for the president.

"We just love George," she said. "These things need to be done. It makes a big difference in the campaign."

That, in a nutshell, is one point of a George W. Bush rally. News reporters on the campaign trail serve the nation the latest nuance in Bush's policies or his newest attack on his Democratic rival, Sen. John F. Kerry. But the president gives a second set of messages that rarely get reported — messages that could prove equally potent in the race.

They are the lines in his speech and the leader-of-the-free-world atmospherics that fire up his fiercely loyal base — and they are aimed at turning fans into foot-soldiers. A Bush rally is not filled with undecided voters; those people are not even invited. Instead, Bush speaks to the already decided, thanking them for what they have done and asking them for more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 23, 2004 9:59 AM

The speechmaking prowess that led him into public life three decades ago remains the most daunting weapon in his personal arsenal.

It sounds about equally daunting for his opponents and his supporters....

Posted by: PapayaSF at October 23, 2004 1:09 PM

The palpable difference in enthusiasm between the Kerry crowd and the Bush crowd is rather noticeable.

Posted by: Bart at October 23, 2004 2:26 PM

Your palpable gift for rendundancy is also rather noticeable.

Posted by: Nunya at October 23, 2004 5:51 PM