September 26, 2004


Quick. Change the Brand. In Five Weeks. (JOHN TIERNEY, 9/26/04, NY Times)

By sticking to their theme of Mr. Kerry as flip-flopper, Republicans have put him in a bind: he could use a new message to move up in the polls, but any new message leaves him vulnerable to accusations of inconsistency. How do you reposition a candidate whose commonly perceived weakness, fairly or not, is his penchant for repositioning? And how do you do it so late in the campaign?

Democrats say that a turnaround is still possible in five weeks, and so do some experts who may have a more realistic view of the job - advertising executives experienced in reviving troubled brands. But Madison Avenue's masters of image makeover say it will take a simple, emotionally appealing message, the kind that has eluded the Kerry campaign so far.

Mr. Kerry might take comfort from Bill Clinton's repositioning in 1992, after being battered by scandals and rivals during the primary season.

"Clinton reinvented himself as the boy from Hope, a political Horatio Alger," said Stephen Wayne, the author of the "The Road to the White House 2004" and a history professor at Georgetown University. "He was also helped by the fact, and this is important for Kerry, that the election was less about him and more on the incumbent's absence of leadership."

In the same way, Mr. Kerry's new combativeness on Iraq could reinvigorate his campaign and shift the debate away from his character to Mr. Bush's record.

Kerry is a bad spokesman, but it's the brand that's in trouble--permissive Great Society Realpolitik liberalism--not just the pitch. When Bill Clinton jiggered his campaign it was to make himself seem a better advocate than George Bush Sr. or Ross Perot for the conservative positions all three shared.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2004 10:47 AM

"Buy New Kerry, now with blue terror fighting crystals".

Here's an idea to battle the flip flop issue: "Drink New Kerry for its terror fighting pizazz, or Classic Kerry for that mellow, pacifist flavor you've come to love".

Posted by: Robert Duquette at September 26, 2004 11:44 AM

Will they offer "Cherry Kerry" as an alternative to "Dr. Pepper" ?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 26, 2004 12:58 PM

And, of course, Diet Kerry, containing all the nuance of Classic Kerry, but none of the charm.

(I bet the aftertaste on that one is wicked.)

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at September 26, 2004 1:50 PM

"incumbent's absence of leadership"

How is GW Bush not a leader--whether you agree with him or not? I don't get the comparison. Then again, I'm not a professor of political history.

Posted by: David Hill, The Bronx at September 26, 2004 1:58 PM