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Eat, Drink and Be Kerry...

"Change is coming to America. I am a fighter. For more than 30 years I've been in the battle lines, on the front lines, for fairness and mainstream American values. We will fight to give America back its future and its hope."

- John Kerry, after winning 9 of the 10 Democratic contests on 'Super Tuesday'.

3 March 2004

John Kerry is riding high. He’s survived what could have been a brutal primary with nary a cross word, his statesmanlike face is on display every night on the US evening news, and both he and his closest challenger John Edwards – a potential vice-presidential candidate – would beat Bush if the election were held tomorrow, according to recent polls.

But let’s not get too optimistic yet. There are a number of reasons why Kerry might be in a lot more trouble than appearances would suggest...

Money – President Bush has raised more than $143 million, according to his campaign -- a staggering, unprecedented, obscene amount of money. He might outspend Kerry by $100 million, a margin that could fund centuries of political activity in other, less hyperbolic countries. That $143 million (with a lot more to come) is going to buy a lot of TV ads and bumper stickers, and is going to be very useful in bludgeoning the American public into sticking with the incumbent.

Nader – When Ralph Nader says he doesn’t take votes away from Democrats, but instead draws support from disaffected voters of all party allegiances, one is tempted to think that the greenie doth protest too much. Nader voters are liberal, pure and simple, and in a bizarre turnaround, most people on the left and center-left are screaming at Nader to shut up and go away, while the right is egging him on. A Nader candidacy doesn’t sink Kerry, but it’s another awkward hurdle to overcome.

History - The polls belie the fact that Kerry’s profile doesn’t exactly match the kind of candidate that Americans generally go for. He’s a Catholic from the Northeast who (contrary to Bush) doesn’t do a whole lot to hide his wealthy upbringing. Plus he leans towards the left and can even be reasonably tagged with that other fatal l-word – ‘liberal’. His stellar military career is seen as a plus, but Clinton and Bush seem to have proved that lack of bravery is no impediment to high office. In fact, the Bush campaign is already salivating at the prospect of playing up Kerry’s anti-Vietnam (and, by their twisted logic, ‘anti-American’) agitating. Kerry’s supporters compare him to Kennedy, but they conveniently leave out the fact that a much more recent liberal politician from Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, got lambasted by Bush the Elder in ’88.

A Divided Nation - America may look like a nation ready for a new president, but in actuality, the Bush administration is more divisive than repulsive. That’s a key difference -- there are plenty of people who hate the leader of the free world, but their vehemence only causes his many supporters to back him more. The Bush campaign says that about 600,000 people have donated money -- that’s about twice as many as those who shelled out to support Howard Dean’s much-vaunted ‘grassroots’ movement.

The Supreme Court – Everyone remembers the Florida recount and the accompanying court charade, but what’s been forgotten since 2000 is that several states were close enough to be decided by judges rather than voters. Using Procrustean logic, both sides decided to mount their final stands in Florida, where they both figured their chances were highest. With the nearly even split in the American populace – a division that shows no real signs of changing since the last election – a similar outcome could easily occur, and the votes of Arizona, Wisconsin or even cartoon-like Florida again could be handed over to the guys in the black robes to decide. And we all know what happened the last time.

Eight months in American politics is the equivalent of a few lifetimes to us normal people, so we won’t be staking our beer money on a Bush victory. In fact, we’d love to be breaking out the Cava to celebrate a Kerry landslide come Election Day, but his recent positive press will also be just a faint memory come November. In other words, it's anybody's election.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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