The Democratic nominee is rolling. He won high
praise for his choice of a running mate, a Southern senator
who balances his own Massachusetts liberalism. The
Democratic convention was a success. Of course there
has been media grumbling about the lack of conflict. R.W. Apple
wrote in the New York Times about "a script as detailed
as that for any Hollywood production."
Yet viewers saw what the convention planners had wanted them
to see. The party was united, patriotic, and dedicated to
the American family.
And the nominee's acceptance speech got raves. He wove his
life story into an uplifting salute to America, along
with digs at the incumbent administration's integrity.
Dan Rather said that he had been true to his "career of exceeding
expectations." And Lesley Stahl was even more effusive:
"I must tell you, Dan, I am stunned."
Democrats are looking forward to the fall campaign. Their candidate
"is still not as well known to the country as Mr. Bush," says Apple of the
Times, so "nationally televised debates this fall could be highly
important." He adds that the Democrat "is very good at this sort of thing."
No doubt his partisans are thinking to themselves, "Next January, for the
first time since JFK ..."
Okay, okay, as you may have guessed, I have just used one of the
oldest devices in writer's toolbox. Everything above comes from
the 1988 campaign between Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush.
We all remember how that campaign ended, but this little
excursion reminds us of how it started. We often
forget how strong Dukakis looked 16 summers ago. He
seemed to have a firm reputation as a pragmatic problem
solver, and his campaign radiated confidence and competence.
The moral is that July's champion can turn into November's pathetic
So does Dukakis's fate await his onetime lieutenant governor?
Possibly, but not necessarily. Like all historical analogies, this
one has its limitations. The economy is weaker than it was then.
The international scene is grimmer. In the summer of 1988, body
bags weren't coming home from Baghdad and we weren't worried about
major terrorist attacks on the homeland.
In fact, with all of the bad news the country has absorbed this
year, it is impressive that the race is as close as it is. Whereas
Dukakis left his convention with a 17-point lead in the polls, Kerry
got only a small bounce at best. Most polls put his lead in the single
digits, and at least one puts Bush ahead.
The president's supporters can take heart than Kerry is performing below the