I think Kerry's biggest problem is that he thinks too damn much about things sometimes - and then he spews those thoughts all over without cleaning them up. I tend to be the same way. Ask me a simple question over email, and I will get into a 17 page discourse on the topic in my reply - often just because I get lost in my thoughts. It's very easy for my mind to go wandering, and I tend to subject people to that wandering in real-time. What I mean by that is that I'll be thinking through the issue, and rather than just think it through and present a coherent, cohesive, concise response that cuts to the heart of the matter, I'll babble on and on and on in a somewhat freeform manner until I've gotten through one set of thoughts. And then I hit send. Or post, as it may be.
Kerry seems to do the same thing. He really does strike me as intelligent, and it's not that he overthinks things, he just talks too damn much about them. If you read my last post and followed the links, you'll have seen how that Slate reporter does a brilliant job of illustrating the problem. If you haven't read it yet, go here and read it already: http://slate.msn.com/id/2105096/
He said something both amusing and telling: "Kerry sticks to his position. He doesn't answer Stahl's question. But this time, somebody who can speak English is sitting next to Kerry: John Edwards. Seconds after the RNC cuts away from the interview, Edwards steps in to rescue his running mate."
The irony, of course, is that a response with many fine nuances is often the best one, since questions can rarely be answered with a simple yes or no. There are always things you have to stipulate or qualify, and without those, you tend to oversimplify the issue. Kerry rarely has that problem, anyways.
This is where Bush has the advantage. In typical Republican fashion - i.e. cynical and manipulative but very tactically sound - he has found a way to capitalize on his own faults. Kerry has problems speaking to ordinary people in reasonable ways. So does Bush, as anyone who has ever hear him butcher the English language can attest to, but unlike Kerry, he's found a way to use that to his own advantage. By playing himself off as 'just an ordinary guy' and 'an average American', he can make his mistakes seem charming, appealing, humanizing. Kerry's speaking faults distance him from the people he speaks to; Bush's faults actually draw him closer and win him their sympathy and understanding. It's amazing, and if I'm right, a brilliant choice.
The Republicans have consistently shown that they are in it to win, and they will do what they feel they have to in order to win. They really are good at focusing on that. Democrats, on the other hand, are often worried about the theoretical and how things should be rather than focusing on winning first and foremost. They often seem unprepared and inept compared to the Republican machine. Look at how quickly the Republicans responded to Edwards being chosen by Kerry, or Kerry's little slip-up on the word sensitive, or any of that sort of thing. In every case, they responded with lightning speed and enviable consistency. They are always on message. (That message may be total bullshit and a blatant lie, but they're always on it regardless.) They often plan ahead and prepare for things before they happen, rather than just reacting to them. For instance, again when Edwards was chosen, within hours, maybe even minutes, they had arguments about why he was so bad, and they all - ALL - stayed on message, driving home the same talking points to American voters. They're much more ruthless about their pursuit of power, and so they've been winning so far.
The good thing is, at least in one sense, that they've been so incompetent and arrogant about actually delivering on anything they talk about that the American people are starting to really notice and respond. Bush's ratings go down on a daily basis, and I have great hopes for November. We'll see, though - I suspect the Bush administration and its followers are far from done with this fight.
(And now, to bed - I'm wiped out and in desperate need of some sleepy time. Apologies if I veer into incoherence at times in this post.)