The blitz begins

By Stephen W. Stromberg
Published August 3, 2004 10:51PM (EDT)

The Democratic National Committee is beginning its August advertising blitz with an ad touting John Kerry's well-received acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The spot, titled "Strength," focuses on a particularly forceful excerpt from the almost hour-long oratory -- a conveniently soundbitable section that covers his Vietnam service and the candidate's rhetoric on fighting terrorism and bolstering the armed forces.

The new ad fits right in with the Kerry campaign's all-out assault on President Bush's war-time credentials during the convention, and it underscores the presidents shifting numbers on the war on terror. But can a Democrat -- and one from Massachusetts no less -- keep gaining on Bush the Decisive on his own turf? The president still polls better when it comes to the war on terror, even if he isn't as strong as before. And hitting Bush hard on foreign affairs also leaves less time to advertise the Democrats' domestic agenda. Is the era of "it's the economy, stupid" really over?

Perhaps 9/11 did change presidential politics that much. But the last time a Democratic presidential campaign was this concerned with foreign affairs was in 1972, when Richard Nixon smashed George McGovern. So it's definitely a risky strategy for the Democrats, even in 2004. Of course, with the nation in the middle of an increasingly unpopular war and no clear exit strategy, Kerry might be able to win where McGovern got trounced.

Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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