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I watched John Kerry give his Top Ten list on Letterman last night. While I don't think he was very funny, his handlers deserve points for preparing him well. He seemed relaxed and open.
But it got me to thinking about what candidates tend to do once they've started to lose steam on the home stretch. I remember in the primaries this year, Howard Dean doing nothing but cracking jokes after he lost New Hampshire. In 2000, Al Gore asked Letterman to let him on the show in the final weeks before the election. And not to go on and talk to Dave, but to simply stand on the stage and tell jokes. And I remember Bob Doll suddenly opening up and telling jokes as his chances dwindled in 1996.
I'm not sure if this is really a pattern or just something I've noticed. But if it is a pattern, I'm wondering why it happens. Or, why it doesn't happen from the beginning. If a candidate - or his speech writer - has a sense of humor, why not use it to its fullest starting on day one of a campaign. Americans love funny presidents once they're in office. Do they not love funny candidates?
Speaking of desperation, it's now been fifty days since Jerry's handlers have allowed him to take questions on camera from the press corps. MTV, The Daily Show, and Letterman don't count.
Forty-two days left to go. I've been following US presidential elections pretty closely since McGovern/Nixon in 1972, and to my memory this is unprecedented behavior on the part of a challenger. It is true that in Kerry's case the less exposure he receives the less likely he is to show himself a fool, but even so hiding is not a winning strategy. Hell, even Michael Moore admits Kerry is a world class doofus, but I believe even Moore realizes Kerry must face the press soon.
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