Bush campaign officials think the biggest weakness in Mr. Kerry’s attacks on the president’s policies is that he voted for a number of them — from going to war in Iraq to the president’s education-reform plan.
“We expect you’ll hear Democrats use the term ‘strong leader’ a lot in the next few days,” Mr. Gillespie said. “But we don’t think a strong leader would vote to send our troops to Iraq and then vote to cut off their funding and try to explain his vote, providing eight different reasons, including calling it a protest vote, a proud vote and, most recently, a vote that is too confusing for the American people to understand.”
“We don’t think a strong leader would vote for the No Child Left Behind Act and then campaign against it. We don’t think a strong leader would vote for the Patriot Act and then campaign against it,” he said.
Democratic officials immediately fired back, charging that it was the Republicans who were trying to hide Mr. Bush’s record on the issues.
“The convention that is truly a masquerade ball will be the one that is going to be held by the Republicans in New York,” said Jano Cabrera, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
“Unlike the Democratic convention, where Americans will see a united Democratic Party, the Republicans have a list of speakers who disagree with Bush on practically every social issue,” Mr. Cabrera said.
The DNC spokesman was referring to expected convention speakers that will include California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who are both pro-choice.
But at a luncheon briefing with reporters yesterday, sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Mr. Gillespie said there will be a diverse list of speakers at next month’s Republican convention that will include Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a staunch pro-life advocate.
Other Republican strategists who are here to help Mr. Gillespie respond to the Democrats said they did not think Mr. Kerry would be as successful as Mr. Clinton was in casting himself as a centrist — for one big reason.
“Clinton did not have a voting record, but Kerry does and it’s way out of the political mainstream,” said Bush campaign strategist Ralph Reed.