Kerry campaign forced to regroup

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Democrats yesterday said Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign is off track and blamed television ads by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, President Bush’s bounce from the Republican convention, and themselves.

“Mistakes were made,” James Carville, Democratic strategist, said of the campaign’s August operations.

Mr. Kerry “is not satisfied with the state of his campaign” and will retool it this week, Mr. Carville told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“It’s true,” Kerry strategist Tad Devine told “Fox News Sunday.” “Our message could not get through the way we wanted it to in August,” because of the Swift Boat ads.

But the Bush team noted the scale of the task facing Mr. Kerry, who now trails in polls by double-digit margins.

Two polls show that Mr. Bush received a substantial boost from last week’s Republican National Convention. Time magazine, in a poll released Friday, found Mr. Bush up 52 percent to 41 percent over Mr. Kerry. A Newsweek poll, out Saturday, had him up 54 percent to 43 percent. Both polls have a margin of error of four percentage points and were a statistical tie before the convention.

“There’s never been a challenger that has come back after being down double digits after the convention, after their incumbent’s convention. That’s never happened,” Bush strategist Matthew Dowd told “Fox News Sunday.”

The Kerry campaign is banking on a new round of paid television advertisements to catch up to Mr. Bush.

“We’re going to be able talk about issues like jobs and health care and the fact that John Kerry wants to take this nation in a new direction,” Mr. Devine said. “And I think he’s going to win the election because he’s right on the issues and he has a very powerful message.”

The new strategy includes a negative ad accusing Mr. Bush of being insincere on issues affecting senior citizens and raising Medicare premiums, and Kerry-Edwards campaign officials made the Sunday talk show rounds promoting a list of “143 lies and distortions” they say Mr. Bush has made.

“We’ve actually documented it” Mr. Devine said. “The problem with lying to people is that the truth catches up to you. And I think that’s what’s going to happen here. I mean, for example, the president, on Thursday night in his acceptance speech, said we owe a moral obligation to our seniors. And the next day his administration leveled the largest Medicare premium increase in our nation’s history.”

The administration announced late last week that Medicare premiums would go up $12 a month from $66 to $78. The federal government pays 75 percent of Medicare costs, for which Mr. Bush has budgeted $339 billion next year.

Bob Schieffer on CBS’ “Face the Nation” asked Mary Beth Cahill, Mr. Kerry’s campaign manager, to “point out one specific lie” the president has told.

“Well, I mean, I think the major thing that he has talked about is, you know, Senator Kerry and No Child Left Behind, for example. You know, John Kerry supported the president on No Child Left Behind because he wants a better future for this country. And it’s the failure of this president to fund those measures and to make life better for all Americans, you know, that is a real, a major lie,” she said.

“And obviously the president lies about John Kerry’s service, and his allies’ charges against John Kerry are without base. They’re scurrilous, continuously leveled, you know, by the vice president as recently as Wednesday night. These are things that the president continually goes back to, and the American people will reject them,” she said.

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