Sabato's Crystal Ball

Low-Carb Convention Wrap

Matt Smyth, Senior Correspondent July 29th, 2004

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Get Comfortable and Settle in, as Minuteman Becomes Hour-Man

According to a report published in National Journal’s Convention Daily, published each morning this week here in Boston, John Kerry’s Secret Service nickname is “Minuteman,” after the militia members in the Revolutionary War who were charged to be ready at a minute’s notice and who fought in the initial skirmish at Lexington. With his Thursday evening acceptance speech rumored to be in the 50-minute range, it might be time to select a substitute sobriquet.

Kerry entered the Fleet Center after lunch today and took the stage for a brief walk-through and sound check, stopping to shake a few hands from the edge of the platform. When asked about the origins of his acceptance speech, Stephanie Cutter, the communications director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, said, “He began discussing it well over a month ago, and has been working on it ever since.” While he’s had some help from various staffers and speechwriters, Kerry is the one who has been “putting pen to paper”–quite literally it seems, as the Massachusetts Senator apparently still prefers to write out his speeches in longhand.

On the topic of length, Cutter compared Kerry’s speech to previous acceptance speeches by Bill Clinton and Al Gore, whose remarks lasted 66 and 51 minutes, respectively. After leaving the convention hall, Kerry returned to his home in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, where he will make any final preparations before returning this evening.

Press Conferences at 20 Paces

The battle of controlled information continued this week, with dueling press conferences by both parties. The Democrats held theirs at 9:30am in the Back Bay Sheraton, with the GOP going at 10:30am in the Omni Parker House.

The Democratic version was much more of a day-to-day-business press conference. The questions from the members of the media spanned a broad range of topics, with an emphasis on Kerry’s acceptance speech. Democratic National Committee Communications Director Deborah DeShong stated that Kerry would “speak from his heart and tell people exactly what he means by a stronger, more respected America.” She also acknowledged the significance of tonight’s speech, adding that “tonight is an enormous event in the Kerry campaign.”

Also, Democratic National Convention Committee Communications Director Peggy Wilhide called this year’s event “the greenest convention in our history.” She wasn’t referring to the presence of Nader supporters, but rather to the recycling effort that has been going on this week.

The Republican counterpart was more of a choreographed event, with prepared remarks by MA Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, former MA Gov. Bill Weld, Senator John Cornyn from Texas, RNC Chair Ed Gillespie, and former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Lt. Gov. Healey commented that at no point in the Democratic convention, have viewers heard anything “about Senator Kerry’s votes on the issues.” Mayor Giuliani said he was very satisfied to “get an opportunity to set the record straight, because that is exactly what is going to be the difference between our convention and their convention.

During the question and answer period, Governor Weld called Kerry an “international grandmaster of changing the subject,” when asked about the candidate’s television debating skills.

The Expectations Game

As actor-turned-political pundit Ben Affleck aptly noted, tonight’s acceptance speech is the “most important speech of his life,” but when all the chips are on the line, what does John Kerry have to say to “knock it out of the ballpark?”

According to his advisors, the Democratic nominee plans to spend half of his time talking about national security and then tell viewers who he is, and how his positions differ from those of President Bush. Those voters hearing Senator Kerry for the first time tonight may rather hear some more words on the economy and less on terrorism, according to some analysis from Gallup.

While Republicans may be putting almost all of their eggs in the national security basket, Democrats–and more importantly, independents–are more interested in domestic issues. Furthermore, Kerry and Bush test equally among voters as to their abilities to handle the job of commander in chief.

Despite the facts that Kerry has spent more time rewriting his speech than practicing it, and that it will take him 50 minutes to deliver it, there is a boatload of tea’s chance in a colonial Boston harbor that he’ll blow it. This election is still about the incumbent, Bush, and it is still his election to win or lose. If those viewers meeting John Kerry for the first time tonight can say, “yeah, he could be president” the Massachusetts senator will have knocked it out of the ballpark or given the speech of his life, or (insert cliche here).

Don’t take our word for it; here’s what the some of the national news media have to say:

– Peter Jackson, Senior Writer

Prime Time Viewing Guide

7PM:

9PM:

A Virginia Wahoo in John Harvard’s Port

The Crystal Ball has enjoyed its time here in Beantown, and looks forward to covering next month’s Republican Convention in the Big Apple. We would like to offer our sincere thanks to the City of Boston and all those involved in providing a safe and secure event. While the subway–known simply as “the T”–is a cheap and effective way to get around the city, it is also the oldest such system in the United States. Perhaps a monorail might be a good idea; it may not have worked for Ogdenville or North Haverbrook, but it could be worth a shot.