Monday, August 02, 2004

The Dead-Cat Bounce is Hurting Kerry

Ned Barnett
© 2004

Here's something that (at this writing) has so far has stayed off the media's radar.

Today, August 2, 2004, we've seen the first real evidence that the Democratic Convention's dead-cat bounce is hurting Kerry. Without making any announcements of a change of plans, the dynamic duo of Kerry and Edwards quietly scrapped their joint bus-tour of the United States.

As announced on July 29th (and begun on the 30th, right after the Convention), Kerry and Edwards were going to travel together from coast to coast in a 3,500-mile trek through 21 states. This bus tour was modeled after the Clinton-Gore bus tour after their convention triumph. And it seemed to make sense - polling shows that Kerry plays better with Edwards by his side - Edwards lights up the room, something Kerry's somber demeanor makes difficult.

Of course, the Kerry-Edwards planners knew they could reach more people in more states if the two candidates traveled separately, but the benefits of a two-fer tour seemed to outweigh the benefits of sheer numbers. In planning for the immediate post-convention rush to the ballot box, Kerry's planners clearly thought that the Convention bounce would give them a cushion that would enable them to safely travel together in a journey that would run for more than two weeks - grabbing press coverage away from President Bush in the days before the RNC convention.


The dead-cat bounce they got out of the Convention meant that Kerry and Edwards didn't have the cushion they were counting on - and while they're careful not to admit this strategy mistake, Edwards was today campaigning, on his own, in Miami - Kerry stayed with the bus tour, pretending as if nothing has changed.

But if you read the press coverage of the tour's beginning - just last Friday (scroll below for a representative sample of just-starting tour press coverage) - you'll see that they were planning on a two-week joint tour ... and that as soon as the post-convention poll numbers came in, they realized that this was no longer viable. The media doesn't seem to have picked up on this - yet - but anybody watching the campaign can easily connect the dots.

San Jose Mercury News/Knight Ridder - Posted on Fri, Jul. 30, 2004

Kerry, Edwards start post-convention bus tour

by James Kuhnhenn and Thomas Fitzgerald
Knight Ridder Newspapers|Ned|N&is_rd=Y

BOSTON ­ Under sunny skies and with Bunker Hill rising behind them, John Kerry and John Edwards declared themselves the heralds of hope and optimism Friday as they launched their post-convention coast-to-coast journey through the most politically contested states in the country.

Against a tableau of party harmony and family unity, the two Democrats appeared at an early morning rally with several hundred backers before roaring out of Boston in a 10-bus caravan bound, ultimately, for Seattle.

Kerry strategists hope the 3,500-mile trek through 21 states will extend the enthusiasm from the Democratic convention and reach out to a smaller-than-normal group of undecided voters.

Kerry, who is running as a security and defense minded Democrat, used Boston’s Revolutionary War landmarks as a backdrop to kick off the two-week tour and take a jab at President’s Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq.

“This is where America was shaped,” he said. “These are the places where people dared to stand up and put their lives on the line to take a risk for something that they believed in very deeply.

“One if by land, two if by sea and the message was right,” he continued. “Come to think of it, they had better intelligence back then that we do today about what’s going on.”

Kerry and Edwards showed up looking surprisingly refreshed after a late night of revelry that followed Kerry’s 45-minute speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination. The two men, wearing open collared shirts and identical blue blazers, were joined on the stage by their wives, sons and daughters as well as Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and actor Ben Affleck.

Edwards, invoking the image of Boston’s Fenway Park and its famously imposing left field wall, declared that Kerry’s address the night before was a “homerun.” “It cleared the Green Monster, sailed past the Citgo sign and is headed for the White House!” he said The campaign had reason to be pleased. Democratic delegates displayed remarkable unity during the four-day convention, despite deep-seated differences over how to proceed in Iraq. The campaign also announced that in two days at the height of the convention Kerry raised $8.9 million over the Internet, shattering their previous records.

The two men then traveled the first leg of the trip ­ Boston to Scranton, Pa., -- in the procession’s lead bus. Five buses were assigned to the campaign ­ one for each candidates, one for both families and two for aides and advisers. Media covering the campaign trailed in five more buses.

The entourage rolled into Pennsylvania, with 21 electoral votes the fifth largest prize in the election and one that both sides have designated a battleground. An average of recent public-opinion polls shows Kerry with a 5 to 7 point lead in the state.

Scranton, the state's third largest city in the heart of the anthracite coal region, forms an important part of the Democratic base in the state. Harrisburg is a Democratic island in the GOP-leaning central heartland, a splash of blue amid a sea of red.

Jennifer Donahue, researcher for the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, said that Pennsylvania has been pushed into the likely Kerry column by a trifecta of negative economic trends.

The main factor pushing the state into the likely Kerry column, she believes, is that the major economic trends are negative.

"Wages, inflation and unemployment have all worsened in Pennsylvania since 2000, and that's a deadly combination," Donahue said. She said that the rate of wage growth has been the most reliable predictor of the vote in the past five presidential elections.

"I think Bush faces an uphill battle in Pennsylvania," Donahue said.

But pollster Terry Madonna, of Lancaster's Franklin and Marshall College, said that the state is still very much up for grabs because Kerry must prove to voters in the suburban swing areas around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that he can be trusted with national security.

While Kerry is expected to continue pushing his national defense credentials, citing his service in Vietnam and his foreign policy work in the Senate, pocketbook issues will likely begin to dominate the campaign as well.

Polls show that the economy still ranks high, if not as the top concern of American voters. A poll by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey found that among voters who said they could still be swayed only 22 percent believed the economy was good or excellent, significantly fewer than those who had firm positions on who they would vote for.

“Jobs are still a major concern for Missourians and others in the battleground states,” said Ken Warren, a political scientist at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo. “The problem is that Missourians who lost jobs and then regained them have regained jobs that are paying 30 percent less.”

But Kerry’s support is soft, Warren said, and is based primarily on antipathy to Bush. That means Kerry still needs to make a sale with so-called “persuadable voters,” to win over Bush’s less than solid backers and hold on to his own.

About Ned Barnett:

Ned Barnett, the owner of Barnett Marketing Communications (, is a 32-year veteran of high-stakes crisis-management public relations, and is a frequent “source” for print and broadcast journalists. Barnett has advised many corporate and personal clients on effective crisis relations – often stopping a crisis in its tracks, even before it gets started.

As a political consultant and speechwriter, Barnett has worked for candidates and officials from both parties, as well as for public interest advocacy groups in areas involving the economy, the environment and healthcare. As a historian, Barnett is widely published in military history magazines, and has appeared a number of times on the History Channel, discussing military technology.

Barnett has taught PR at two state universities, and has written nine published books on public relations, marketing and advertising. He’s earned PRSA’s coveted Silver Anvil, two ADDYs and four consecutive MacEacherns; in 1978, he was the youngest (to that time) person to earn accreditation from PRSA, and in 1984, he became the first person to earn a Fellowship in PR from the American Hospital Association. But mostly, Barnett provides PR counsel to a range of corporations, authors and advocacy groups.

© 2004 – Ned Barnett
Barnett Marketing Communications