Jewish World Review Jan. 26, 2004 / 3 Shevat, 5764

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Let's hear it for persistence | No matter what happens to John Kerry in the presidential campaign you have to give the guy enormous credit. His tenacious work ethic in Iowa symbolized what makes an American successful: never giving up and working your butt off.

Two weeks ago, Senator Kerry's campaign was dead and ready to be buried; people were throwing dirt on it. Donations were drying up, and Kerry had to refinance his own home to pay his campaign bills. Granted that home is a palatial affair on Boston's Beacon Hill, and his wife is one of the wealthiest women in the world, but still, Kerry had hit rock bottom, politically speaking.

However, like Rocky Balboa, John Kerry kept coming back again and again. He continued punching, and finally, his chief opponent, Howard Dean, went down under the weight of media scrutiny and a prickly temperament. Kerry was left standing tall.

All Americans should learn from this. Nobody, and I mean nobody, thought John Kerry would win Iowa. But he did by sheer determination.

So, what now? Well, here is where the music behind Kerry's victory dance stops. Outside of New England, the senator has some major problems. He is typed as a Massachusetts liberal, and his appearance with Ted Kennedy in Iowa will do nothing to dispel that. While John Edwards is a stranger to the folks in New Hampshire, Kerry is simply strange to many folks south of the Mason-Dixon line and throughout much of the Midwest. Big spending secularists like Kennedy are not real popular with the folks in flyover country. Kerry must define himself to these people without Teddy giving him a big hug. It won't be easy.

President Bush and his man in the shadows, Karl Rove, were not real happy with the Iowa results. They badly want Howard Dean as an opponent, feeling he could set himself on fire (symbolically speaking) at any moment. If he wins the nomination, John Kerry will be a far cagier opponent.

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In his State of the Union Address, the president fired the first volley at Kerry. Mr. Bush will stand behind traditional marriage between a man and a woman, while Kerry represents a state that is trying to redefine the institution to include homosexuals. Kerry will fall back on supporting "civil unions" and not gay marriage, but suspicion will remain, especially if droves of gays start honeymooning on Cape Cod next summer.

Senator Kerry must be very careful about how he goes after Mr. Bush. His "regime change" rant hurt him because the president is perceived in many quarters as protecting Americans against the Al Qaeda Huns. Kerry could diminish the president's military service, but that would be a major mistake, and Kerry, I believe, will not do it. Most Americans do not want that kind of slash and burn campaigning, and the senator is smart enough to know it.

So Kerry must debate policy with an incumbent who has an improving economy and the bully pulpit in his pocket. Very, very tough.

Still, if Kerry is the nominee, the guy will be everywhere. He'll make Richard Simmons look comatose. John Kerry will race around the country and come to your house if he knows the address. He will pound on your door, pry open your window and cook breakfast for you if that what it takes.

This guy wants to be the president of the United States — hide the children.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of, most recently, "Who's Looking Out for You?" Comments by clicking here.

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© 2003 Creators Syndicate