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Jewish World Review May 25, 2004 / 5 Sivan, 5764

Roger Simon

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Unconventional | John Kerry is floating the idea that he will go to the Democratic convention in Boston at the end of July, but will not accept the nomination so he can have an extra month or so to spend money on campaign commercials and avoid federal spending limits.

Let me say right now, I do not believe this will ever happen because some ideas are just too dumb even for politics.

Let me count the ways this idea is too dumb:

1. If Kerry does not accept the nomination at his convention, how will he get anybody to watch it? The damn things are dull enough, but a convention without the presidential candidate accepting? Who would tune in to watch such a thing? And by giving up their audience, the Democrats will give up tons of free publicity.

And even among Democratic party stalwarts, how many will want to go to Boston in late July to experience traffic jams and security delays without the pay-off of an acceptance speech to boost their spirits and rally them for the fall campaign to come?

And where does this leave the vice presidential candidate? Does he or she also delay accepting the nomination? And give up one of the biggest viewing audiences he or she may ever get?

2. According to one expert, Kerry can expect a 14-point bounce in the polls following his convention. If that sounds too high remember that Michael Dukakis left his convention in 1988 some 17 percentage points ahead of George H.W. Bush (and then Dukakis squandered that lead by going back to Boston and playing governor, the only job he ever really wanted.)

In other words, by refusing to accept the nomination, Kerry risks giving up a huge poll bounce and all the psychological advantages that go with it.

3. And what does Kerry get in return? He gets to spend millions of more dollars on TV commercials…in August. August! Watch a lot of political commercials in August do you? In fact, let me ask a more basic question: Do you ever watch political commercials?

Campaign gurus believe in TV commercials even more than they believe in their own candidates for two reasons: First, commercials are totally controllable. When candidates are left to their own devices and give speeches, hold town hall meetings, conduct press conferences or engage in debates, anything can happen.

But you can control each frame of a commercial. You choose the words, the pictures, the music, the background, the mood, etc. Why risk having the candidate go out and screw things up, when you can just run several million dollars worth of ads that are perfectly honed to your specific (and usually very dull) message?

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Second, and this is even less pleasant, a variety of people on campaigns make their money from the commercial ad buys. They get a percentage of the money that is spent on putting the commercials on the air and this can mean millions of dollars for them. This is a bad system, which encourages the over-buying of ads, few of which are ever really watched by actual human beings.

4. If Kerry does not give his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, how will he get anybody to watch him when he does give it? There are only two moments before Election Day when large numbers of people actually focus on the presidential campaign: the conventions and the debates.

I don't care if Kerry gives his acceptance speech naked in the middle of Fenway Park in September, he will never get the audience he would have gotten at the convention in July.

The Kerry campaign wizards tried to get cute once before: They had Kerry make his presidential announcement speech in South Carolina (pretty far from his home state of Massachusetts) in front of an aircraft carrier. Kerry went on to lose South Carolina — one of the few primary states he did lose — by 15 percentage points.

5. In talking to many voters over the last year, I have never heard a single one say they wanted more political maneuvering from the candidates. I have heard many say they wanted to hear a little inspiration.

So which is John Kerry prepared to deliver in July?

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