May 7, 2012
Polls show the 2012 presidential race is tightening between President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee, the former one-term governor of Massachusetts.
, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and five-term incumbent senator from the Bay State, may be just the guy to give Obama the upper hand when the presidential debates roll around.
Kerry spoke at the New York Law School in March, giving reporters from Politicker a chance to ask him if he thought Romney was shifting positions toward the center now that it appeared he would be the nominee. With a laugh, Kerry characterized Romney’s essential dilemma in a nutshell: “It’s like 180 degrees night and day difference. It’s just a different Mitt Romney. It’s Mitt Romney versus Mitt Romney.”
Kerry ought to know. As the Democratic nominee in 2004, he earned the label of “flip-flopper,” someone who changes positions more out of convenience than conviction depending on the audience and the political winds of the moment. This flip-flopper label was driven home with the now infamous “I actually voted for the $87 billion (in Iraq War funding) before I voted against it,” which Kerry later acknowledged was one of his “inarticulate moments.”
Romney already has been saddled with the flip-flopper label, and the Obama campaign team will find plenty to hit him with on the flip-flop meme, from abortion rights to health care to immigration. Perhaps no other Democratic politician knows Romney’s tendencies better than Kerry.
Lest we forget, Romney was trounced by liberal legend Sen.in the 1994 U.S. Senate election. Kennedy pulled in about 58 percent of the vote to Romney’s 41 percent. Kerry and Kennedy were close friends, and no doubt the two shared a few conversations on how Teddy won by such a large margin in that race.
Then there’s Kerry’s own election experience. In 1996, Kerry faced an opponent cut from the Romney mold when then-incumbent Gov. William Weld decided to challenge him for his Senate seat. Weld, who became the first Republican governor of Massachusetts in 15 years when he was elected in 1990, later served as the New York state co-campaign chairman for Romney’s failed presidential bid in 2008. Kerry and Weld debated several times, with Kerry prevailing in the November election to the tune of 53 to 46 percent.
Like Romney, Weld was viewed as a moderate Republican during his tenure as Massachusetts governor. Romney, who attempted to emphasize his conservative credentials during the primary season, will be singing a more moderate tone during the General Election campaign. In defeating Weld – who won re-election in 1994 with 71 percent of the vote – Kerry was nonetheless able to paint the sitting governor as someone to the right of the Massachusetts electorate, a strategy that proved to be successful.
Obama will be faced with the same task on a national level in his campaign against Romney, and that’s where Kerry comes in. Don’t be surprised if Kerry actually stands in for Romney in the debate rehearsals this fall. Obama, being the quick study that he is, could pick up something from a “practice round” with Kerry that helps him against Romney in the real debates. Kerry will be a valuable resource for the president this time around, and his expertise on Romney may well help Obama land the decisive verbal punch that secures his re-election.
SOURCES & RESOURCES:
Poll: Obama, Romney neck and neck six months ahead of election, Chicago Tribune, May 7, 2012
Mitt Romney 2012 = John Kerry 2004?, Washington Post, April 11, 2012
‘Massachusetts moderate’ insult has local GOP wincing, Boston Globe, Jan. 10, 2012
Mitt Romney: flip-flopper or not?, Washington Post, Dec. 1, 2011
Kerry’s top ten flip-flops, CBS News, Feb. 11, 2009
United States Senate Election 1996, Wikipedia
William Weld, Wikipedia entry
IMAGE OF JOHN KERRY FROM WIKIPEDIA COMMONS