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Security Politics: Kerry's Bad Joke

The Washington Post: "GOP officials have tried to make the elections not a referendum on President Bush but a choice between two parties with competing visions over taxes, terrorism and Iraq, but they have struggled to find a symbol for Democrats. Kerry's comments have allowed Republicans to make him again the face of his party and cast 2006 as a rerun of Bush vs. Kerry."

The New York Times says, "National leaders calculated that the comments would probably not affect the elections. But Mr. Kerry's sudden center-stage appearance in the last days of the campaign revived grumblings about his putting his own political future ahead of the party's."  

Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg writes that "the die is cast, and at this point, even Kerry can't cost his party control of the House.  But the louder he complains about the president, and the more names he calls White House aides, the more he could energize Republicans, which would help the GOP hold another seat or two."

Senate contenders Harold Ford of Tennessee and Jim Webb of Virginia, along with Sens. Hillary Clinton and Bob Menendez, were among the Democrats who distanced themselves from Kerry yesterday. 

Per the Boston Globe, Kerry has also cancelled a campaign event in New Hampshire for congressional candidate Paul Hodes (D). And Kerry aides add the he "has not decided whether he will attend campaign events in Massachusetts before the election."

The Los Angeles Times says the gaffe "could hardly have come at a worse time for Kerry, who has been rebuilding his national campaign structure and hoping to capitalize on the goodwill he amassed by raising more than $12 million for 2006 candidates and campaigning in 35 states." In addition, "Democrats worry Kerry's words have made party candidates vulnerable to accusations of insensitivity toward troops in the final week of a campaign in which Democrats seemed to be benefiting from voters' unhappiness with the Iraq war." 

The Wall Street Journal observes, "Democrats see this election -- and 2008, to an even greater degree -- as pivotal to their bid to take on a tougher, but also wiser, foreign-policy husk. Some propose implementing tougher port and border security. Some key voices are also promoting a softer line toward North Korea and Iran, including the need for one-on-one talks. Yet the challenge the Democrats face is how to take on an image of steeliness while also pushing, as most in the party now are, to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible." Channeling First Read, the story notes that "Kerry's gaffe... shows how vulnerable Democrats remain on the issue."