NEW YORK — Here at the Republican National Convention, you can tell with each passing day just how formidable, disciplined and unabashedly deceptive the Bush campaign will be as it wages political war with John Kerry.
The problem is, as the month of August comes to an end, an old familiar Kerry campaign I’ve seen before has emerged.
As Howard Dean’s campaign manager, I saw a front-running Kerry campaign literally fall asleep in the early months of 2003 because they knew they had the nomination won. Then our little ragtag Dean campaign gathered steam while the Kerry campaign spent nine months walking in its sleep. By the end of the long summer of 2003, the Kerry campaign’s slumber was so pronounced that many thought it dead.
As alarm bells finally woke the Kerry campaign. John Kerry moved his entire campaign to Iowa, and to Kerry and his campaign team’s credit they pulled off an amazing come-from-behind victory and stormed on to gain his party’s nomination.
If only it were that simple now.
Someone has to say it: The Kerry campaign is doing it again. The campaign became so sure of victory over Bush, so confident of a win in November that the old slumbering Kerry campaign of summer 2003 is back like clockwork in August of 2004.
The big difference is that they are not facing the under-funded campaigns of Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, and John Edwards. Nor are they facing the energized but woefully inexperienced campaign of Howard Dean.
They are facing the most monied campaign in history, among the most experienced campaign teams ever, and the most deceptive campaign since Richard Nixon’s.
If the Dukakis campaign of 1988 taught Democrats anything, it should have taught us that you don’t sleep in August. Not against these guys, and not against anyone in this business no matter how formidable the lead. The Kerry campaign should have learned from their close call with the Dean campaign to never sleep walk or fall into the slumber of overconfidence again.
So wake the hell up damn it!
I know something else about the Kerry campaign: I know when John Kerry and his team’s backs are to the wall that no one is better, stronger and more tenacious. They proved that in Iowa when they came back from the dead.
And that is the difference this time as well. The Kerry campaign is no where near dead, the campaign is very much alive. And if instead of sleep walking, we see the Kerry we all saw in Iowa emerge in the next few days and run to daylight in November, he still can win this thing.
I feel like the hotel desk clerk that calls with the 5 a.m. wake up call after you’ve dropped yourself into bed at 2 a.m. It may not be fair (in fact as someone who slept for two hours a night for two years, I know just how unfair that call can be), but I am going to make the call: Come on guys. Wake-up and fight.
Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager, is an MSNBC contributor and a political analyst for "Hardball with Chris Matthews." He's contributes to Hardball's weblog, and is author of "The Revolution Will Not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything."
E-mail the author at JTrippi@MSNBC.com.