It’s come to this for Mitt Romney: As the public chastisements from his own party pile up, his best, and maybe only, source of inspiration left can be found in the story of a Democrat that Republicans love to hate.
That would be John Kerry, who eight years ago to the day found himself in political hole rather similar to the one Romney now faces – and who managed to climb out of it and nearly win the election.
In a way, the 2004 race was a mirror image of this one. George W. Bush’s approval rating was low enough to make him vulnerable to a challenge, but not so low that defeat was automatic. It was the kind of race in which campaign events actually mattered, and the trajectorywasn’t that different from this year’s. For much of the summer, the race was about even, with Kerry generally enjoying a slight polling edge – although he failed to generate a meaningful bounce from his party’s July convention. Then, Republicans staged a successful convention in New York, one that leaned heavily on 9/11 and featured savage but effective attacks on Kerry, and Bush opened a clear lead that persisted for weeks.
Just as the post-Labor Day conversation this year has been dominated by Romney’s woes, September ’04 was a brutal month for Kerry. Polls generally showed him running six to eight points behind Bush, and panic and despair began to set in among Democrats, and to spill into the media’s coverage.