How Kerry turned it around

· long story short

The Philadelphia Inquirer has an insider’s not-for-attribution look at the moment when the Kerry campaign hit bottom and then bet it all on Iowa – and won:

The low point of the campaign came on Nov. 10, a cold, rainy Monday in Iowa. The night before, Kerry had fired his campaign manager, Jim Jordan, in a staff shakeup that only reinforced the notion that the wheels were coming off his campaign.

At the end of the day, prompted by the vets to recite a poem, Kerry offered a near-perfect rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s Gunga Din, the story of an Indian water boy who died defending British soldiers.
“Din! Din! Din!” Kerry intoned the last stanza as his bus pulled into Cedar Rapids. “You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din! / Tho’ I’ve belted you an’ flayed you, / By the livin’ Gawd that made you, / You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.”
To some of those listening, Din was Dean, and the last line was an acknowledgment of a bitter political truth.

Kerry dusted off an old speech line that had been overruled when Jordan had pushed it during the earlier campaign quarrels. If Bush wanted to make the election about national security, Kerry boomed: “Bring it on!”

[Pollster Mark] Mellman had studied past campaigns, and he knew that 80 percent of the voters in New Hampshire primaries made their decisions after Jan. 1, many of them in the final days of the campaign. Iowa’s caucuses were Jan. 19; the New Hampshire primary was Jan. 27. Mellman’s polls in Iowa showed Kerry rising, tying Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt for second place and closing in on Dean.
“The fire lit by [Iowa’s] caucuses will have huge repercussions for our campaign,” he wrote in a memo for the meeting.

Kerry shortened his stump speech to a tight 10 to 15 minutes and, at every stop, he opened the floor to questions and urged voters to “grill” him. The sessions ran long as he tried to accommodate every query. It wrecked his schedule. Time and again he was forced to apologize for a late arrival. Then he’d stay and answer every question again.

“Sure it was a risk,” Kerry said last week, reflecting on the Iowa strategy. But in a bit of post-election bravado, he added: “I never worried.”

I know it’s all very recent history and we just watched it unfold, but it’s interesting to get this glimpse from inside the campaign.

[via Eschaton]