Josh Marshal also discusses his thoughts on how Kerry has run his campaign so far and seems to come down on this issue in much the same way I have: Kerry, whether by design or accident, is playing it just about right.
The most salient fact about the contemporary American political landscape is its profound political polarization. And that is almost the last thing the president has going for him. There are forty-plus percent of the electorate on both sides that will stick with their candidate, and fight for him, simply because he opposes the other side. I think that that's one of the few things keeping the president's approval ratings as high as they are.
Further injecting partisan political sensibilities into this current moment will, I think, steady the president and perhaps even help him in his current state.
I think Josh is on to something important here. It's often said that, when an opponent is going down, don't get in the way of his fall. But there is even more going on here then just letting Bush self-immolate. As Josh points out, the only thing sustaining Dubya right now is the severe partisan split in this country. Bush's approval ratings are approaching the low 40s, which is pretty much his solid base numbers.
Now, as the situation in Iraq continues to fall apart and Bush looks more and more like the flounderer in chief that he is, that base will become more and more demoralized. As Bush falls he will bring some of them down with him, and Bush's approval ratings could plumett into the 30s!
But, if Kerry were to go after Bush hard, his base would come to Dubya's defense, they'd rally around their leader, and become even stronger partisans for their man.
So, by holding off, Kerry is essentially giving Bush supporters time to reconsider their options while they still can.
At this point, barring major changes in the world situation, Kerry is in charge of the pace of the campaign. It his choice to make when to finally make his move. The more he can keep the Bushies sweating about when that will be, the better.