Stage One Is Over
The first stage was the incumbent evaluation phase in which the voters took a closer look at Bush's performance. During that time Bush's ratings have dropped over 20 points across the board. Yet the polling numbers for Kerry vs. Bush have hardly budged. That's because most people weren't paying attention to Kerry. Stage
One was all about Bush.
Stage Two will be all about Kerry and Kerry is in about as good a position as we could hope for going into this stage. He has survived a $80+ million negative ad blitz with only marginal impact on his favorability ratings (apparently the "flip/flopper" label isn't sticking). Now is the time for the Democrats to turn on the heat, not against Bush (that is so stage 1), but for Kerry. We have to make the case that Kerry is not just an acceptable alternative to Bush. We have to make the case that he is a fantastic alternative to Bush.
In a couple of months we will head into the final stage of the campaign. This will be where the voters evaluate their previous evaluations and do their first head-to-head comparisons of the two candidates. The debates will be key.
But that's the future. For now it is stage 2 all the way baby!
(The DailyKos has a report on a pre-convention bounce for Kerry.)