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Kerry Must Go With His Gut if He’s Going to Come Out on Top

Politics, like anything else, is about risk management. If you are too bold, too different or simply too loud, you risk alienating voters (just ask Howard Dean). But if you are too timid, too equivocating, or afraid to listen to your own gut, then you have to rely on the instincts of others. [IMGCAP(1)]

It’s time Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) listens to his gut and asks the American people if they are ready for change. I believe they are prepared for a fresh start.

Despite the barrage of daily and weekly polls, there is still time for the Democrats’ presidential nominee to reclaim momentum once the dust settles from the Republican National Convention. Kerry’s message should be reduced to less than a dozen words: “I am ready to lead America in a better direction.” A better direction in fighting the war on terrorism. A better direction on creating good-paying jobs, with benefits. A better direction in providing health care to all and leaving no child behind.

Democrats can still win this presidential election and take back control of Congress for one reason: The truth is on our side. The war in Iraq — its planning, execution and management — is a disaster. Vice President Cheney and President Bush dismiss with sarcasm the idea that going into Iraq made America less safe, despite the anger it created in the Muslim world and the critical ideological ammo it gave to Osama bin Laden.

The Abu Ghraib prison abuse alone created thousands of new recruits for Al Qaeda and the Islamic extremists who hate America. Even players on the Iraqi soccer team, whom the president tried to exploit for political gain, are passionate in their disdain for the current administration. The Pew Research Center recently found that hatred of the United States is on the rise throughout Islamic countries. Yet the administration still has the audacity to claim that it is Kerry who does not understand the true nature of our enemy. The few allies we have left — including Great Britain and Pakistan — may not be our allies much longer if majorities in those countries have their say.

For the American people, most of whom lack the trust funds and stock options of the current administration, the economy is simply broken. Tax cuts for the rich have resulted in huge deficits that threaten our long-term economic health, and over the past three years real income has fallen by nearly $1,500 per household, 5 million more Americans are uninsured, and millions of new Americans find themselves living in poverty.

We can win this election because the truth is on our side. But we must act like it.

With the election now nearing the critical final stage, Kerry must quickly reinvigorate his campaign with passion, boldness and clarity before time runs out.

Kerry, in great danger of allowing Bush to define him with such weak and illogical arguments, must be more pro-active during the final stretch. Bush’s only hope is to distract voters from his own record. Kerry can’t let that happen.

After witnessing Republicans up close and at times extremely personal while attending their convention, I know how desperate they are in trying to make Kerry unacceptable to voters. If truth were told, they did the same to former Vice President Al Gore. They did it to Democratic Congressional candidates in 2002 and they’ll continue to demonize Democrats until we get smart enough to call them on the carpet.

But, this election is far from over. In fact, we’re about to enter the best part of the presidential campaign season, when voters start tuning in and the choices become clearer. If diehard Democrats still believe in the fight we are waging, than we have to hit the Republicans back harder with the truth and remind voters that under their leadership, this country will never get back on track because they believe they can do no wrong.

The one fact that the inappropriately named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have not disputed is that Kerry was the guy who had the courage to turn his boat around and rescue a fallen soldier. That John Kerry knew that you cannot succeed without a little risk. The middle class and working poor now need him to turn his campaign around so they can have a true leader in the White House next spring.

Kerry has every opportunity to help the American people sort through the evidence and judge it for its credibility and importance. But in order to get there, he must take some risks and go with his gut on battling the GOP.

Donna L. Brazile, the campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000, runs her own grassroots political consulting firm.

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