Kerry Plans to 'Beach the Boat' in Swing States

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

New York ( - Shortly after Republicans wrapped up their convention Thursday night, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry kicked off the fall campaign in a fashion reminiscent of his actions in Vietnam, according to one Democrat.

"One of the most compelling aspects of John Kerry's life was the decision he made along with other commanders of Swift boats when they were continually being ambushed traveling down that river," said Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a staunch Kerry supporter.

"You know the story that in fact they beached the boat and they headed right into the ambush site," Vilsack reminded reporters Thursday. "John Kerry's going to turn that boat around and he's going to beach it. We're going to go right to the American people."

The Vietnam analogy was Vilsack's attempt to portray Kerry as a strong leader who wasn't afraid to mount a vigorous defense in the war on terror, a frequent criticism of the Massachusetts senator at this week's Republican National Convention.

Kerry and vice presidential nominee John Edwards held their midnight rally in Springfield, Ohio, shortly after President Bush concluded his remarks to Republican delegates. With Labor Day considered the official kickoff in the presidential race, Kerry got a jump start.

Even though the president followed a similar strategy after the Democratic convention in July, he waited until sunrise the next morning before hitting the campaign trail.

Democrats, however, have played by a new set of rules this week, which might be unprecedented in recent presidential campaigns, according a spokesman for the Democratic response team in New York.

Back in July when Democrats gathered in Boston, the president stayed on his Texas ranch, out of the media spotlight. Both the Bush-Cheney campaign and the Republican National Committee also pulled their television and radio ads.

Democrats, however, began their assault last week and haven't let up since. The Democratic National Committee has run television ads attacking Bush in battleground states. The party has also run 15-second ads in the New York metro area this week.

Even Kerry himself has departed from traditional etiquette. He gave a blistering speech about Bush's policies to the American Legion on Wednesday, although Kerry's campaign said it was scheduled in advance of the Republican convention.

One of the Democrats' goals is to attack Bush's record not only through commercials, but also in television and radio interviews. Just as Republicans hoped to diffuse any "bounce" in the polls for Kerry after his convention, Democrats are trying to do the same for Bush.

E-mail a news tip to Robert B. Bluey.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.