Kerry Comes Courtin’

The good news for the John Kerry campaign was how well last week’s rally at Centro Ybor came off. Long, orderly lines snaked down 7th Avenue, around 17th Street and back down 8th Avenue to the security check-in. The Centro Ybor plaza was packed, demographically young and properly animated. So what if many of the faithful didn’t catch the symbolism of “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees blaring in the background. It all looked good on TV, especially that inclusive palette of diverse faces that served as the requisite backdrop prop.

Amid the sea of signage — “Real Deal,” “Bring It On,” “Beat Bush,” “Florida Loves Teresa” and “Weapon of Mass Disinformation” — was a notable number of placards in Spanish, including “Adelante con Kerry” and “Viva El Partido Democrata Siempre.”

After the audience warm-ups by Rep. Jim Davis, Rep. Kendrick Meek and Sen. Bill Nelson, Kerry made it clear that this was no cameo. He spoke, often interactively, for about 45 minutes. He then lingered another 25 minutes working a barricade line all the way into Fresh Mouth for a strawberry milkshake.

In between, he took no rhetorical prisoners. He’s obviously running as the anti-Dukakis. Coming through a primary process where the only significant bashing was of the president, Kerry has by now plenty of well-honed, partisan-pleasing, red-meat lines — including the familiar refrains of “Bring it on” and “Mission accomplished” parody.

His boilerplate stump speech routinely references:

*”Playing dress-up on an aircraft carrier.”

*”A ‘bait-and-switch’ war.”

*”Only go to war because we HAVE to, not because we WANT to.”

*”The one person in America who deserves to be laid off is George W. Bush.”

*”Protect Social Security, not privatize it.”

*”Benedict Arnold CEO’s.”

*”Tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

*”An attorney general who is NOT John Ashcroft.”

And more.

The bad news is that this is only March. The presidential thrust-parry-and-deride show will be playing as a continuous loop for another eight months.

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