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Berry On Kerry

Berry On KerryAccording to Tufts expert Jeffrey Berry, presidential candidate John Kerry must better define his character if he wishes to win the Democratic nomination. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.21.03] As the Democratic presidential primaries draw near, many say Massachusetts Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign is losing steam. Already trailing Howard Dean in polls conducted earlier this year, Kerry appears to be falling further behind following the recent entry of General Wesley Clark into the crowded race. According to a Tufts political science expert, it is crucial that Kerry define his character in this campaign before his face is lost in the crowd.

"John Kerry's campaign is in a certain amount of trouble," Jeffrey Berry, Tufts professor of political science, told The Boston Herald. "He's had a lot of trouble finding his voice and he's had difficulty distinguishing himself from the rest of the pack."

The Tufts expert said that in the extremely competitive field of nine candidates, the Massachusetts Senator has done little to separate himself from his fellow candidates.

"He has failed to create an impression of what John Kerry stands for," Berry told the Herald. "It's a very muddy message. [For example,] he's had a foot in two different camps on the Iraq war."

While Kerry used to be able to distinguish himself as the only combat veteran running among the Democratic ranks, the entry of Clark -- the former NATO commander -- has stripped him of this novelty.

"Clark complicates things for him," Berry told the Herald. But Clark's candidacy isn't the only factor.

For months, Kerry's campaign has been dealing with the issue of his public image - often characterized by analysts as rigid and distant. This past summer, the Senator shed a tear at a press conference while listening to the hardships of a woman - an act some analysts viewed as an attempt to counterbalance his stolid image.

As Berry told USA Today, the crying incident didn't transform Kerry into "a sensitive New Age male," but the Tufts expert predicted it would likely "soften his image."

But Kerry still has quite a battle ahead of him.

"Despite his fast start, Kerry faces a steep, uphill struggle for the White House. Kerry will likely face an all-or-nothing primary in New Hampshire, and should he go on to win the Democratic nomination, the Electoral College works against his chances for victory in 2004," Berry said.

While the Senator faces a challenging race, he shouldn't be counted out just yet.

"The good news for Kerry is that he has impressed fellow Democrats with his sharp criticism of President Bush over the past year," Berry said. "This has burnished his image as a strong campaigner, one who will stand up to the aggressive fight that is sure to be waged by the White House in 2004."

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