For months, President Bush and John Kerry have been running neck and neck in Presidential preference polls. But for the first time in this campaign, Kerry put the incumbent on the defensive with his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston. Bet on this: The odds of Bush getting re-elected just got longer. And inside the hot, exuberant hall, you could almost sense the sweat forming on the brows of the Bush-Cheney campaign team, which sent out a rapid “response” email as soon as the red, white, and blue balloons started to drop in the Fleet Center.

Kerry “is engaged in an extreme makeover of his out of the mainstream record,” declared Bush-Cheney. Well, a makeover, that’s for sure. The Massachusetts senator did a masterful job of sharpening his profile as a credible alternative to Bush. At the same time, he turned some of the Administration’s best arguments against them. “They say this is the best economy we’ve ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can’t do better,” Kerry declared to thunderous applause.

The Bushies are right that Kerry’s record and agenda are still a tad liberal for the American electorate. The “Help is on the way” mantra that Kerry kept repeating just reminded me of the old line that Ronald Reagan used to mock: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.” And Kerry sounded other threadbare themes that Democrats have been using since the days of FDR—how “there’s nobody in the world the American worker can’t compete against” if there’s a fair playing field on trade, and the time is right for the return of LBJ-style social spending programs.

But with his Viet Nam “band of brothers” behind him, Kerry was at his best blasting the mishandling of the Iraq invasion. “We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and seak their minds and say American do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism: it is the heart and soul of patriotism,” he said.

Expect a 10 point bounce for Kerry. Bush better have a good convention, because he is in trouble.

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