John Kerry has been slowly dematerializing in the public imagination since his wrap-up of the nomination came into view. He has made some trenchant criticisms of Bush, but he hasn't made any of them stick. He doesn't know how. It's still possible that Kerry and the Dems could put the White House back on the defensive, force them off their game, but they've been losing that battle for a month now and can't afford to keep losing it much longer.
It doesn't mean Bush is home-free. No matter how well you do political campaigns, there is always the faint chance that too many people will already have seen through you. The amazing thing about 2004 is not that a radical, reckless president has the chance to be reelected; the amazing thing is that, in the face of a political establishment and a news media that rarely said boo to George W. Bush, millions and millions of people have his number anyway. Where the people are concerned, therefore, Karl and W are forced to make a dicier bet--against public memory, decency, and self-interest. It isn't clear yet whether terror fears and "wedge" issues like gay marriage, guns, and religion will once again divert sufficient numbers of people from more pressing matters, such as their own livelihoods. Maybe not.