A 16 page article in the Sunday's Boston Globe called On the Trail of Kerry's Failed Dream details the events that predicated Kerry's loss. Their take, as per CQ cliff notes:
Chapter 1: Bush defines Kerry first, as indecisive.
Bush had learned in his only losing campaign -- a 1978 US House race in West Texas, where he was labeled a liberal Eastern elitist -- that it was political death to let your opponents define you first. So in the ensuing years he had turned that same strategy against his foes. In the case of Kerry, Bush readily agreed to a plan to define the senator as a flip-flopper weak on defense.
...Kerry's own past suggested the dangers of running as an antiwar candidate: As one of them, he suffered a devastating defeat for a US House seat in 1972, the same year President Nixon, despite Vietnam, won by a landslide...
But the Kerry campaign wasn't firing on all cylinders either. The prison scandal, a spike in American casualties in Iraq, and the public investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hurt Bush, but didn't necessarily help Kerry. Still largely unknown outside Massachusetts, the Democratic candidate was having trouble getting his message across.
This might have been an ideal time to hit Bush hard. Instead, the candidate proceeded on a deliberate course, crafted by media adviser Bob Shrum and campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, to raise money, broadcast policy proposals. and advertise Kerry's life story.
Chapter 3: Kerry realizes things are indeed amiss and sort of replaces campaign manager Cahill with Paul Begala, late of Clinton and CNN. Except that Cahill doesn''t much like the idea or markedly cooperate. Strategy really starts to collapse: Edwards is picked, why? Because he really seems to want the gig. Kerry also fumbles by choosing to hype His Vietnam rather than attack Bush's Iraq.
On Thursday, July 29, the last night of the convention, the man whose fame was launched by denunciations of a war stepped onto the podium and gave a military salute. "I'm John Kerry," the candidate told the cheering delegates, "and I'm reporting for duty."
..As for selling Kerry as a viable alternative: Only six lines of his acceptance speech were devoted to his 20 years in the Senate, a fact that his GOP foes loudly broadcast.
Chapter 4: The Slow Bloats hit him again, this time with a book and more ads. Though Kerry wants to strike back, Cahill and other advisors don't want to add fuel to the fire. No prison fiasco saves the day and when he does return the volley, it's already too late.
Epilogue: In spite of his preparing long and hard for the debate, and perhaps even 'winning' Kerry changes neither people's minds nor the facts of his indecisiveness [or alternately, acknowledgement of complexity]: abortion and Catholicism, gay daughter and gay marriage, Vietnam and Iraq. Yes, no, yes and finally No. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
Tell Congress to Investigate the 2004 Election
Questions are swirling around whether the election was conducted honestly or not. We need to know -- was it or wasn't it? If people were wrongly prevented from voting, or if legitimate votes were mis-counted or not counted at all, we need to know so the wrongdoers can be held accountable, and to help prevent this from happening again. Members of Congress are demanding an investigation to answer this question. Join me in supporting their call, at: