Kerry now has 90 days to convince voters that a Bush victory in November would be, as his wife put it in Milwaukee on Monday, "four more years of hell."
The problem is, most Americans don't regard their lives as "hell" or Bush as Satan. The economy, after all, is not really in a Great Depression. In fact, it's doing pretty well. Iraq isn't Vietnam, and won't be unless there's a draft. The Islamic jihad against America isn't Bush's fault, either. A candidate who insists otherwise is bound to strike voters as detached from reality.
Kerry ought to know this, and he may. But his party is dominated, as it was in 1972, by people who talk only to one another and who are convinced that everybody despises Bush. They will judge Kerry by how hard he goes after the Crawford Beelzebub.
Right now the polls look even. But that's an optical illusion. The President has a Republican convention coming up and the power of incumbency to shape events between now and November. In other words, he's way ahead.
I really like the optical illusion argument. I wonder if he has ever heard of a tipping point.