A week ago, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie began to go after Kerry, calling him "out of sync" on security issues. The RNC website has long been cataloging information about various Democrats, and has posted multiple documents demonstrating what Republicans see as Kerry's poor legislative record on intelligence and defense.
One veteran political operative, who has amassed a 700-page file on Kerry, cites the senator's votes against major weapons systems in the 1980s and '90s as a point of vulnerability. Kerry also voted against larger intelligence budgets, he says, "which doesn't look good post-9/11." He says Kerry could also face problems over his ties to the telecommunications industry and to various Washington-based lobbying groups. Kerry, with his populist campaign message, bills himself as a champion in the fight against special interests.
Part of the challenge Kerry would face, analysts say, is how to put his entire record in perspective. It would be easy for the Republicans to take Kerry statements and votes out of context, and paint a picture of him that Democrats would find unfair. The Democrats' challenge would be to counter that effectively. By some measures - such as the ranking system of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) - Kerry is among the most liberal members of the Senate. Over the course of his Senate career, Kerry gets a 92 percent rating from the ADA, while Edward Kennedy (D), the senior senator from Massachusetts, has a 90 percent career rating. Kerry can rebut this analysis by noting that he voted for welfare reform, budget caps, education reform, and the 2002 Iraq war resolution.