The Republican Party on Tuesday gained a late burst of energy in its flagging mid-term congressional election campaign following remarks by John Kerry, the losing 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, in which he appeared to denigrate US soldiers serving in Iraq.
Mr Kerry, who is also planning to put his name forward for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, told students in Los Angeles that if “you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
George W. Bush on Tuesday seized on Mr Kerry’s remarks: “The senator’s suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and shameful,” said the US president at an election rally in Georgia. “The men and women who serve in our all-volunteer Armed Forces are plenty smart – senator Kerry owes them an apology.”
John McCain, the leading Republican contender for the 2008 presidential nomination and – like Mr Kerry – a veteran of the Vietnam war, also responded strongly: “The suggestion that only the least educated Americans would agree to serve in the military and fight in Iraq is an insult to every soldier serving in combat.”
Republican strategists, who have been watching helplessly as opinion polls have turned against them in the last six weeks, on Tuesday drew renewed purpose from a gaffe that many believe could help motivate the party’s demoralised supporters to turn out to vote at the polls next Tuesday.