Does Karl Rove have one ﬁnal smear up his sleeve that could sink John Kerry? Venerated Republican hit man Roger Stone, who’s not working for Bush (but who supports him), doesn’t think so. “There is no October surprise,” he says, dismissing that as “paranoia on the part of Democrats.”
Stone believes the initial Bush strategy was simple—but flawed: Take out Kerry in the spring by painting him as a Michael Dukakis–style liberal. “We’ve never had an ad buy that big and that negative, so the White House was astounded when the $58 million campaign didn’t work.” In its wake came the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. “It slowed Kerry down, but it did not kill him.” In mid-October, the Swift Boaters will try again, with new ad buys—they still have about $7 million to spend—and what’s billed as a major announcement. But Stone has his doubts: “We’re Swift Boated out.”
Which leaves a much-rumored Plan C: digging up something smear-worthy in the Mozambique family history of Teresa Heinz Kerry. Stone’s unimpressed. “She’s not running,” he says.
Stone thinks it’s going to be close. Ominously—as someone who worked on the Florida recount—he adds, “Just as close as Bush and Gore.”