The Debates: Kerry did a fine job in all three debates winning them 3-0. Until these debates he was relatively unknown. But in these debates he came across as a very knowledgeable on policy issues (on par with Bill Clinton) without the arrogance and over-confidence portrayed by Al Gore. He also showed his lighter side and sense of humor in answering the question about what he had learned from his wife and daughters. Last but not the least he showed that he was a very shrewd politician at heart when he dragged Cheney’ s daughters name into one of his answers.
The Campaign: Despite all the talk about lacking charisma, Kerry did all the right things to run a very inclusive campaign. The important thing was that pretty much everyone in the democratic party was on-board the campaign. Unlike Gore, he took all the help he could from Clinton and signed on as many of Clinton former team as possible. Besides, he ran a campaign that was relatively scandal free (no serious revelation barring the failed swift boat campaign), with no special surprises.
The VP Candidate: Though I think Kerry didn’t really care a whole lot for Edwards, he did the smart thing by selecting John Edwards as his running mate. For whatever its worth, Edwards managed to energize the party base after Dean screamed himself out of steam. There was no chance of Edwards stealing Kerry’s limelight given his relative inexperience. In short, as a team they served each others purpose.
Newspaper endorsements: Kerry landed a number of key newspaper endorsements (not sure how much of an influence these are) like the NYT, Washington Post, Economist, Financial Times etc.
External Support: Michael Moore, and the rest of Hollywood had made a very visible plea to the voters to dump Bush. Again, its hard to measure the impact of that, but it was definitely something that benefited Kerry more than hurt him. To his credit he did a fine job of tapping this support to energize the voters bringing in the actors, singers and other entertainers at the right time to draw the crowds.
Young, first time voters: The amount of money raised online, the number of student volunteers, and the overall presence online was far stronger for the democratic party than the Republicans. John Kerry did a fine job of tapping into the online momentum that the Dean campaign had put in place.
Anti-Bush: There has been an incredible anti-Bush wave in the US and across the globe that one can’t but notice. Several people overseas were hoping that Bush would loose the elections. There were no shortage of people who felt “anybody but Bush”. All these voters will most likely vote in favor of Kerry. While he might not have done anything to win them, I think he made sure he didn’t do anything to loose them!
Lastly, I think Bush and his team have chosen to operate too far to the right all through his first term. Having lived here for over a decade I think the majority of US citizens are uncomfortable with such extreme positions and are more accommodating and moderate. The best proof of this are the results in an election with an all time high turnout.
All in all, I think John Kerry will become President by a comfortable margin.