In Sun Tzuâ€™s system, â€œsurpriseâ€ is the key to momentum. Winning consistently doesnâ€™t create momentum. A surprisingly close loss, for example, Edwardâ€™s close challenge of Kerry in Wisconsin, can change momentum because it is unexpected. Even though Kerry technically won the Wisconsin primary, Edwards has, at least for the moment, won back the momentum in the election. With two weeks until Super Tuesday, he has the opportunity mount a serious challenge. This is especially true with Dean dropping out. Remember, more people have voted against Kerry than for him in all but two states thus far. Normally, most Dean supporters would go to Kerry as the front-runner, but the shift in momentum changes that. Next week will be the key. If Edwards can get an upset win in Hawaii, Idaho, or Utah, he will create a ground swell going into Super Tuesday.
Edwards didnâ€™t create the opportunity to win. As Sun Tzu teaches, Kerry had to create it for him. In the past week, Kerry has a series of slight â€œmiscuesâ€ that were enough to leave an opening. Kerryâ€™s performance in the Wisconsin debate was terrible, stiff and pompous, contradicting himself in subsequent sentences, and, fatally, at one point rudely interrupting a Edwards speech. He becomes more Gore-like at every turn. Prior to that, we say his humorless and ham-handed handling (alliteration!) of the Republican attack on his hypocrisy as the leading acceptor of special interest money and his abrupt and dismissive non-response to Imus on rumors about an affair. Both were great opportunities to show a little grace and humor. He missed both. Instead, more and more people are getting a sense that the real John Kerry isnâ€™t a guy they would want to spend much time with, certainly not four years.