The Democrats have been having a running debate over the value of consultants. For the last couple of years, Democrats have bought into the "What's Wring With Kansas" theory - that Republicans exploit meaningless wedge issues in order to get average voters to vote against their own best interests. Now they have moved on to a new paradigm - it's all the fault of the consultants.
People who know John Kerry and Al Gore say that they are not the stiffs that they appeared to be when running for president. It was the consultants who re-made them into passionless cyphers, unable to excite the populous. The consultants approved every nuance of the campaigns ("Try it again Al, but this time try to be more wooden.").
Is this any more true than the Kansas theory? The easiest way to tell is to see how the candidates acted before the consultants got to them. Since both Gore and Kerry have long public lives, this is easy.
Let's start with Gore. Most people have forgotten but he first ran for president in the 1980s. He pursued a "southern strategy". He planned to exploit the first Super Tuesday when several Southern states voted at once. Just as Edwards did in 2004, Gore skipped the early northern primaries and caucuses, hoping to capitalize on being the only southerner in the race. Winning Super Tuesday would give him up to a quarter of the delegates and make him the front-runner, allowing him to raise enough funds to finish the race.
It didn't work. His performance on Super Tuesday stank and he dropped out of the race quickly afterward. In fact, his candidacy was over so fast that Doonesbury was running "Prince Al" strips weeks after Gore had dropped out.
This shows that Gore was uninspiring well before he ever met a Clinton consultant.
For Kerry, we can go back even further. Remember the tapes of his speech before the Senate about Viet Nam? He sounded just the same as now - pompous and full of self-importance.
Gore and Kerry have very similar backgrounds. Gore is the son of a senator, Kerry the son of an ambassador. Both went to top schools. Both went into politics fairly early in life using family connections to gain a foothold. This has left its mark on both men. They are smarter and better-educated than the majority of the country (although neither got very high grades in college).
When these men are talking to the nation, they talk down to us. They sound like professors (and not very good ones) giving a lecture. They're not trying to convince us, they are educating us. They may be animated when talking with people they consider their peers but that is a small group.
By contrast, George Bush who came from a similar background didn't enter politics until late in his life. along the way he learned how to relate to regular people which helped him win the elections.
So anyway, this goes along with why Senators are bad candidates. They have long legislative histories and they spend too much time dealing with other politicians.
What the Democrats needs is a better candidate.