I haven't read Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack," but in it Karl Rove describes that he was more worried about facing Howard Dean than John Kerry, at least when it came to debating the war in Iraq. John Nichols highlights this in a recent article: [LINK]
Noting that Rove believed the war in Iraq was turning into "a potential negative" for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, Woodward wrote, "Previously, Rove had claimed he was salivating at the prospect that the Democrats would nominate former Vermont Governor Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential race. But Dean had imploded and Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, had won 12 of the first 14 Democratic primary contests and it looked like he was headed for the nomination."
What did Rove have to say about this development? "'The good news for us is that Dean is not the nominee,' Rove now argued to an associate in his second floor West Wing office. Dean's unconditional opposition to the Iraq war could have been potent in a face-off with Bush. 'One of Dean's strengths through the primary was he could say, I'm not part of that crowd down there.' But Kerry was very much a part of the Washington crowd, and he had voted in favor of the resolution for war. Rove got out his two-inch-think loose-leaf binder titled 'Bring It On.' It consisted of research into Kerry's 19-year record in the Senate. Most relevant were pages 9-20 of the section on Iraq."
Woodward explained that, "Rove believed they had Kerry pretty cold on voting to give the president a green light for war and then backing off when he didn't like the aftermath or saw a political opportunity. Whatever the case, Rove sounded as if he believed they could inoculate the president on the Iraq war in a campaign with Kerry."
"Rove," Woodward observed, "was gleeful."