Whatever marginal effect the Kerry crack about Bush, lousy study habits and military service might have on the election next week, the one thing I think you can safely assume is that his 2008 prospects are now dead. He had already developed a well-deserved rep for being someone who doesn't think before he speaks (ie., "I voted for it before I voted against it"), and to a Democratic electorate that desperately wants to win next time, the fear that our prospects will be at the mercy of the next time the junior Senator from Massachusetts wants to "crack a joke" will be too much. He had his chance, and considering the inherent advantages the GOP had in the last election, he didn't do that badly, but after today, he stinks of defeat.
And it's not exactly unprecedented, as this column about a former GOP governor with a propensity for making bizarre, off-the-cuff statements attests. Just as no one seriously thinks that John Kerry believes that all American soldiers are morons, no one believed in 1967 that George Romney was "brainwashed" into supporting the Johnson Administration's policies in Vietnam. In the end, it didn't matter.