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Too unconventional

WE'RE HAPPY to see that John Kerry is playing to win. But his latest proposed gambit -- postponing official acceptance of his party's nomination in order to maximize access to campaign cash -- smacks too much of gamesmanship to be worth the strategic gain. Kerry ought to stick to the script and accept his party's nomination at the Democratic National Convention in late July.

Kerry is considering a deferred acceptance to avoid a Federal Election Commission rule that would force him to switch from primary campaign fund-raising to the more restrictive general election fund-raising once he is the official nominee. Republicans, who will not nominate President Bush for reelection until early September, can continue raising and spending money for five extra weeks without having to tap the $75 million in federal matching funds provided to each campaign.

The Federal Election Commission needs to change the regulation and give each party access to the federal funds on the same day, and it should move fast enough to affect this campaign cycle. The rule gives unfair edge to the incumbent party, Democrat or Republican, which by tradition holds its convention later.

Still, the Democrats knew the field wouldn't be level when they chose their convention date. They had already received one break from the FEC when it decided not to challenge the so-called 527 committees that have rushed to fill the vacuum created by the McCain-Feingold soft money ban, raising cash that is now off-limits to the political parties. So far, the 527 groups have tended to favor Democrats.

Also, even though everyone knows that conventions have become staged events with little real drama, the nominee usually gets a lift in standing from a week of being bathed in favorable publicity. That may be worth more to Kerry than gold, and he could forfeit it if the convention is seen as an empty gesture.

Boston has a special interest in whether Kerry's nomination party is fair or faux. The migraine of inconvenience residents will endure deserves some payoff. A convention about nothing is a Seinfeld episode, not the launch of a winning presidential campaign.

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