April 30, 2004


Kerry, Bush Campaigns Shadow Each Other (TOM RAUM, 4/30/04, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

When Democrat John Kerry visits a battleground state, he's far from alone.

It's a sure bet that supporters and surrogates of President Bush are already there and ready to talk in public in an effort to steal, or at least divert, the spotlight.

Ahead of Kerry's visit Thursday to Harrisburg, Pa., for instance, state GOP Chairman Alan Novak told residents of central Pennsylvania "to be on the lookout for a flip-flopping presidential candidate from Massachusetts."

It's a political technique known as bracketing. Both parties do it, but the Bush-Cheney team has far more resources at its command - more than $185 million raised for the campaign and the power of incumbency. Recent Democratic fund-raising has started to narrow the gap; but the Republicans still hold a big dollar advantage.

Prominent Republicans are dispatched to appear before and after appearances by the Massachusetts senator. The GOP circulates talking points. Conference calls are arranged with members of Congress and local officials on the day of Kerry's visit. Campaign ads are unveiled. Senior administration and campaign officials suddenly become available for local media interviews. Cabinet members drop in for visits. [...]

Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas political scientist and longtime Bush watcher, said the Bush campaign's tactics began as an attempt to neutralize "Kerry's use of the daily headlines to frame his attacks on the president."

"They are recognizing that they're in a fight, and using rapid response technology," Buchanan said.

Campaign officials actively reach out to local and regional media.

When they spotted remarks by Kerry on oil in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the comments were quickly passed to Bush surrogates in Louisiana and Arkansas, both oil states.

"That black stuff is hurting us," Kerry was quoted as saying, noting links between the burning of fossil fuels and global warning and respiratory diseases.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a leader of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Arkansas, issued a news release accusing Kerry of being "anti-job, anti-oil." Local media picked up the remarks.

"Here's the governor of Arkansas talking about how Kerry's one statement on oil will hurt south Arkansas," said Ark Monroe III of Little Rock, Ark., a former state insurance commissioner and friend of Bill Clinton. "Now, that's effective. It does energize the base and say this guy really can't be trusted. That to me is how thorough they are."

Being the tallest dwarf doesn't make you tall.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2004 11:48 AM

When I saw Kerry's quote that "the black stuff is hurting us," I thought he meant ink.

Posted by: Dave Sheridan at May 1, 2004 1:21 AM
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