April 23, 2004


Why the Race is Looking so Good for Bush: From 9/11 panel to Kerry's manner, here are 9 reasons (Howard Fineman, 4/22/04, Newsweek)

Sen. John Kerry's spin doctors claim that they haven't lost ground to George Bush in recent weeks, and they are staging what they insist is the "launch" of his general election campaign this week with new TV ads airing and a trip next week to the Midwest. But the fact is that Kerry has lost ground—ground he has to make up if he hopes to win in November. The more interesting question is why? My reasons: [...]

“Resolve.” In politics, you can’t beat something with nothing. Bush has a plan and a vision: His goal is to protect the American homeland by spreading democracy (by military force if necessary) to the cockpit of Islamic fundamentalism. This idea strikes many serious people as naïve and grandiose at best, dangerously imperious and counter-productive at worst. But what, precisely, is the better idea? Kerry certainly hasn’t made that clear. “Winning hearts and minds” sounds nice, but how do you do that these days? Relying on the United Nations sounds good, too, except that the U.N. has little real credibility. Reinventing the CIA clearly is necessary, but it will take America years if not decades to approach the sophistication of the British—and even they are eyeless in Gaza. Polls show that voters still think it was a good idea to go to Iraq, though they think that by an ever-dwindling margin. But they probably won’t abandon that belief—or Bush—until they can clearly see an alternative answer. Indeed, in most important ways, Kerry seems to basically agree with Bush on the goals and current strategies in Iraq. [...]

Tony & Trump. Let’s face it, as a people we tend to like simple answers and strong leaders who propound them. That may be especially true in these, the early years of what is likely to be a long, twilight struggle against terrorism. The “Sopranos” were popular before 9/11, but even more so now. In these parlous times, Tony Soprano is the king of cable, Donald Trump the king of broadcast TV. There is a full-speed-ahead, damn-the-consequences aura to them both. An oversimplification, for sure:  I’m obviously not proposing moral equivalence between a mob boss and the estimable real estate developer. But this is a time, it seems, when we are enamored of harsh methods. “Bring it on!”

Fifty million bucks worth of ads. The Bush campaign has been nothing if not methodical. They laid out their program in February, adapted it to Kerry late that month, and have been playing out the plan since: starting with “positives” about Bush and 9/11 (the controversial “firefighter” ad); then a series on taxes and the economy timed to the approach of Tax Day; now, since April 15, going at Kerry full bore for his vote against the $87 billion funding for the war. [...]

Kerry told financial supporters in New York the other week that his objective, for now, was to “preserve my acceptability.” That’s a pretty low standard—but one he won’t meet if that is his only goal. So far, his strategy has amounted mostly to: Vote for me, I’m not Bush. That’s not enough, especially if Kerry is seen by most voters the way the BC04 ad portrays him: as a flip-flopping manipulative insider.

Mr. Kerry is at least on to something there. He can't win, but he has to remain at least acceptable so that Democrats can turn their attention to the states where they'll lose Senate seats if there's a landslide. Seemingly unwinnable races for the GOP--CA, HI, IN, WI, VT, OR, MD, ND--could come into play if the Kerry campaign is both auguring into the ground and still pumping money into the supposed "battleground" states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 23, 2004 9:38 AM

But if they can't afford a bash in Boston, where is that battleground state cash going to come from?

Posted by: M. Murcek at April 23, 2004 11:24 AM

Indiana is seemingly unwinnable?

Posted by: Bartman at April 23, 2004 11:57 AM

Evan Bayh won't make any of the lists you see, but his dad lost an unlosable seat in the Reagan win of '80.

Posted by: oj at April 23, 2004 12:05 PM

And if I remember right, he lost it to an "idiot" no one gave any odds to - Dan Quayle.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at April 23, 2004 12:28 PM
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