September 3, 2004


What's next for Bush-Kerry race: Republicans have momentum as campaign moves into final phase. (Brad Knickerbocker, 9/03/04, The Christian Science Monitor)

There were no surprises in the speech, no dramatic announcements of new programs or initiatives. But the address was generally well-reviewed by political observers.

"Bush was confident and presidential," says John Allen Williams, professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. "I think he moved his ball ahead quite a ways."

"The Republicans clearly have the momentum now, and they will try to maintain it with attacks on Sen. Kerry's voting record on defense issues," says Dr. Williams. "Kerry would surely rather talk about economic, environmental, and health[care] issues."

"This race is far from over," political analyst Charlie Cook writes in National Journal this week. "But there is no doubt that Kerry has suffered a loss of momentum."

If the Democratic National Convention, and especially John Kerry's appearance surrounded by his combat "band of brothers," looked back at the Vietnam War, the Republican event focused on the ongoing war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speaking on Bush's behalf was retired Army General Tommy Franks, who led coalition troops in both countries. Bush, he said, "is the leader we can count on to make the tough decisions."

"Because we acted to defend our country, the murderous regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban are history, more than 50 million people have been liberated, and democracy is coming to the broader Middle East," Bush said. "Free governments in the Middle East will fight terrorists instead of harboring them, and that helps us keep the peace."

The next major step between now and voting day will be the presidential debates, which are yet to be negotiated and scheduled.

"Given the underlying attitudes among voters, I think that the debates will be very important this year," says William Lunch, who chairs the political science department at Oregon State University. "If Kerry comes across well, or if Bush is perceived to stumble in the debates, then Bush will be in serious trouble because there is fairly widespread dissatisfaction with him."

Mr. Bush should make such demands of the Kerry Camp--which the appointment of Jim Baker suggests he's prepared to do--that negotiations go poorly and there's no time for three debates, maybe not for any. They're a stupid exercise anyway and one he needn't risk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 3, 2004 8:43 AM

Based on his past history, I think so long as the polls stay close, Bush will stay focused and do well in the debates, as he did with Gore in 2000 and with Ann Richards in 1994. Of course, based on the current actions of the Kerry campaign, that might not be the case by October, and a George W. Bush with a big lead in 1998 came up with an unfocused train wreck of a debate against Garry Mauro (something that didn't cost him due to the absence of the big foot media people to critique all his problems. He wouldn't get the same break this time, since even a good debate effort is likely to get slammed from a number of reporters and pundits).

Posted by: John at September 3, 2004 9:33 AM

But if it adds nothing why bother?

Posted by: oj at September 3, 2004 9:53 AM

He's got to agree to debates. The media and democrats will be all over him if he doesn't -- even if it's obvious that John Kerry is the monkey wrench in the plans.

Nothing can be lost and everything can be gained by having the two candidates in the same room. Bush is infinitely more likeable than JFK.

Posted by: NKR at September 3, 2004 10:04 AM

So what? No one will chaNGE THEIR VOTE BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T GET TO see an extra THREE NIGHTS OF JOHN KERRY. oops...

Posted by: oj at September 3, 2004 10:08 AM

Much as I hate the so-called debates, and especially the format I'm about to suggest, I think Bush should agree to one debate where they get questioned by ordinary Americans. If you think Clinton smoked his father in that Oprahfied mess in '92, wait until you see what Bush does to Kerry today. Put it in some nice swing city and have the pollsters get together to invite the appropriate focus group. Botox Boy's head will explode.

What was amazing about the famous Dukakis capital punishment meltdown was that it was a softball question that anyone with even the merest hint of the common touch should have knocked out of the park. Kerry, who makes Dukakis look like he has the Bill Clinton common touch, will embarass himself under such scrutiny. It is so obvious that he has never spoken to anyone outside of his class and peer group other than to say 'We're ready to order now!'

Posted by: Bart at September 3, 2004 10:43 AM

Do I detect a hint of OJ worrying about the debates? Not infinitely confident in a Bush victory after all?

What I see is that Kerry has run a far, far from optimal campaign, Bush has run an excellent campaign with few mistakes, yet it is still pretty close. A few missteps by Bush and/or Kerry getting his act together could easily swing the election to Kerry.

Posted by: Bret at September 3, 2004 12:22 PM

I favor zero debates because they're worthless. That said, if its mistakes that are the concern, make it two debates. A single debate is risky for an incumbent. A mistake made cannot be rectified in the following debate. Jimmy Carter learned this the hard way in 1980. Force three debates on me and I'll open a vein.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 3, 2004 12:34 PM

Since Kerry won't take q clear position on the war in Iraq, and since so many Americans are apparently opposed to it, Bush should insist that Nader participate so that that position is represented. BTW, I caught a small segment of an interview iwth Nader and some of his complaints about the things Dems have been doing to kep him off ballots sound to me like violations of the voting rights act. Ashcroft should investigate.

Posted by: Dan at September 3, 2004 3:26 PM


Absolutely he should insistr that Nader, who as we all know decided the 2000 election, be included.

Posted by: oj at September 3, 2004 3:45 PM

What happened to George Bush? Something wrong with his mouth? That's one of the worst debates he's ever done--stammering, stuttering, defensive...
What a comparison--steady, calm, confident Kerry vs. little stooping, stammering George. LOL

Posted by: dfgffdg at September 30, 2004 10:03 PM