September 17, 2004


Buoyed by polls, Bush shows new confidence (Judy Keen, 9/17/04, USA TODAY)

[S]ome are already talking about strategy for the congressional elections in 2006. Presidents' parties usually lose ground in such midterm elections.

Brad Coker, who works for the non-partisan Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, said that sort of musing is a dangerous sign. "If they get too cocky, they could get themselves into trouble," he said. "They need to resist the temptation to start celebrating early."

Bush isn't celebrating, but he's reveling in his daily interactions with voters — even though the people who attend his campaign rallies are supporters who must have tickets. "I like to get out amongst the people and tell them where I stand, what I believe," he said at another baseball park here.

When he uses a lectern, he grips its sides with both hands, leaning forward to emphasize his comments. When he roams a stage with a handheld microphone, he pivots to make eye contact with people on all sides. He's disarming and charming. Coaxing participants in a panel on health care in Blaine, Bush said, "Ready to crank it up? All right, let's go."

After panelist Jerry Markie, 71, explained that he's saving $4,200 a year by using a Medicare discount card for prescriptions, Bush asked him, "You can use that, can't you?"

"You betcha," Markie said.

"Take mom out to dinner more frequently," Bush advised.

"More than once," Markie said.

Bush was peppy when he popped into the Brick House Deli in Anoka, mugged for cameras with owner Angel Howell's 8-month-old daughter, Kate Lynn, and ordered an egg salad sandwich. "Fire one up," he said. He settled for chicken salad when he was told egg salad wasn't on the menu.

"You can see confidence in Bush's face," says Republican strategist Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's presidential campaign in 1996. "So much of the mood of a campaign is set by the candidate."

While the Kerry campaign has come to resemble the Bataan Death March, the President seems like the guy who gets to dot the "i" in "Ohio" at a Buckeye halftime show.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 17, 2004 10:11 AM

I think he has always been pretty confident.

Posted by: pchuck at September 17, 2004 10:22 AM

The concern on the blogs has shifted from can Bush win to Bush becoming cocky and letting this slip away at the last minute like 2000. Hopefully the GOP has learned its lesson and the need to bring along as many Senators and House members as possible will keep them fighting hard until 11:00 p.m. PST on 11/2.

Posted by: AWW at September 17, 2004 10:48 AM

I don't think they will get cocky, and Bush understands he needs to build bigger majorities in congress.

Think of all the political risks he took in 2002 to get the undercards elected. Result: Unprecedented improvement in an off-year election for majority party.

Posted by: AML at September 17, 2004 11:29 AM

He needs to help Thune & Nethercutt in SD and WA. He also needs to go to SC, LA, NC, FL, WI and all those other states where senate seats are totally doable. He needs to send Arnold, McCain and Rudy G. to some of those states.

The Democrats are going to go to the polls in droves, especially the urban black vote. They consistently get to the polls on election day. The GOP shouldn't assume that voter turnout will be low for the D's because Kerry is such a dolt.

Posted by: pchuck at September 17, 2004 11:44 AM

Kerry should try Dole's strategy of falling off the stage in an effort to get the sympathy vote.

Posted by: h-man at September 17, 2004 11:55 AM


As I understand it, Rove's been spending money like water to build the on the ground organization. They had at one point 980,000 volunteers signed up and ready to go.

The other problem for Kerry is, as noted, the attitude of the top guy sets a lot of tone for the staff. I've seen disintegrating staff on failing projects before and it's easy to get into a degenerative cycle where bad attitude lowers job performance which creates more bad attitude.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 17, 2004 12:25 PM

pchuck: I expect the dead to vote Dem in record numbers this year as well.

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 17, 2004 12:48 PM


you're wrong on the 'urban black vote' -- I don't see the Kerry appeal to that group ..

does anyone?

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at September 17, 2004 1:08 PM

JonofAtlanta - Kerry's appeal will be proportional to how much walking around money Teresa is will to spend.

Posted by: AWW at September 17, 2004 1:32 PM

I don't see african americans coming out for Kerry in any large way at all. He hasn't done the ring kissing of "leaders" that this requires. He doesn't feel comfortable in the black church setting that Bill Clinton thrived upon and the AlGore did okay in. The big turn out in 2000 was essentially a going away present for Bubba.

Posted by: AML at September 17, 2004 1:45 PM

That's a really awful metaphor, considering what that compares the Republicans to.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 17, 2004 3:12 PM

Why? Everyone in River City is happier for his coming, not least him.

Posted by: oj at September 17, 2004 5:09 PM