October 22, 2004


On the stump, Bush slows pace to his liking (Anne E. Kornblut and Rick Klein, October 22, 2004, Boston Globe)

The presidency may be hard work, as President Bush said several times during the first debate. But his campaigning these days appears much less so, with a relatively moderate travel schedule and an unusually narrow list of targeted travel states.

Always fond of returning to his own bed at the end of the day, Bush has spent six out of the last seven nights at the White House, stepping off the campaign trail some days in time to catch the baseball playoffs. This weekend -- less than two weeks before the election, typically a time for frenzied barnstorming -- Bush is planning to spend two consecutive nights far from any battleground, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Until Election Day, he is making some curious stops for an incumbent locked in such a close race -- traveling to the largely Democratic state of Pennsylvania three times in two weeks, for example, while avoiding the close battleground of Ohio, except for making a stop today, his first since Oct. 2.

According to some Republicans, the odd schedule, which does not quite match the states where Bush's prospects are best, is reminiscent of his campaign travel four years ago, when Bush stopped in California and New Jersey in the final days of what turned out to be a closely contested race.

Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts holds roughly the same number of campaign events each day as does Bush (between two and four), but Kerry has spent most nights on the road and is planning to campaign both weekends before Nov. 2. Given the intensity of the campaign so far and the neck-and-neck nature of opinion polls, the lack of urgency in the Bush campaign is remarkable.

Bush's pace is almost certain to intensify next week, but for the moment the Bush calendar seems to reflect a high level of confidence among his campaign officials that the president is striking just the right note, at the right speed -- bolstered by his consistent if narrow lead in national polls over the last three weeks.

If you've ever worked on a campaign you'll be aware that where you make your appearances is pretty much a function of the psychology of that campaign rather than of some tactical necessity. This is particularly true in a national campaign where you'd get blanket press coverage even if you just went goose hunting. The great myth of 2000 is that if only George W. Bush had campaigned in FL more he'd have won it by more or that Al Gore could have won TN if he'd visited more--the only thing that mattered in the closing days of that race was that they were dominated by Mr. Bush's DUI arrest. The one thing the President could and should do is hit some of the states where he could help in Senate races by generating press and excitement for the candidates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 22, 2004 8:35 AM

Agree. All of the blogs are worried Bush will coast at the end or make trips to states he can't win (in 2000 it was CA, this year it seems to be NJ or MI). They seem to keep forgetting that before the DUI hit Bush was looking at a 4-5pt win.

Posted by: AWW at October 22, 2004 8:59 AM

The PA stops don't make sense only if you assume that President Bush has to shore up his base the same way Kerry has to.

It doesn't hurt that the President can get some real support from his surrogates, such as Cheney and Laura Bush, while the Kerry camp has to worry about what bomb will be dropped by Airhead-wards and Tereza.

Posted by: Chris B at October 22, 2004 11:46 AM

Being "relaxed" and taking his time is his best strategery. Mistakes made because of being tired or stressed would far outweigh the benefits of any extra campaigning (as shown repeatedly by the Kerry campaign).

Posted by: Bret at October 22, 2004 12:04 PM

I disagree. Bush needs to work his ass off in the next two weeks. He needs to be seen by his supporters in all of the crucial states.

He doesn't have to debate, just shake handd, kiss babies, and give his now very practiced stump speech.

Complacency is Bush's greatest weakness. He can take off the whole rest of November, or the whole next four years.

Posted by: AML at October 22, 2004 12:16 PM

I'm getting curious as to what kind of surprise the Democrats are cooking up for the last weekend before the vote, and the GOP will have no time to respond effectively.

Posted by: Bart at October 22, 2004 4:18 PM

I also am of the view that Bush needs to work harder than he did in '00. I don't necessarily agree that the California trip was a bad idea, but he shouldn't have taken the last Sunday off while the DUI issue was live; if he'd hit a couple more of the swing states that day to reassure voters, Florida might have ended up being just an amusing sideshow on Election Night.

Posted by: Joe at October 22, 2004 4:32 PM

His problems this time around are much bigger than a DUI issue, as there are facts coming every day that the public may view as directly reflective of his performance over the past 4 years. I think the big story will be why they so complacently ignored Arizona in 04'... it may be a big surprise!

Posted by: Dan at October 31, 2004 1:16 AM