December 25, 2003


Bush Advisers, With Eye on Dean, Formulate '04 Plans (ADAM NAGOURNEY and RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 12/26/03, NY Times)

As a Bush strategist put it, Dr. Dean's rivals are "doing a great job for us" with their increasingly tough attacks on him.

"Voters don't normally vote for an angry, pessimistic person to be president of the country," Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush adviser, said as he pressed the anti-Dean theme this week in an interview at Mr. Bush's re-election campaign headquarters. "They want somebody, even if times are not great, to be forward looking and optimistic." [...]

In discussing what they described as preliminary strategic decisions, Mr. Bush's advisers said they were prepared to adjust to any changes in what has already proved to be a most unusual presidential election campaign. Although they said that most of their planning was now based on the supposition that Dr. Dean would win the nomination, Mr. Bush's campaign officials said they did not consider that certain.

The president's political team, led by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, is working on policy initiatives that would help build support among specific blocs of voters. For the so-called investor class, the team is planning a push for private investment accounts in Social Security and expanded tax-free savings accounts. Mr. Bush is also developing an immigration proposal, expected to be announced early next year, that would make it easier for workers from Latin America to move to the United States legally. That step could help Mr. Bush appeal to Hispanics, a fast-growing segment of the electorate and one that Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove have worked hard to win over. [...]

But Mr. Bush, some of his own strategists and advisers said, has a long way to go if he wants to avoid being portrayed as a divisive figure who motivates Democrats to vote against him. As a result, the White House is considering using the State of the Union address to propose a big new national goal that would not be partisan or ideological and would help rally the country behind Mr. Bush's leadership, an outside adviser to the administration said. The possibilities floated by the White House include a major initiative for the space program or an ambitious health care goal like increasing life expectancies.

"They want to have the president talk about an important national goal that is big and a unifying theme," the adviser said.

The main problem with the talk of being non-partisan is that it has the potential to become a justification for not pushing as hard as they should in the Senate races. 60 seats in the Senate are worth more than a couple extra points on the President's victory margin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 25, 2003 11:55 PM

While Bush needent come out and be overly combative -- something he's never done in any of his three election races over the past decade anyway -- the idea of coming up with several Clintonesque-sounding policy ideas in order "to avoid being portrayed as a devisive figure who motivates Democrats to vote against him" is idiotic. A large share of the Democratic electorate has seen him as a devisive figure even before the 2000 Florida recount battle, and no amount of "feel good" proposals are going to change their minds.

Outside of some Lieberman supporters and maybe a handful of Gephardt or Edwards backers, these people wouldn't vote for Bush if Dean made the institution of Shari`a law in the United States a part of the Democratic Party platform in August. Bush and Rove need to play to his strenghts in 2004, which means setting three or so major policy goals for a second term and just hammering those issues home to his base and the swing voters, instead of pandering to dozens of little ideas that draw good poll numbers, the way Clinton followed Dick Morris' lead in 1996.

Posted by: John at December 26, 2003 1:02 AM


The trick in Bush helping to get to sixty will be in running a two tier campaign in various regions. Right now I count seven open seats (Fl, OK, IL, GA, LA, NC, SC) with CA, OR, MD, NV, SD, AR and WA potentially in contention. I can see a potential for a 6 or 7 seat pickup but I sure don't see a clear way to get the other two. Bush has to run a message that resonates in the south and the west in order to get to sixty and I don't see the west part yet.

Another factor to consider is that at 56 seats, picking off the additional 4 when needed should not be too hard. Any Dem running in '06 has to understand what Bush's weight against them will be worth.

Posted by: RDB at December 26, 2003 1:33 AM

Dean and the Greens are just too conservative. Most of their issues focus on returning to the past or not doing anything at all. Dean really means "take our party back."

Bush does have a blind spot on energy conservation and that could be covered by Congress advancing a reasonable program that Bush could support. And if the Democrats obstruct it by insisting on stringent, unpopular amendments ... perfect.

Posted by: genecis at December 26, 2003 9:48 AM