September 09, 2004

7 AM News Roundup

Boston Herald:

Decribing "swing" voters in Pennsylvania:

The postconvention bump for Bush has been substantial here, and it appears to be at two levels. Some got a good long look at George Bush and liked what they saw. Others, not necessarily wild for Bush, accept the notion that Kerry is already toast. (When a 90-something resident of the assisted living facility my mom resides at says, ``What's that expression? `Put a fork in him?' '' you know Kerry's in trouble.)
The ``he's toast'' phenomenon can truly become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Bush did what he needed to do in New York. The constant reminders that this was the president who helped see a nation through the worst trauma it has ever experienced were everywhere. This weekend there will be more - more memorials, more remembrances, more harkening back to that day.

Dick Morris:

The Democrats don't understand the need to move to the center. Bob Shrum, Kerry's and Ted Kennedy's key strategist, makes his living by appealing to the party's base. The addition of James Carville and Paul Begala to the team just reinforces the tendency to tack to the left, embracing an economic populism that resonates with 40 percent of the voters but leaves the rest cold.

After all, when Clinton needed to win 43 percent of the vote to get elected in 1992 against Bush, as Ross Perot split the Republican vote, he relied on Carville and Begala. But when he needed to win half the voters in the 1996 campaign, as Perot's appeal diminished, they were nowhere to be seen.

Carville and Begala will likely focus on "the economy, stupid," which is a needed correction for Kerry whose current strategy of trying to beat Bush on terrorism brings to mind Winston Churchill's characterization of fighting a land war in Asia against Japan in World War II: "Going into the water to fight the shark."

But in its focus on the economy, the Kerry team is likely to lose sight of one basic problem: In running against a bad economy, it is helpful if the economy is bad. With an unemployment rate approaching 5 percent, they'll have a hard time making the case.

The decision to bring in Carville and Begala also begs a more fundamental question: Do they want Kerry to win?

Both men are primarily loyal to the Clintons Bill and Hillary. Clearly, the former president would like the former first lady to be president in 2008. And a Kerry victory would stand in the way.

An axiom of politics is that generally you want your campaign advisers to hope that you win and Carville and Begala may not pass that standard.

New Jersey: Toss-up state

Boston Globe:

Consultants can persuade Kerry to recycle Howard Dean's effective critique of the conflict in Iraq as "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." But they can't erase Kerry's recent statement that he would vote for the war knowing what he knows today, nor can he eliminate his litany of back-and-forth statements regarding Iraq and Saddam Hussein. (See the link to on the Republican National Committee website.)

Democrats continue to believe that if only they put the right people in the back room or on the candidate's airplane, they will defeat George W. Bush. Strategy counts, but the candidate counts more. Bill Clinton, not James Carville or Paul Begala, won election and reelection.

No one is yet writing off Kerry's presidential aspirations, given his history of strong finishes. However, no one should overstate those finishes, either. Kerry's Massachusetts victories came in a state dominated by liberal voters who valued liberal ideology over personality. His presidential primary season victories began with Dean's momentous collapse in Iowa.

And the dynamics of Kerry's national campaign differ from any political race he waged in the past. This time around, Kerry is wary of embracing his natural liberal constituency. So liberals must trust that the gun-waving candidate who says he would vote all over again to authorize war will turn into a president who will put down the hunting rifle and bring home the troops as soon as possible.

This obvious political charade does not engender strong passion. The left is resigned to Kerry, the right to Bush. Everyone else looks at the two candidates and tries to decide whether they want the incumbent -- a candidate committed to one mistaken policy -- or the challenger -- a candidate committed to shifting policies -- running the country.

That makes personality -- or likability -- the driving force in the campaign for the undecided voter.

To that end, political advisers should keep Kerry away from large pools of water that tempt him to wind-surf. Advisers can toughen up his rhetoric and sharpen his political advertising. But they can't change his longwinded speaking style, his long history of political calculation, or his Senate-bred instinct to equivocate. Anyone-but-Bush advocates should weigh in now with angry e-mails deriding the president as a smirking, draft-dodging dummy who is being marketed to gullible Americans by a passel of evil political strategists. Enough average Americans agree or the incumbent wouldn't be in such political trouble. Even so, Bush the candidate is so far more successful than Kerry the candidate.

Part of his success is due to issue framing. "Am I safe or not?" is a more compelling question, than "Will I have a job or not?" That is especially true as Americans approach the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and view horrifying pictures out of Russia, where hundreds of school children, parents, and teachers were killed after terrorists took them hostage.

But like it or not, part of it is also due to Bush's ease with voters, as viewed in snippets on the evening news. There's one guy in a blue oxford shirt, with his sleeves rolled up, as he presses the flesh and tells voters over and over that Iraq is a critical piece of the war on terror. The way to honor fallen troops, he says, is to complete the mission.

Then, there's the other guy. Yesterday Kerry gave a speech on Iraq, accusing Bush of misleading the United States into war on the basis of "false evidence." But this other guy also says he would vote to authorize Bush to wage war knowing everything he now knows. And this is the same guy who, when arriving in Cincinnati on Tuesday night, said, "More than 1,000 of America's sons and daughters have now given their lives on behalf of their country, on behalf of freedom, on behalf of terror."

Remember the sound in Tommy Boy when David Spade hit Chris Farley square in the forehead with a 2 by 4? That one's gonna leave a mark....

WAIT! DON'T ORDER NOW! EXTRA BONUS LINK! Can you imagine the US Senate without Tom Daschele? Apparently, South Dakota voters can. The latest from from the Thune v. Daschele blog....

Posted by Steve at September 9, 2004 07:26 AM | TrackBack
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