Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Kerry's decline

After the Democratic National Convention, things were looking up for Democrats. Although Kerry received no substantial bounce, he was doing well in state polls and performing superbly in swing states. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin were looking like easy Dem holds. It appeared as if we were a Florida or Ohio win away from the presidency.

The combination of a media frenzy and campaign ineptitude has done irreparable harm to Kerry’s election fortunes. I’m not saying that Kerry cannot be elected on November 2. Remember, Gore was trailing outside the margin of error in the weeks leading up to Election 2000. The late collapse of Bush, aided immensely by the DUI revelations, would have been the story were Gore have been rightfully awarded the election. It will take a heavy assault on George W. Bush for the Democrats to win this election.

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth will be the rallying cry of Democrats for years to come. Those two weeks of unanswered assaults will be what costs John Kerry his lifelong dream of being President. For nearly two weeks, Kerry did not directly respond to these allegations. Sen. John McCain went on record against the attacks before Kerry did. These men perpetrated a direct assault on Kerry’s integrity, yet the Senator did nothing. Finally, after seeing the disastrous poll numbers, Kerry decided to fight back. But it was too late, and the damage was done. After the Convention, Kerry had pulled even on handling the economy. Now, he’s back to almost 20 points behind Bush on that issue. Kerry was making significant inroads on the veteran vote, which comprises 18 % of the electorate. He went from even to trailing by double-digits.

There are two ways for Kerry to change the course of this race. One is to change the issue from terrorism and Iraq to health care and the economy. I do not believe Kerry can win if terrorism is the number one issue. That leads into my second point. Kerry must directly attack the leadership of George W. Bush. He must prove that Bush’s handling of terrorism has made America less safe. If he were able to get within 10 points of Bush on the issue of terrorism, his chances would increase greatly.

Kerry’s ardent supporters continually point out two of his greatest assets. One is that he’s a great finisher. It is true that Kerry has come alive in the final weeks of races to emerge victorious. However, as much as I like Howard Dean, he is no George W. Bush. As bad a President as Bush has been, he can be a tremendous campaigner. This strategy of coming from behind will eventually leave Kerry short of his desired result. Secondly, I hear that the undecided voters will break for Kerry come October. While that is traditionally the case, I don’t see it holding up this year. A recent Zogby poll showed that Bush was favored over Kerry by undecided voters. Kerry has barely convinced his base that he’s likable, far less the general population.

The period after the Republican Convention will be crucial for the Kerry campaign. I expect Bush to initially be up by somewhere between 1 and 5 %. The polls will all show Bush surging, especially in battleground states. This is when Kerry must come alive. The margin is nothing that cannot be overcome, but it will not happen by continuing our current strategy.
The big caveat in all of this is unforeseen events. A number of things could happen that would either make Bush a re-election shoe-in or utterly unelectable. This could happen today or on November 1. But for now, the prospects for George W. Bush are improving by the day.

My prediction is that Bush wins by about 3 percent. As much as we hate Bush, it’s impossible to deny his political savvy. They took a buffoon in 2000 and defeated an incumbent Vice President who presided over 8 years of peace and prosperity. The Bush campaign has taken a candidate with an abysmal economic record and is running even against the challenger. Karl Rove has taken Kerry’s strength, his war record, and turned it into a negative. It’s astounding to watch an easy Democratic victory turn into a probable Republican triumph. I’m disgusted that John Kerry has not been able to capitalize on such fertile territory.

I sincerely hope that on November 3, someone will throw this column in my face and mock me with it. Nothing would please me more. However, I’m afraid that day will never come. All the cocky DU’ers who couldn’t see the Titanic sinking will be forced to admit that they are nothing more than the Democratic version of Freepers. A great amount of these Democratic loyalists chastise those who express doubt about Kerry’s electoral chances. They will have to come to terms with the fact that Kerry blew a monumental opportunity. If the consequences of a Bush election weren’t so dire, I’d take delight in their misfortune. But we will all be in misery together until a Democrat comes along in 2008 to save what’s left of America.


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