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Old 09-07-2004, 02:13 PM  
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Bush Will Bury Kerry

BY BRENDAN MINITER
Tuesday, September 7, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

NEW YORK--For nearly four years now, we've been told this is a 50-50 nation, that red and blue America are so evenly divided that even a small misstep could swing this presidential election either way. The media may have their own reasons for sticking to the story line--drama is good for ratings, after all--but there's mounting evidence that the electorate is not nearly as evenly divided as it was in 2000; that come Nov. 2, newscasters are going to be putting a lot more red than blue on their electoral maps. I will make a prediction here: Mr. Kerry will be lucky to top the 45.7% of the popular vote Michael Dukakis got in 1988.

Perhaps my prediction is buoyed by the euphoric Republicans who flooded this city last week. Indeed, from the convention floor to lavish after-parties, the Republicans I met carried with them the presumption that of course there will be a second Bush administration--although I must point out that in floating my theory, I couldn't find anyone who agreed with the spread, and that one reason for the confidence among conventioneers is the feeling that there has to be a second term. That if the party loses this election, the nation will lose the war on terror. That sense of urgency is only heightened by the fact that Mr. Kerry will have a few more opportunities to turn things around on Mr. Bush--at the debates, for example. And there's always a chance that bad news out of Iraq or a terrorist attack in America could knock the legs out from under the president's campaign. But of course, it is this sense of urgency that is helping put the Republicans over the top.





The media may finally be catching up to the idea that the nation may have turned decidedly in Mr. Bush's favor. Coming out of the convention Time and Newsweek conducted separate polls, each of which found that the president had opened up an 11-point lead over Mr. Kerry. These surveys seem to have oversampled Republicans, but a new Gallup Poll puts Mr. Bush up by a still impressive seven points, 52% to 45%.
Even as convention euphoria fades, there are plenty of reasons to disbelieve the "50-50 nation" story line:

Central to Mr. Kerry's campaign is his promise to raise taxes. Walter Mondale had a similar idea, and he went down in a landslide defeat at the hands of the last Republican president to be re-elected. Similarly, the last Republican president to lose his re-election bid, George H.W. Bush, lost partly because he raised taxes. When skeptical voters--otherwise known as independents--are worried about taxes, they are looking for an unequivocal position. They know that promises to only tax the "rich" almost always morph into taxes on the middle class. Mr. Bush is already capitalizing on this. In his speech Thursday night, he noted that Mr. Kerry is "running on a platform to increase taxes--and that's the kind of promise a politician usually keeps."

Americans may be the most highly scrutinized and studied electorate in the world, but there's still plenty of activity going on under the radar. Voter turnout is going to be crucial to this election. Indeed, presidential adviser Karl Rove is banking on it. As many as four million evangelical Christians--a group that overwhelmingly supports Mr. Bush--sat out the 2000 election. Getting them to the polls will likely make the difference in several key states. Meanwhile perhaps another 80 million eligible voters didn't cast ballots in the last presidential election. After a close election in 2000 and a sense that this year will be a "historic election" because it will decide whether the nation aggressively pursues terrorists, many are predicting a record turnout in November. Mr. Kerry may be hoping for an anti-Bush surge, but concern for national security is a better motivator for new voters.

The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform is a bigger factor in this election than most people realize. Everyone now knows that the law gave rise to the much-maligned "527s," named for the section of the tax code that allows them to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. With the gloves off, Democrats hoped these groups would beat Mr. Bush into unconsciousness or at least bloody him a little. Instead, it is Mr. Kerry who's been battered by a band of dissenting Vietnam veterans who spent just a few million dollars.

What most people don't realize is that McCain-Feingold moved much of corporate America out of the business of writing large checks to the political parties and into the business of building grassroots support for candidates who share their concerns. In South Carolina, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, International Paper helped pro-trade candidate Jim DeMint win the Republican senatorial primary by e-mailing employees in the state to encourage them to vote and educate them on the value of free trade to the company. Mr. DeMint is happy the company used its resources this way rather than by writing checks to the party. "I'd rather have the voters," he told the Journal. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart gave similar support to Sen. Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, because she's been a good friend to the retailer.

The Federal Election Commission keeps track of checks to politicians and parties, but keeping up with what's going on at the grassroots level is much harder. With corporate America now in the game and many churches helping to mobilize voter turnout (regular church attendees overwhelmingly vote Republican), Republicans may finally have found a counterweight to labor union get-out-the-vote efforts.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are swing states with strong unions, but many of the union members there are actually Republicans or are the kind of Democrats who will find it hard to pull the lever for Mr. Kerry. These are the union Democrats who drink beer, watch Nascar and own guns. They have no cultural affinity for a Northeastern liberal who spends his time on the Idaho ski slopes outside one of his billionaire wife's many mansions or windsurfing off Nantucket. Pennsylvania's Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, picked up on this and told a reporter: "I might have gone windsurfing--you certainly have a right to clear your head. But I'm not sure I would have taken the press with me." Look for all three states to show up red on election night.

The economy is actually pretty good in several swing states. In West Virginia, Mr. Bush told a cheering crowd recently that the state's unemployment rate of 5.2% is below the national average of 5.4%. In Ohio the unemployment rate is in line with national figures, but even that is lower than the average unemployment rate for the entire decade of the 1990s. With yet another hurricane pounding Florida, the economy there may not be in good shape come Election Day--but it's unlikely voters will punish Mr. Bush for that if he responds quickly with federal assistance.

Even Mr. Kerry doesn't believe the nation is evenly split, despite the Democrats' public insistence that everyone who voted for Al Gore in 2000 will automatically vote against Mr. Bush this time. Mr. Kerry is flip-flopping in hopes of appealing to voters on both sides of the aisle. On the big issue--the war--Mr. Kerry at times is officially in line with Mr. Bush's policy goals. Indeed, he said last month that even knowing what he knows now, he would have voted for the war. Then, in an angry midnight speech last Thursday, Mr. Kerry sounded like Michael Moore when he accused the administration of having "misled the nation into Iraq." Mr. Kerry's fickleness on the most important issue of the day does not bespeak confidence about his own chances.

Despite Mr. Kerry's war credentials, Democrats are now expressing doubt that he can win unless he changes the subject from national security to the economy. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh told the New York Times this weekend that "so much of the [Democratic] convention was focused on national security--if that's where the election is, I don't think he can win. He has got to try to turn the election to domestic issues." Harold Ickes, who served as Bill Clinton's deputy White House chief of staff and is now running an anti-Bush 527, also thinks Mr. Kerry needs to turn the conversation away from national security. He told the New York Times that Mr. Kerry "just needs to hammer home jobs, the economy, health care and education."

Other Democrats now doubt Mr. Kerry's ability to fight back in the political arena, let alone on far off battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. After weeks of punishing attacks on his Vietnam record with no effective response from the Kerry campaign, there's a hint of panic among Democrats that their guy may not know how to fight after all. That's one reason why, before heading into surgery, Bill Clinton counseled Mr. Kerry from his hospital bed and why several former Clinton hands joined the Kerry campaign over the weekend. Meanwhile Michigan's Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Florida's Sen. Bob Graham (both from important swing states) told reporters that Mr. Kerry needs to simplify his message so it will effectively reach voters. What these pols are trying to tell Mr. Kerry is that "nuance" doesn't translate into sound bites very well.

Which brings us to the final reason Mr. Bush is probably going to walk away with the election: Mr. Kerry is not a very good politician. He's cultivated a reputation as a fighter, a good "closer," because of his last-minute surge past William Weld to win re-election in 1996. But that was in Massachusetts. Why was a two-term Democratic senator having trouble beating a Republican challenger in the only state George McGovern carried? One reason is that unlike Ted Kennedy, Mr. Kerry is not seen as a man who can get things done. No significant legislation bears his name.

Mr. Kerry's problem is much worse than having phoned it in for 20 years in the Senate. Somehow he has built a political career without ever developing the skill of connecting with people or being able to read the pulse of the electorate. In the 1980s, he opposed nearly every new weapons system the Reagan administration rolled out. In the 1990s he fought to slash intelligence funding. Both look like clear mistakes now. On Vietnam, he misread how the electorate would react to his antiwar record. Some Democrats actually argued Mr. Kerry would be popular among veterans. So Mr. Kerry thought he was giving voters what they wanted to hear when he responded to the GOP convention by getting on TV at midnight to talk about Vietnam and whine about imagined attacks on his patriotism. Democrats politely say that he's not very charismatic, but the truth is that he's like a tone-deaf musician who stumbles into a gig at Carnegie Hall and can't understand why the crowd doesn't cheer.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com. His column appears Tuesdays.
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Old 09-07-2004, 02:20 PM   #2
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Great read. Hope it pans out just this way.
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Old 09-07-2004, 02:21 PM   #3
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Kerry's got problems, but there's still time for something to go wrong enough for Kerry to win. Unfortunately, the haphazard way in which he's engaged some of the issues that could break his way (such as Iraq) have been neutralized by the candidate himself.

For example, he's hitting outsourcing today but not too long ago he said that he believed it was part of doing business in the world economy. It only takes one week of ads highlighting Kerry's own words to diffuse that issue. It's like that on a lot of different subjects.

What he needs is for something to dramatically change the dynamics of the campaign and put Bush on the defensive because right now he's not converting anyone. A bad jobs number next month would add a couple points to Kerry's number in November IMO. But even an OK number could be the final nail in his campaign.

Absent some news Kerry is going to lose. But if something happens he could regain the lead he had only a few weeks ago.
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Old 09-07-2004, 02:32 PM   #4
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Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are swing states with strong unions, but many of the union members there are actually Republicans or are the kind of Democrats who will find it hard to pull the lever for Mr. Kerry. These are the union Democrats who drink beer, watch Nascar and own guns. They have no cultural affinity for a Northeastern liberal who spends his time on the Idaho ski slopes outside one of his billionaire wife's many mansions or windsurfing off Nantucket. Pennsylvania's Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, picked up on this and told a reporter: "I might have gone windsurfing--you certainly have a right to clear your head. But I'm not sure I would have taken the press with me." Look for all three states to show up red on election night.

That's huge; and somethin' the Dems are under-estimating....big time.

Fortunately, for us Zell Miller-type Democrats....
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Old 09-07-2004, 02:58 PM   #5
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The reason the Democrat party was the majority party is because there was a home for the Conservative Demcocrat from the south. No more.
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Old 09-07-2004, 03:00 PM   #6
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I don't know about "bury" but I do know that this weekend I talked to at least 3 relatives who have never voted for a Republican President, that will vote Bush instead of Kerry this time.

I really think Bush will take iowa this time.
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Old 09-07-2004, 03:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iowanian
I don't know about "bury" but I do know that this weekend I talked to at least 3 relatives who have never voted for a Republican President, that will vote Bush instead of Kerry this time.

I really think Bush will take iowa this time.
There's also the fact that Bush is the overwhelming favorite amongst Evangelical Christians, many of whom have rarely voted in the past, if ever. In my own church, I have seen a huge push and urgency to register to vote, with many doing so. If this force does indeed awaken and hit the polls come November, it could make a vast difference for GWB.
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Old 09-07-2004, 03:19 PM   #8
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Or the American public could wake up and see what the deal is. I can't believe the way Kerry's managing his campaign. There's so many things to take Bush to town on, but yet he refuses. Manewhile that's all Bush does, attack Kerry. Kinda pathetic really. I think this race was decided a long time ago anyways.
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Old 09-07-2004, 04:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by homey
Or the American public could wake up and see what the deal is. I can't believe the way Kerry's managing his campaign. There's so many things to take Bush to town on, but yet he refuses. Manewhile that's all Bush does, attack Kerry. Kinda pathetic really. I think this race was decided a long time ago anyways.
When are you Democrats going to quit trying to "take Bush to town" and start articulating your vision for the country? Truth is you can't. That is why you are going to lose.
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Old 09-07-2004, 04:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iowanian
I don't know about "bury" but I do know that this weekend I talked to at least 3 relatives who have never voted for a Republican President, that will vote Bush instead of Kerry this time.

I really think Bush will take iowa this time.
Hurry, go make sure the other 3 voters in Iowa vote too. Its up to you, you could make the difference on 7 EV's!!!
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Old 09-07-2004, 04:16 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by RINGLEADER
Kerry's got problems, but there's still time for something to go wrong enough for Kerry to win. Unfortunately, the haphazard way in which he's engaged some of the issues that could break his way (such as Iraq) have been neutralized by the candidate himself.

For example, he's hitting outsourcing today but not too long ago he said that he believed it was part of doing business in the world economy. It only takes one week of ads highlighting Kerry's own words to diffuse that issue. It's like that on a lot of different subjects.

What he needs is for something to dramatically change the dynamics of the campaign and put Bush on the defensive because right now he's not converting anyone. A bad jobs number next month would add a couple points to Kerry's number in November IMO. But even an OK number could be the final nail in his campaign.

Absent some news Kerry is going to lose. But if something happens he could regain the lead he had only a few weeks ago.
You should recaption your sig pic with "John Kerry, Swift boat captain".
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Old 09-08-2004, 09:18 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by SDChiefsfan
.... They have no cultural affinity for a Northeastern liberal who spends his time on the Idaho ski slopes outside one of his billionaire wife's many mansions or windsurfing off Nantucket. ....[/b]

That's huge; and somethin' the Dems are under-estimating....big time.

Fortunately, for us Zell Miller-type Democrats....
Worth a bump, on that quote alone....
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