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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

What Will Happen Tonight?

Mr. Kerry has long been labeled a closer. A baseball analogy would be the Mariano Rivera of politics (though big John’s Red Sox beat Rivera twice this season). On one program they played parts of the debate between Mr. Kerry and then Massachusetts Governor William Weld – and they really went after each other. Running in a state is different than nationally, and Mr. Kerry has seemed to chart a different path. Instead of being overly feisty he has continuously put Mr. Bush on the defensive while keeping his cool and looking presidential. Right now it seems rather odd. Instead of trying to show himself as a strong leader who has had a very successful first term in office, Mr. Bush’s campaign can’t seem to make up their mind if they are the incumbent or the challenger. Certainly one can argue that Mr. Bush has so little accomplishments all he has is the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and homeland security. The latter is funny considering most major target areas Mr. Kerry will dominate, so it isn’t trying to win the Northeast, DC, Chicago, California vote. New Jersey is closer than usual, but how much of this is due to the huge drug companies head quartered there? Anyway, Mr. Bush has failed at making the “flip flop” claim stick to Mr. Kerry so their new tactic is “Mass Bash” and repeating “You can run, but you can’t hide” several times a day. I expect to hear both tonight. Why the repetition? Perhaps as pollster Frank Luntz indicated after his last focus group (and to the dismay of many Democrats), Mr. Kerry’s “I have a plan” made voters think he was focusing on the future. At the same time Mr. Bush was seen as defensive. I see potential problems with this strategy. First, Bush can say it all he wants, but he has to have a plan and not come across defensive or angry. Second, how easy would it be for Mr. Kerry to turn that phrase around?
“The president has said several times tonight ‘You can run, but you can’t hide.’ That is exactly what he is doing here tonight, ladies and gentleman. I’ll stand by my record, but the president is trying to run away from his. He has created the nations largest deficits. Under his watch four million more Americans are living in poverty. He is the first president in over 70 years to lose jobs. Under his watch we have seen record increases on health care premiums. Under his watch we have seen an assault on our environment. Under his watch we have become more dependent on oil than less. And he is hiding that he has no real plans to turn this around. I have a plan, and I hope we get to talk about it more tonight.”

If I can see this, you can bet Mr. Kerry and his staff sure as hell have. Mr. Bush’s other apparent talking point is the Massachusetts liberal label – or as I will call it “Mass Bash.” Either Bush said it in the last debate or he said it on the stump, but he said something to the effect of “now that is liberal even for a Senator from Massachusetts” and other assorted knocks on the Bay State (Cod is the official fish, Johnny Appleseed the state folk hero, and go figure, the Mayflower is the state flower.. other facts). But how petty is that? It allows Mr. Kerry to basically say how sad it is that the President of the United States doesn’t respect every state in the union while showing what a divisive leader the president is.

I am wondering what Mr. Kerry’s plan is going to be tonight. I have kind of felt that the Senator has played it safe thus far. He has done well in keeping Mr. Bush on the defensive and getting the president to show anger, but a knock out blow has not come (granted it was too early). Will it come tonight by the president not being able to answer questions, or will it come from a rebuttal to a comment from Mr. Bush? Will Kerry bring out the BCCI investigation when called weak on homeland defense? This all sounds nice, but so far it really hasn’t been Mr. Kerry’s style. Many Democrats and non-Bush voters have wanted more from the Senator in the attack department, but this is fueled by anger over the last four years – and they aren’t running a campaign. Besides, we see that it is the president that is angry. Mr. Kerry’s style thus far seems to be about making himself acceptable to undecided voters and to change the overall way he is viewed. It has worked. If Mr. Kerry is a closer, I just wonder what the nation will see tonight when Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush take the stage together for the final time.

I think I will have some Magic Hat tonight.

Update Fellow Kossack EMKennedyLucio wrote:
"I hope Kerry is pissed about the Red Sox game and takes it out on Bush."

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