Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

May 4, 2004

by V

Dear Chuck Todd: Shhh!

I'm torn between:
  1. smug satisfaction at a prominent, published politics-watcher finally giving some added respectability to my long-held opinion that this election will not be close [VJ, September 2003], and
  2. mild panic that the Republicans on the ground will get wind of the danger they face in time to do something useful about it. I'm sure the Party is aware already.
Mr. Todd -- shhh!

"A Kerry Landslide? Why the next election won't be close." by Chuck Todd [Washington Monthly]
There are perfectly understandable reasons why we expect 2004 to be close... But there's another possibility, one only now being floated by a few political operatives: 2004 could be a decisive victory for Kerry. The reason to think so is historical. Elections that feature a sitting president tend to be referendums on the incumbent -- and in recent elections, the incumbent has either won or lost by large electoral margins. If you look at key indicators beyond the neck-and-neck support for the two candidates in the polls--such as high turnout in the early Democratic primaries and the likelihood of a high turnout in November -- it seems improbable that Bush will win big. More likely, it's going to be Kerry in a rout.

Bush: the new Carter

...Though the two presidents differ substantially in personal style (one indecisive and immersed in details, the other resolute but disengaged), they are also curiously similar. Both are religious former Southern governors. Both initially won the presidency by tarring their opponents (Gerald Ford, Al Gore) with the shortcomings of their predecessors (Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton). Like Carter, Bush is vulnerable to being attacked as someone not up to the job of managing impending global crises.
Bush-as-Carter is surely not a new idea to the Kerry Team, which has already floated a 'misery index' similar to the one from the Carter era.
...Historically, when incumbents lose big, they do so for sound reasons: The public sees their policies as not working -- or worse yet, as failures. That's certainly increasingly true of Bush today...

And while Bush still retains a loyal base, he has provoked -- both by his policies and his partisanship -- an extremely strong reaction among Democrats. One indication is that turnout in this year's early Democratic primaries was way up...
..blah blah, lots of supporting numbers...
Right now, the president is vulnerable. As The New Republic's Ryan Lizza argued in a recent New York Times editorial, undecided voters "know [the incumbent] well, and if they were going to vote for him, they would have already decided. Thus support for Mr. Bush should be seen more as a ceiling, while support for Mr. Kerry, the lesser-known challenger, is more like a floor."
If I may quote from my September 2003 post:
The "Republican strategists have always said it'll be close" line is sounding more like a plea to me than a prediction; they're trying to talk up their chances (which, admittedly, has been a frequently successful tactic of this crew since 1999).

I'm sure they'll be wishing it was close come November.
Posted by V at May 4, 2004 03:12 PM

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Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush
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LIES by Al Franken
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The Great Unraveling
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