Wednesday, March 03, 2004
...and is about to enter a sea of troubles.
I strongly suspect that last night was Kerry's high watermark. The Massachusetts senator swept the table last night, as Democrats bowed to the inevitable. In recognition of the obvious, John Edwards is announcing his withdrawal from the race today. Bush called Kerry to congratulate him, building up the senator's ego that much more.
In a deep backgrounder, five network reporters were brought into Scott McClellan's office to have an off the record chat with George W. Bush. For his part, the President appears ready to unleash all sorts of hell on Kerry and believes he is in a much stronger position going into this year's election than he was as a newbie in 2000. Bush said that Kerry would be a tough, "hard-charging" opponent.
However, I strongly suspect that Bush is in a much stronger position than he is letting on. Forget the polls for a moment. It's all about turnout. Ray Malone gave me an insight as to how this thing is going. In California, they could only muster a 20% turnout. In Virginia, barely 10%. Both primaries were contested. Ray also remarked in an earlier post that the unions weren't able to get their people out for Gephardt. People who have more money in their wallets are less likely to vote for the Democrat in November. Economic growth is clicking along at a healthy 4.1% (as of the fourth quarter of 2003). Manufacturing and payroll is up, while inflation remains pretty much in check.
This tells me that the entire press meme about a jazzed and hateful Democratic Party is exactly that, a press meme. Don't get me wrong; the Democratic Base is jazzed. They hate Bush. They hate Bush worse than they could ever bring themselves to hate Usama or Saddam. But the Base's anger is not translating into strong turnout numbers for Regular Democrats. Regular Democrats are like Regular Republicans in that they wait until after the Conventions and the World Series to concentrate on the campaign. In that respect, each demographic is very similar to the mushy independents. If the economic trends continue, if in people's minds things are getting better, they will vote to retain Bush.
In this one respect, this looks like the Dole 1996 campaign all over again. Unfortunately, Kerry gets to play the role of Bob Dole.
Two other things occurred yesterday that also lead me to the conclusion that Bush will win. Kerry indicated that he would repeal the Bush tax package. That's bad mojo for Kerry; he's been listening to his Washington policy people who tell him that tax cuts are a big nono. This was a mistake. Bush has been consistently in favor of tax relief, so GW will be able to campaign as the guy who believes in One Big Thing: lower taxes. Middle class families will be opening up their IRS packets and finding more money in their wallet. Bush knows this. Kerry appears not to realize it at all.
Secondly, the Assault Weapons Ban renewal is pretty much dead. This was a litmus test for the base. I can tell you that as a firearms owner, I would have gone for Bush had he signed a renewal, but I would have held my nose. However, hundreds of thousands of law-abiding gun owners would have stayed home in protest. That will not happen now. With the failure of the AWB to be renewed and the rise of gay marriage as an issue, all at once, Bush's base is secure. This is quite a change from a month ago, as the press was peddling the meme of an upset Republican base. That too was a lie.
Bush's commercials are about to commence. Firstly, he's targeting his base voters: NASCAR Dads, gunowners, right to lifers, evangelicals, orthodox Jews, and Opus Dei Catholics like Mel Gibson. My kind of people. For instance, don't be surprised to see Dale Earnhardt, Jr. do a commercial for Bush. Secondly, he's beginning a focused campaign in the Hispanic media to gin up his numbers. Bush has become popular among Latinos, and all he has to do is increase his take of the Hispanic vote by three to five points in that demographic.
The end-of-winter polls notwithstanding, Bush is in an incredibly strong strategic position. We are about to find out just how strong that position is, and whether or not it can be held. I'm betting that not only can it be held, but also that Bush is all about expanding his position into traditionally Democratic-held territory.