On this date...

"All our great Presidents were leaders of thought at times when certain historic ideas in the life of the nation had to be clarified."

-Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 11, 1932.

Cross-posted at Wayne Mattson.



The Electoral College, 10 September

As promised, here is another look at the electoral map one week after the Republican convention. Bush's dirty swift boat ads - and Kerry's lack of response - hurt the Democratic ticket. Post convention polling shows Bush leading anywhere from 2 to 9 points. It's still early and, as Mort Kondracke says, neither candidate has closed the deal yet. Here is how I see the map today:

Bush 275
Kerry 233
Tied 30

Pennsylvania: The average of three polls done in PA since August 28 shows both candidates tied at 47.2% each. Kerry was leading by double digits last month. The swift boat ads and Kerry's ill-timed August vacation seem to have shifted the landscape here tremendously. I still think this state will go for Kerry. But it will be a hard fight. Without these 21 electoral votes in his column, I don't see how Kerry gets to 270.

Colorado: The only polling available is pre-GOP convention and the average of those polls shows Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry tied at 47% each. The state is winnable (Clinton won it 1992), and the current tie indicates the President is vulnerable.

Wisconsin: The state has been trending toward the Republicans and the once solid blue state seems to have turned red over the last few weeks, with Bush leading by 1 to 3 points in various polls.

West Virginia: Bush's 2000 upset in this normally Democratic stronghold seems bound to be repeated. He currently leads by 9 points.

Another look at the electoral map here. And a look at polling here. And an animated look at how the Electoral Vote has changed since May here.

Bush's convention bounce is starting to even out and by next week I expect the numbers and the map to change a bit.

Kerry needs to get his rear-end in gear and step up to the plate. For now, this race is nowhere near over.



When He's Right, He's Right

President Bush regarding the Iraq war:
"That's why I went to the Congress last September and proposed fundamental -- supplemental funding, which is money for armor and body parts and. . . ."


The Wrong Choice, Indeed

A thought for this morning...

Vice-President Dick Cheney on the election and its consequences:
"It's absolutely essential that...on Nov. 2nd, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again. That we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States. . . ."
Ok...um...isn't it the terrorists who are supposed to threaten us, and not our vice president?



Memo to Kerry: Start Closing

I woke up this morning and, as I do every morning, logged on to the internet to scan the morning news. Within minutes I found myself getting frustrated. Not by the news generally, rather by Sen. Kerry and his lack-luster, "Dukakis-ized" campaign (lesson #1: NEVER, EVER take an August vacation while your opponent spends the month slamming you. These are BUSHES for the love of God!) Andrew Sullivan may be right: George W. Bush may truly be the luckiest man alive.

This is one of those rare weeks where I have to be in the office by 5am. Before I head in though, I wanted to leave you with this morning's Robert Kuttner column in the Boston Globe. More or less, he nails it.

It's time to get tough
By Robert Kuttner
September 8, 2004

AMONG DEMOCRATS, we are already hearing the recriminations. Is Kerry blowing it, and whose fault is it?

Eight weeks before Election Day, the campaign is said to be turning into a referendum on Kerry rather than Bush. The president got his convention bounce (with more to come on 9/11), and Democrats are already making dreaded comparisons with other lost but winnable races, like 1988 and 2000.

Based on the issues, it's astonishing that Kerry is running slightly behind Bush. The Iraq war is an unpopular fiasco, the economy is not delivering for regular people, and Bush's repeat deceptions are far more disqualifying than Kerry's much-exaggerated flip-flops. As actor John Lovitz, playing a sinking Michael Dukakis listening to Bush the First blither through scripted remarks, memorably said on Saturday Night Live in 1988, "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy."

So, two questions: What is wrong with the Kerry campaign? And can it be fixed in time? Answers: Plenty, and Yes.

Five big things are wrong, and each can (belatedly) be fixed.

Toughness. First, Kerry waited too long to forcefully criticize Bush's ample defects and vulnerabilities. The campaign's grand strategists made two big decisions for the Democratic convention that seemed like good ideas at the time. First, they decided that the tone needed to be relentlessly positive. This became such a mantra that whenever a rare speaker actually landed a good punch on Bush, TV commentators tsk-tsked that the speaker was "off message."

Please. The whole point of challenging a sitting president is to question his record. Better late than never, but Kerry should have been a lot tougher a lot earlier.

Clarity. The convention's second big mistake was to mistake biography for a strategy. Yes, Kerry needed to be introduced to the broad public, and yes, he needed to be credible as a leader on defens, and yes, his Vietnam record made for a compelling personal story as well as a contrast with Bush.

But they overdid it. Elections are about the competence of the incumbent and the challenger's vision for the future, not about candidate biographies. If they were, Bush never would have been elected (actually, he wasn't elected).

You can't blame Kerry's Vietnam emphasis for the right-wing veterans' smear. That was orchestrated in advance and ready to go in any case. But by overemphasizing Vietnam, the convention message inadvertently reminded voters that Kerry had both fought in the war and then opposed it. Many Americans, of course, did. But in Kerry's case, this could seem another flip-flop.

Most important, the Vietnam focus diverted attention from Kerry's vision for the future. Bush's actual policies and new proposals are so bogus and so disconnected from the problems they purport to solve that Kerry should be having a field day knocking them down and advancing his affirmative vision for America. He needs to stick to a few strong themes.

Too Many Cooks. While I respect most of the people newly brought into the Kerry campaign, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach when I heard of the latest shake-up. If anything, the campaign already has too many hands on the steering wheel. Yes, it's a source of strength to listen to multiple views -- Roosevelt and JFK certainly did. But Kerry needs to clarify the chain of command or the campaign will degenerate into a dynamic where a lowest common denominator defines a feeble consensus position or, worse, positions will shift depending on which adviser is momentarily on top. That dynamic did in Al Gore.

Hostile Media. The press (with some heroic exceptions) continues to cut Bush and the right-wing smears a lot more slack than they cut Kerry. There is no offsetting left-wing Fox.

Likability. Bush is one likable fellow. Some believe it is hard for the candidate who is less likable to utter tough criticisms of a sitting president who is liked personally, even if voters mistrust his policies. But that's just not so.

Each of these problems has the same solution: toughness. If Kerry is much tougher on Bush, he will come across as tougher generally, including on defense -- tough enough to lead. By being decisive, he will lay to rest the sense of a drifting campaign. He will get more respect from the media. And even voters who might prefer to go out for a beer with Bush will take Kerry more seriously as a potential president.

Kerry is said to close well. Senator, it's time to start closing -- before we all join Bill Clinton in the cardiac ward.



For the Love of Bush

With less than two months to go until Election Day, the Bush-isms just keep piling up. But this one is just down right embarassing.
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo., Sept. 6 -- The God-fearing folk of this rural hamlet must have been mighty scandalized Monday evening when President Bush dropped by to tell them about a previously unappreciated problem.

Discussing the need to limit malpractice awards the President said, "Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."

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