Skip to comments.Fred Barnes: The Luck of the President (Bush's lead is more than a convention bounce)
Posted on 09/11/2004 11:29:25 AM PDT by RWR8189
BETTER TO BE LUCKY than good. That's an old baseball saying that applies as well to President Bush's reelection campaign. First CBS News--then the entire mainstream media--plays up damaging documents about Bush's National Guard service. But within hours, thanks to bloggers and not to any effort by Bush or his passive White House staff, the documents are exposed as forgeries. Next, the press is poised to promote a book accusing the president of having snorted cocaine at Camp David when his father was president. Again without the intervention of Bush, the White House, or the Bush campaign, the story unravels as the supposed source of the charge categorically repudiates it. And there's an even greater bit of luck for Bush. He has John Kerry as his opponent.
Bush has history on his side: An incumbent president who emerges after Labor Day with a lead almost always wins. And Bush has a real lead, not simply a bounce in opinion polls produced by a successful Republican convention. How do we know this? Because Bush was gaining measurably in the race before the convention. His job performance rating had crossed the key threshold of 50 percent in numerous surveys. Bush advanced in the Gallup Poll from a Kerry lead of 49 to 45 percent in mid-July and 50 to 47 percent in late July to a Bush advantage of 48 to 47 percent in mid-August and 50 to 47 percent the week before the convention. After the convention the lead had increased to seven points.
Post-convention, the Bush campaign is exactly where it hoped to be. The president's lead over Kerry has given him the luxury of sticking to his campaign plan. He'll spend September talking up his domestic agenda for a second term. The first half of October is to be devoted to debates (probably two) with Kerry. And the last two weeks are the finishing kick of the campaign. Along the way, Bush will address any national security issues like Iraq that may arise. But Vice President Dick Cheney will provide the tough talk on combating terrorism.
To the surprise of many, Bush has actually honed an effective economic message with interesting specifics, numbers, and comparisons. For instance, did you know that the 1.7 million jobs added in the past year in the United States "is more than [the jobs created in] Germany, Japan, Great Britain, Canada, and France combined?" Bush noted this in Colmar, Pennsylvania, last week. He also addressed the "subchapter S" issue: Under this section of the tax code, 90 percent of small business owners pay at the income tax rate, not the corporate rate. And since "70 percent of new jobs in America are created by small businesses," Kerry's plan to raise taxes on the two top brackets would be a tax on "job creators," Bush said. "It doesn't make sense."
By contrast, Kerry is tongue-tied. He won't talk to national reporters covering his campaign for fear of being asked about his claim of spending Christmas Eve 1968 in Cambodia. Nor will he sit down for questioning by columnists or commentators knowledgeable about foreign policy because he's bound to contradict his earlier statements. And not since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has a Democratic nominee been more unpopular with his base voters. I spent an evening last week at an event with Jewish voters, the majority of them Democrats. They dislike Bush, but have nothing but complaints about Kerry, mostly on foreign policy.
Kerry has done one important thing right. He's rejected former President Clinton's advice to concentrate almost exclusively on domestic issues. He can't win the Clinton way. The economy is in good shape and getting better. Health care always polls well for Democrats, but it's a mirage. It never produces the wave of votes Democrats expect. The reason is simple. The health care issue is tied to the economy. When the economy is bad, concerns about the cost of health care soar. When the economy is good, concerns fade. By itself, health care is rarely a voting issue.
Kerry understands that Iraq is the one issue that matters. In wartime, all other issues are linked to it. As Jeffrey Bell has pointed out, approval of the president's handling of the economy rises and falls with how people feel about progress in Iraq. War trumps everything. This is a historical truism. The economy was fine in 1952, but President Truman was forced to abandon his race for reelection because the Korean War was going poorly. Vietnam made President Johnson give up reelection plans in 1968. Abraham Lincoln won reelection in 1864 not because of a surge in job creation but because the Civil War turned to the Union's advantage with the capture of Atlanta.
The Iraq problem for Kerry is that he's compromised on the issue. He's both for the war and against it. He says dumb things about it, such as insisting the war's costs have forced cutbacks in after-school programs. He can't argue the Iraq issue into a lead over Bush. He needs an external event, a large piece of very bad news coming out of Iraq. The 1,000th death of an American soldier in Iraq wasn't enough. Kerry is still alive in the presidential race chiefly because something far worse may yet happen in Iraq before November 2. But if Bush's luck holds, it won't.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
Barnes, no doubt through oversight, forgot to mention President Bush's greatest stroke of luck, the emergence of John O'Neill and a group of Swift Boat Veterans from whom Bush can mark his come back.
Kerry's campaign will have to come up with a miracle to win this...I believe it is still too close to go complacent, though...
Beware the big city dem machines getting out the vote on election day and then there's fraud.
Hey, Fred...you don't need to fight the opposition from the Command Post when you have an army of supporters behind enemy lines!
I must be suffering from a case of craniumus embeddum myanus because I had no idea about the Kitty Kelly book being debunked...
Who said that "coke in Camp David" claim was a lie and when did it happen?
***But if Bush's luck holds, it won't.***
I believe a lot of Bush'e "luck" may come from the fact that he begins each day by praying and reading his Bible.
God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Take it for what it's worth.
Neil Bush's exwife is supposed to be the source and she now denies she ever saw Bush do coke at Camp David..
Seeing how time after time this seems to work out, GW might be right after all.
In this instance, luck you, Fred.
One of the ex-sisters in law I believe.
She was quoted as making the statement but repudiated it
shortly after the book was released.
Correct a mun do... See #9
Watch Fred Barnes on Fox when he's in the panel discussion. Everytime the Swiftvets comes up, he takes their side -- but, he's very careful not to rant and look like a partisan idiot. He puts Swiftvets points on the table and lets the NPR panel folks look like idiots as they shill impossible and improbable thoeries, then start dissembling language.
Give Fred credit, I believe he is playing it masterfully. The Swiftvets have sunk Kerry's dingy, and he doesn't pound the table --- but, nor does he let it completely go away.
Barnes is right on everything except the passive White House issue. Not responding to the forged documents and Kitty Kelly was not being passive. It was realizing that responding to it gave it a life it didn't deserve. Responding to Kitty Kelly gives her a legitimacy no one gives her.
Amen, just what I was going to say. I believe that God has plans for this Nation and God will choose a believer over an unbeliever every time. I believe Bush did what he needed to do, stay on task, stay with message. Great thanks to the great folks at Free Republic and others that found the deceptions and got the word out.
Thank you God.
Well said. It's worth everything to me.
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