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Voters Still Thumbs-Down on Economy

Despite the tightening of the horse race in Bush’s favor over the course of August, voters’ evaluations of Bush in key areas continue to be strikingly negative. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the economy and related issues.

This pattern can be seen across a wide range of polls taken near the end of August. For example, in the recent Los Angeles Times poll–unusually favorable to Bush in terms of the horse race–Bush’s (net negative) approval rating on the economy is essentially unchanged since July and his economic policies receive stinging evaluations in terms of their effect on the country and on individuals. Barely over one quarter of voters (27 percent) believe Bush’s policies have made the country better off than it was when he became president, compared to 71 percent who believe his policies have either made the country worse off (45 percent) or produced no change (26 percent). (That’s 16/81 among independents).

Similarly, just 28 percent believe Bush’s policies have made them as individuals better off than they were when he became president, compared to 70 percent who believe his policies have either made them worse off (27 percent) or kept them about the same (43 percent).

Or take the most recent Gallup poll. In this poll, less than one third (32 percent) say Bush’s tax cuts have mostly helped the US economy over the last three years, compared to 61 percent who say the cuts have either had no effect (29 percent) or mostly hurt the economy (32 percent). (Note that this result is actually worse than the result of a similar question about Bush’s tax cuts that Gallup asked in January.) Similarly, just 30 percent say Bush’s tax cuts have mostly helped their family over the last three years, compared to 68 percent who say the cuts have either had no effect (48 percent) or mostly hurt their family (20 percent).

A new ABC News/Washington Post (WP) poll even has Bush’s approval rating on the economy dropping since late July, from 47 percent approval/50 percent disapproval to 45 percent/52 percent (though note that the latter reading is among RV’s, not all adults). The poll also finds that, among RVs, the number that say most Americans are better off financially than they were in 2001 has actually declined during August from a hardly robust 18 percent to a mere 14 percent. An amazing 85 percent now say that most Americans are either not as well off (46 percent) or in about the same shape (39 percent) as they were in 2001.

Finally, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal (WSJ) poll also finds Bush’s approval rating on the economy going down from 45 percent approval/49 percent disapproval among voters in June to 43/52 today. The poll also finds that voters’ evaluation of the economy’s performance in the last year deteriorating since July. At that time, 37 percent said the economy had gotten better in the last year, compared to 31 percent who said it had gotten worse. Today, just 29 percent say the economy has improved in the last year, compared to 33 percent who say it has weakened.

And here’s a couple of statement choices the WSJ poll gave voters that show just how strongly the current of economic sentiment is running against the Bush campaign. The first choice was between:

The economy is improving for middle- and working-class families. More than one million new jobs have been created in the last six months and low interest rates mean that more people own their homes now than ever before.

and:

The economy is NOT improving for middle- and working-class families. We have one million fewer jobs now than we did in 2000, and health care costs continue to rise.

The result: 61 percent endorse the second, negative statement and only 30 percent agree with the first, positive statement, which essentially summarizes the Bush campaign’s position on the economy.

And what about Bush’s tax cuts? Here’s the choice the WSJ poll gave voters:

The tax cuts have mostly benefited the wealthy, and have hurt middle- and lower-income families because they led to cuts in education, law enforcement, and health care.

or:

The tax cuts have benefited ALL Americans, because taxpayers of all incomes received a tax cut, and this helped strengthen the economy by giving people more of their own money to spend.

In this case, 55 percent endorse the first, negative statement about the cuts, compared to 38 percent who agree with the second, positive statement–again, a fair summary of the Bush campaign’s official position on the cuts.

These and other data suggest that the recent improvement in Bush’s horse race performance is quite soft and will dissipate quickly if the Kerry campaign can return the political debate to the economy and other issues on which Bush is profoundly vulnerable.

Comments

Thank goodness you're back, and not a moment too soon. I know that you focus on polling analysis, which is primarily quantitative. But I would love to hear your take on the ludicrously scripted way in which the media is helping out poor l'il George with his "misstatements." We all know what would have ensued if Kerry had said that the US cannot win the war on terror. He would have been run out of the country on a rail. But Georgie Boy is smellin' like a rose, 'cuz he misspeaks, ya know, cuz he's dull, but we don't care, cuz he's Jeebus. God forbid the media should ridicule or even comment negatively on someone "special," as in special education, like our President, as in, not elected, but King nonetheless.

What accounts for this double standard of media reporting?

And yet for all that analysis, Bush is still winning.

ruy...

do you have access to anyone of any importance at the kerry campaign? i mean someone who can take these observations of yours and put them to real use in the actual nerve center of the kerry war room? it's great we all get to read and respond to your observations, but you should also be sending your stuff straight to the top.

What's really puzzling is that in every sphere of his performance, Bush is bouncing down the hill. In every instance more than 50 percent disapprove of his performance in each sector.

How is it that these figures reflect a major shifting away from Bush but yet the polls show the candidates as tied in the race?

Are they saying that Americans know that Bush is failing them but are still considering giving him another chance to really prove himself?

Fuzzy Maths, I would say.

How is he winning? Since when is an incumbent being below 50%, and his challenger being with the MOE of him for months winning? That sounds like hanging on for dear life.

Bush was bound to have a good few weeks, he had to have them. The Swift Boats Liars have driven some previously undecided Bush2000 supporters who had switched to Kerry after the DNC back to the undecided column. Also, Kerry has been off the airwaves, because of the RNC and the Olympics. Those two factors together have taken down Kerry's microscopic bounce from the DNC, but not necesarrilly helped Bush. All in all, I think he is in a vulnerable position, and Kerry is in an incredibly strong position. Considering Bush's previous popularity, you could not ask for a better race for the Democrats.

Bel, people just don't dump presidents all at once. It is a process from realizing he is a doofus, to taking a look at his challnger, to stepping in the voting booth, and pulling the lever for the challenger. The late Reagan did not pull ahead of Carter till October. And Carter was way more vulnerable than Bush is now.

I find 2 things that have happened in this campaign amazing.

1). In the old days of journalism, maybe 20-25 years ago, there would NEVER have been a story about John Kerry's war record because there is absolutely no proof on the side of his critics.

2). Republican delegates have no shame: They are wearing small Purple Hearts and claiming they hurt themselves shaving, etc. This shows a lack of respect for our troops, many of whom have won Purple Hearts and in a logical world backfire tremendously.

Now in the media, Kerry the war hero is weak on defense and Bush, who not only does he not know anything about policy, is being portrayed as a tough leader.

BULLSHIT!

Maybe Kerry will start to hit back with some vigor.

"Kerry Will Buy $45M TV Time in 20 States

32 minutes ago

By RON FOURNIER and LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writers

NEW YORK - Previewing its fall strategy, John Kerry (news - web sites)'s presidential campaign will buy $45 million worth of commercial time in 20 states through Election Day, including spots on cable television and advertising geared toward minorities.

The buy is timed to coincide with the conclusion of President Bush (news - web sites)'s nominating convention as Kerry seeks to curb the Republican incumbent's momentum. Anxious Democrats are pushing Kerry to beef up his staff and go on the attack against Bush. "

The ABC News/Money Magazine Consumer Comfort Index released tonight carries a similar message, especially among independents:

"The index, based on Americans' ratings of the national economy, their personal finances and the buying climate, is far more polarized than usual this year, ranging from +37 among Republicans to -34 among Democrats. It's soured recently among independents, dropping from -5 a month ago to -22 today."
http://money.cnn.com/2004/08/31/news/economy/abc_money/

The best way to attack Bush on the economy... Well, there are many good ways, but here's one some might not have thought of.

The Value-Added Tax (or National Sales Tax) that his campaign sort of "flew up the flagpole" a few weeks ago to see what people thought of it. Now, Bush tried to sweeten it by suggesting it would totally replace the Federal Income Tax. But... It's still a new tax, and a very regressive one at that, that hurts the poor and middle class more than the wealthy.

A campaign commercial about how "So Bush wants to add a National Sales Tax..." would be very powerful. It would attack Bush in an area that he's worked had to make a strong point. And it would be fun, because it would put the Bushies into the position of having to EXPLAIN how it was just a thought, it wasn't for real, the president didn't mean it, and besides, it wouldn't have been so bad, etc. The pundits would have to admit that it's just as fair or more fair for Kerry to go after Bush on this proposal as it was for Bush to go after Kerry for the not-so-serious gas-tax proposal he made a dozen years ago.

Putting Bush on the defensive for even a moment about his RAISING new taxes would hurt him with parts of his base, as well as with middle-class progressives worried about the way Bush's cuts always work to the advantage of the wealthy. It's good turf for a fight.

Ruy,

I agree with you that the fundamentals favor Kerry, and that Bush has little to run on- which leads right to the smears by the Swift Boaters for Bush. Bush has to continually do this and he will. He is taking a page right out of his fathers playbook against Dukkais.

Kerry's lack of responce, late coming and not very good, did two things it took Kerry off issues and showed Kerry as weak in letting the topic grow.(This is also brilliant because Republicans can now say if he won't defend his own heroric record in Vietnam, how we he defend us against terrorists?) We know that Bush/Rove will continue this and soon Kerry's military record will not be as positive as it once was.

I strongly believe that Kerry has also suffered from a lack of response regarding the flip flop charges. Kerry should of nuetralized this by making ads showing Bush's many flip=flops.(they can still do this, since Bush just did another flip flop on winning the war on terrorism.

The bottem line, is will our side continue to play nice,ignore attacks and respond in a tame way. Or will we counterattack with Kerry or at least some 527's? In other words Bob Shrum the loser or James Carville the winner. That's the choice.

I remember during the primaries Teresa said that she wasn't going to use any of her money on the campain unless this administration started with the slime. Well it's time.............

If I had five minutes tonight to meet with the strategists at Kerry Edwards ’04, I would tell them that Kerry must seize the initiative in the days immediately after the GOP convention with a strong and consistent message aimed to exploiting the fears of the undecided swing voters in the battleground states (and rally the ranks of loyal Democrats who need to see their candidate respond effectively to the terms set by the GOP with their clever SBVT smear). It’s time for Kerry to turn this campaign away from questions about his background to what it should be: a referendum on the presidency of George W. Bush. The message of such a campaign would be simple and consistent from now until November 2nd:

George W. Bush: FAILURE

If you think about it, Kerry can attack Bush as a failure on virtually every issue:

Iraq Occupation and Reconstruction: Failure
Foreign Policy and Building International Support: Failure
Intelligence: Failure
National Security: Failure
Economic Growth: Failure
Jobs: Failure
Health Care: Failure
Stem Cell Research: Failure
Education: Failure
Sleazy SBVT Campaign Tactics: (Moral) Failure
Early Career (Arbusto, Harken): (Business)Failure
Character: Failure
Ethics: Failure
Competence and personal abilities: Failure

In fact, Kerry could label successfully Bush a failure on virtually every aspect of his background, life and presidency. If Bush resorts to more attacks on Kerry, Kerry could label it as yet another Bush failure. “Failure” would be a simple message that everyone would understand and would play to the deep seated worries that many Americans have about Bush’s incompetent handling of vurtually every key issues. It would allow Kerry to hit Bush over and over again, drawing voters’ attention to his most vulnerable areas. The campaign could be summed up in a simple slogan: America can’t afford any more failures in the White House: the stakes over the next four years are just too high

The Kerry campaign would have to take a scorched earth approach to the Bush presidency, and would be personal and nasty, but it is no more than what Karl Rove would cheerfully do to a Democratic incumbent in the same situation. After SBVT, I think the time has come for Kerry to hang a label of failure on this president (which is both truthful and richly deserved) and make it stick.

I like canuckforkerry idea of failure, but how about this as a slogan:

Time to clean up the mess!

Mess being:

Iraq
economy
poverty
healthcare
lack of jobs
prison scandal
halliburton scandal
worlds lack of respect for US
Isreal/Palistine
etc. etc.

Bush has left a mess to be sure. However, I think Kerry Edwards '04 needs to keep the message simple and consistent so that everyone gets it. The objective of the Kerry folks should be to create a campaign that will make every undecided voter think "failure" whenever they see or hear Dubya. It's as simple as that. Perhaps there is a better theme than "failure", but I can't think of what that would be.

Did anyone see the Terminator tonight? I didn't and was wondering if he was very effective? I personally think his accent makes everything he says ineffective.

Calm down. Nov is still 2 months away. People don't even start paying attention until labor day. Especially the undecideds. The election will turn on the economy as it always does. This attacking a war hero business will backfire. As long as Democrats are energized and vote, Kerry will win. The demographics favor Kerry and so do the Bush approval ratings. There are still the debates to come. The GOP will try to spin them for all they are worth. I cannot imagine Bush doing well in a debate where he has to defend his record.

I've been a lurker here for some time, and love the analysis. This comment really should go on yesterday's thread but it's getting long... There is much hair pulling about how the JK campaign is in shambles, to weak, unwilling to go on the offensive, letting JK be slimed etc. True enough. But I think a big part of the problem is not lack of aggressiveness. It's Kerry's message on the war. In my own very informal survey of average joes I've run into--I've done a lot of traveling lately and met a lot of people who are ready to give Bush the boot but don't know what Kerry's stance on Iraq is, and that troubles them. Or worse, they've heard him issue a "me too" statement like the latest where he boxed himself in with an asinine statement that knowing what he does now (no WMDs) he STILL would have supported using force in Iraq. People, the swift boat ads can only do so much damage--most people believe Kerry was telling the truth and they DESPERATELY want JK to differentiate himself on Iraq, not just saying he would put more troops in there, would have talked nicer to France, etc. This is Bush's weakest issue (among all his weak issues) and it's also Kerry's weakest. He can't slam Bush on this. He's got to get a coherent policy and articulate it. And the media have to report on it (but that's another matter).

Perhaps Kerry will soy more tomorrow at the American Legion Converence. But one must understand the problem a challenger has addressing what he "might do" if he had the mandate and power. Anything more specific than Kerry's mention of an inclusive international conference to deal with Iraq's immediate future, -- in fact anything more than Ike's "I'll go to Korea if elected" or Nixon's "I have a secret plan..." is to show your hole card before you have the scope of intelligence to lay a strategic plan. People who ask for more specifics need to be reminded of this. Would Kerry do things differently????? of that I am certain.

I agree with Ruy -- the undecided probably are people who will vote their economic interests as they understand them. The undecideds are not folk who read Foreign Affairs or sophisticated Military History. Their votes probably have more to do with the price of a basket of groceries, cost of Health Insurance, or jobs in their region, and whether they pay enough to meet expenses.

On the otherhand, I think the "Pentagon Spy Nest" may have some legs that Kerry could effecitively use, especially if he turns it to the question, Do you really trust George Bush (who never fires anyone) to actually reform the Intelligence Community?

Another thing -- I hope Edwards (or the Trial Lawyers) are up and ready to defend their brotherhood as it looks like the next wedgie will be those horrid trial lawyers. Edwards did a good job with this when he ran against Faircloth in 1998 -- and it is high time the Lawyers put up a smashing defense.

Hope everyone has read "follow the Money" in the September edition of Washington Monthly. If Kerry can do it right -- and pull his "take down" of BCCI out of the shadows, and talk about what honest prosecution can do to terroristic criminal syndicates, he will do well. It helps that the Washington Monthly article connects enough dots so that Bush Jr and Sr's connections to BCCI are fairly clear. But it is a complicated story.

Its very interesting that the star speakers at the RNC are not attacking Kerry. Neither McCain nor Arnold really challenged Kerry. At least not in my opinion. I would think their performances would be pluses for the Kerry campaign then and if marketed well, it should appeal to moderate republicans to join with Kerry.

Lots of repubs are looking for someone to literally lead them off the fence. Maybe this convention provides the impetus to get them down, to join Kerry.

Cheers

Schwarzenegger's effectiveness...

I live in California. Schwarzenegger has a lot of support, but a lot of it comes from people who really don't give much of a damn about politics and just like him because of his movies. Their loyalty is to him and his image, rather than to any principles he has. If he tells people to vote for other Republicans, I don't think it's going to actually help them much.

And I think he's on the verge of losing some standing in California, too. He's got a number of budget problems that are looming big on the horizon.

California's all-out in the Kerry column anyway.

About Kerry differentiating himself on Iraq...

I think he should keep his cards a little close to his vest, at least for now. Vagueness worked well for Nixon in '68, and I see that as the model for this election.

One thing he *can* do to attempt to sound more aggressive and actually get some heads nodding is to start asking, "With all the screwups in the post-war situation, why have no heads rolled?" He can detail the ways that all of Bush's guys have dropped the ball and then punctuate it by saying, "This man should be fired, and if GWB won't do it, then I will!"

That sounds kinda like a hard-hitting policy statement, although to be fair, it isn't really. Who cares, though. The media don't seem to be able to tell the difference.

http://128.255.244.60/graphs/graph_Pres04_WTA.cfm

The earth moved: and fast!. If you look at the trend line, Bush had opened the largest gap since the campaign had begun, and it closed in 24 hours.

If you go back to the Democratic convention, you can see how the price line anticipated the Kerry 'bounce' and its expiry, before Kerry had actually spoken.

Iowa Electronic Markets has a better record than any opinion poll I know of. And it still says:

Bush in the lead, but too close to call

http://128.255.244.60/graphs/graph_Pres04_VS.cfm

Re Canuckforkerry: Bravo!

And here we are, ladies and gentlemen! It took one week – et voilà:

"Sources: Democratic leaders urge Kerry campaign changes – Campaign refutes reports of shake-up"

http://edition.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/08/31/kerry.campaign/

That's the Democrats as we know them: Bush was behind for four months, at times for almost ten points – you didn't here a thing from behind closed Republican doors. On the contrary: everyone was happily bragging about how well things went.

Now, Kerry is behind (two or three points) in s o m e polls for, say, ten days, and the rats are already jumping ship. Hereby guaranteeing that the poll numbers will gain even more significance.

Well done! Look for your Bananarama and Starship tapes – it's 1988 all over again..!

IMPORTANT- ACTION SEPT 1 ON FREEDOM FROM DEBT CAMPAIGN

Jubilee USA Network
Countdown to Freedom from Debt Campaign

On September 1st, Call the White House and U.S. Treasury & Ask the Administration to Support Full Debt Cancellation for Impoverished Countries!

It is a critical moment in the movement for impoverished country debt cancellation. We need you to CALL the White House and the U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday, September 1. When you call, ask that the administration announce its support for 100% multilateral debt cancellation for all impoverished nations when the G-7 Finance Ministers meet in Washington on October 1.

To call the White House, dial: 202-456-1414
To call the US Treasury Department, dial: 202-622-0656 (This is the office of Undersecretary for International Affairs John Taylor -- please ask to leave a message with the receptionist for Mr. Taylor, not to transfer to voicemail)

When you call, you can use or adapt one or more of the below talking points:

· I am calling to urge President Bush and the Treasury Department to support 100% cancellation of debts owed by impoverished nations to the World Bank, IMF, and other mulilateral financial institutions. I want to encourage President Bush/US Treasury to use US leverage to build consensus in the G-7 for 100% debt cancellation, and to announce support for 100% cancellation at the G-7 Finance Ministers meeting on October 1.

· All African countries are paying more on debt service than on health care for their people, even with limited and conditional debt relief. The average spending per person on debt service is $14 per person while the average spending on health is less than $5 per person.

· Meanwhile, we know that debt relief works. Uganda, the first country to receive debt relief used $1.3 million of its debt savings specifically for their national HIV/AIDS plan. This investment played a key role in the government’s success in reducing HIV infection rates by 40%. Imagine what 100% cancellation would achieve!

· I support 100% cancellation of multilateral debt (IMF, World Bank, regional development banks) for all impoverished nations (not just those countries in the current HIPC Initiative), without harmful economic policy conditions attached, and from the institutions’ existing resources. I also support moving away from loans to grants for impoverished nations.

· I am calling as part of Jubilee USA Network’s Countdown to Freedom from Debt campaign. Today marks 30 days until debt decision day - we hope to be able to ring in freedom from debt on October 1st!

Background

At the G-8 summit in early June, world leaders considered for the first time a proposal that would provide 100% multilateral debt cancellation for impoverished nations. Debt cancellation is desperately needed-this year alone, 3 million people in Africa will die due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Yet countries on the African continent will send an estimated $15 billion in debt service to the IMF, World Bank, and wealthy creditor nations this year.

Though they failed to take action at the June summit, G-8 leaders directed their finance ministers (including the US Treasury Secretary) to consider additional measures in the coming months. Their next meeting will take place on October 1, 2004, just before the Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC.

So, we have from now until early October to turn up the heat, pull out all the stops, and put the pressure on our government and other G-7 governments to announce 100% cancellation! Jubilee USA Network’s demand of the U.S. government and other G-7 nations is that they announce support for 100% cancellation of multilateral debt (IMF, World Bank, regional development banks) for all impoverished nations (not just those countries in the current HIPC Initiative), without harmful economic policy conditions attached.

See more information on the Countdown to Freedom from debt at www.jubileeusa.org

Thank you for taking a moment to make this important call and please pass this message along to others!!!

Republicans are truly delusional if they think they are winning at this point.

I'm w/ ruy on kerry's iraq plan: he needs one. others have argued that kerry should avoid overcommitting himself, which is a fair enough suggestion. but somewhere b/t copping nixon's "secret plan" language and laying out a 2-year firm time-table for troop withdrawal, kerry needs to offer indpt voters some substance.

what that may be, I have no idea. but then, that's not my job---that's why kerry's got a campaign team. though, as evidenced by the above-suggestions to kerry's campaign staff, too often rank and file dems are having to pick up the staff's slack. there's frequently a void of good decisionmaking at the center of the kerry camp.

for example, 7 months later and kerry still doesn't have a tight response to why he (quite justifiably, in my opinion) voted against the administration's $87 billion in iraq troop funds. the GOP is still flaying kerry w/ the "I voted for it before I voted against it" quote. and I think the bush message on this point---kerry the flip-flopper----has been accepted as convetional wisdom. that's subpar campaigning from the democrats; the kerry camp should've buried this canard before easter.

while the kerry campaign has fumferred their way through GOP smears and distortions, I've seen months of solid, substantive suggestions from bloggers on this and other issues. all of it aparently unheeded. I suspect that the kerry campaign, if how they manage their blog is any indication, sees these suggestions as merely an amusing academic diversion for bloggers. but this isn't a scholarly exercise. it's a campaign w/ very real consequences.

what all this means for kerry's ability to win or the role that blogs could or should play in participatory democracy is beyond me. but I do feel strongly that time is running out for the kerry campaign, that the left-leaning blogs often would serve as a good resource for the campaign, and that I am getting tired of howling in the electronic wilderness.

I really hope the Kerry supporters dont start to scatter like chickens now just because they hear a lil rattling in the hen house.. I hope this rattling becomes a call for solidarity and a move for mass mobilisation of Kerry support troop

Frenchfries, Amazing really. In April and May when Kerry was ahead and Bush was scraping 40% approval all the talking dicks were commenting on how Bush was holding up well despite all the bad news. Now we have Kerry down a few points in some polls and he's DOOMED, his campaign is collapsing. Jesus christ on a pogo stick. How fucking stupid do these idiots take you for? Kerry is not even supposed to be campaigning during their convention. Unfortunately some people are falling for this BS. I've seen more whining and hand wringing in the last few days than I can stand. Did you think these guys would just bow down and play nice? You knew this was goiing to be a dirty campaign and now you're surprised! Look at those demonstrations going on all week in NYC. The news stations don't want to talk about them, do they. We need to speak up and get rid of this defeatist mentality.

I agree with 'warp resident, stop all the whining!!! Christ! When things start to look tough, then get tough and work harder. Stop feeding the frenzy of the media and prove them wrong. If JK loses it will be as much our fault as his if we keep this up. In fact, what a story it will be when JK gets back on top of the polls after the RNC. This would be the ultimate blow to the repug's. Get tough and make it happen already --- now get with it.

Link to a fun article by Garrison Keiller:

http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/979/

Regarding the matter of whether there are some whose verbalized fretting--as distinct from sober analysis or constructive suggestions, both of which are welcome--is unhelpful to the cause...

This, part of a Josh Marshall post today, at www.talkingpointsmemo.com, seems about right to me (I disagree with his view that the momentum of the campaign is clearly towards Bush, as I don't think that has been established):

"Politically, this is one of the worst things about Democrats -- and it has many sources. As a group they seem to have a great tendency toward becoming disheartened, turning on their candidate, doubting his strategy, doubting his advisors, and so forth. Unfortunately, the candidates and advisors have an equal tendency to be open to that kind of fretting. And with the media playing the handmaiden to the synergizing anxiety, the whole thing can become very demoralizing and damaging for campaigns.

Many folks look back and say Al Gore ran a terrible campaign. Maybe. Maybe not. For me, I look back and see something different. I remember a campaign that was far too sensitive to the spin and CW of the moment and thus capable of being buffeted by the smallest political squall. This, rather than any particular tactic or strategy, has always struck me as its greatest failing.

The Bush 2000 campaign was wholly different. They had many reverses. But there was never any serious question that a Rove or a Hughes would get canned. And if there was, the campaign sent out a clear signal that it would never happen. On many levels they were more disciplined.

That difference made a big difference in consistency of strategy and morale among the troops.

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know I've been very critical of the rapid-response from the Kerry campaign (wherever it may have gone to) as well as their seeming disinclination to go on the offensive and stay there.

But the difference between the race today and where it was two, three or four weeks ago is still very small. The difference in the national polls is very slight. The last nine major national polls have ABC (tied), ICR (+3 Kerry), Time (+2 Bush), Fox (+1 Kerry), CNN (+2 Bush), NBC/WSJ (+2 Bush), LAT (+2 Bush), NPR (+4 Kerry), IBD/CSM (tied).

(Those numbers are from the graphic on the front page of Pollingreport.com.)

Let me be clear: Those polls tell me the momentum of the race has clearly moved in the president's direction. And some of the state-by-state numbers (like PA, for instance) show that even more clearly. For all that, though, it is difficult to say that Kerry has lost the race when it's not even clear that he's behind.

Again, this is not a Pollyannaish post. The Kerry campaign needs to get control of the debate back from the president. And they need to start hitting much harder. But Democrats themselves need to be a lot tougher and hardier about the cycles campaigns go through. And that applies to self-serving Democratic 'insiders' too.

Discipline pays rewards."

Think: fortitude. If, by temperament, that is hard for some to come by under the current circumstances, aim for "suspension of negativity" and draw inspiration from the candidate himself. He will never wilt, he will instead rise to the occasion as this campaign begins in earnest. If we, his supporters, succeed in doing as well, we stand an excellent chance of winning.

canuckforkerry really like your George W. Bush: FAILURE meme.

It's simple, very clear, true ( and easily defendable with FACTS ) so American voters will "Get It"

This is the perfect antitdote to Karl Rove's negative campaign because we have lost the ability to have meaningful discussion about any issue so our debates are narrow, almost meaningless slogans.

It's time for Kerry to go ALL OUT on offense to discuss these REAL issues in plain simple talk i.e. Bush is a Failure rather than just react to Rove's shooting of negative flak in the air then running like Chickenhawks.

I'm looking forward to seeing a good pummeling of Bush/Cheney in public view.

Here's some nice offense from Kerry....

Ben Barnes to break silence on "60 Minutes"

The Republican campaign gets ready for shock waves, as the former Texas official who says he pulled strings to get George W. Bush into the Air National Guard finally goes public

Sept. 1, 2004 | The campaign battle over Vietnam War records is still raging, but President Bush may soon be the one answering uncomfortable questions about his past service. Ben Barnes, the former lieutenant governor of Texas, will finally break his silence and talk to the press about what role he played in helping Bush get a coveted slot in the Texas Air National Guard in 1968. Sources say Barnes has already sat down for a "60 Minutes" interview that will air a week from Sunday. A "60 Minutes" spokesperson declined to comment, saying the program does not discuss reports that are in progress.

Barnes made headlines last week when his videotaped comments that he was "very ashamed" of getting Bush into the National Guard began circulating on the Web. He said the remorse was prompted by a recent visit to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, where he saw the names of thousands of other young men who did not enjoy the connections of the Bush family. Barnes made his comments in May and the video was posted on a pro-Kerry Web site in June, but word of it only began to spread widely last Friday.

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/09/01/barnes60minutes/index_np.html

I am struck by the scarcity of favorable comments about Senator Kerry in these posts. To me, it reinforces that he basically is a weak and unlikeable candidate. I am not saying he cannot win, but even here, no one seems to be saying nice things about him. Why is that?

I don't read criticism as whining. a constant refrain on blogs like this is "just trust kerry."

why should we? I'm not arguing for abandoning him or giving an inch in opposing bush, but the campaign has done little to address concerns persisting since march: kerry's iraq votes, the flip-flopping horse-shit, his protest of the viet nam war. these aren't my concerns. or most democrats. but they are much of the electorate's. and b/c of that, they matter.

it's fair to say that the GOP is running a better, tighter campaign. they had a rapid response team at the DNC convetion in boston. where are the talking-head dems in NYC this week? why aren't the dems dissecting the GOP convetion speeches in the same soundbiting, telegenic way the republicans used in boston?

and, b/t the swift boat vets for crappola and the GOP convention, the GOP succeeded in swiping the month of August from kerry. why didn't the kerry campaign anticipate john o'neil's return to the public eye? o'neil's been a thorn in kerry's side since sly and the family stone was topping the charts.

the GOP stays on message, is efficient at marshalling surrogates for TV appearances, and has boiled down the campaign to memorable soundbites. they are playing the media beautifully. in contrast, the dems look, as usual, inept and slow off the line.

as dems, we can congratulate ourselves that we won't troll the republican's gutter of dishonesty, but there's no arguing w/ success. and success is the only measure that counts here.

the GOP may have irrevocably defined the terms of this year's election debate. and while kerry has the better policy positions, he's unnecessarily on the defensive. kerry's not running to be right, he's running to win. in short, there's a set of things---all part of a solid campaign---that kerry isn't doing consistently. he has approximately 60 days (or less) to plug the holes is his campaign plan.

make no mistake, this is hardball. pure and simple. and we have to fight hard to win. my queasiness comes not from my own doubts about the merits of a kerry candidacy, but from a perceived lack of discpline and toughness from the dems. this election, then, is as much about the democratic party's instestinal fortitude as anything else.

Brian... can you imagine that Kerry is not likeable and weak and will still make a superior president to GWB in the next four years? Its very interesting.

Brian, you want to hear something nice about Kerry? Right now he's trying to win this election by pulling the country together. That means reaching out to people who haven't decided or who may be wavering from Bush. I think that's an admirable goal. The republicans desperately want to keep the country divided by promoting base instincts like fear, hatred, bigotry and vindictiveness. People here are focussed on tactics. That's all. Practically everyone on the internet has already made up their minds. You won't find many messages around here to help sell the candidate. But then, you've already made up your mind too, right?

Sure, it's possible, but not likely and also not determinable. If Kerry wins, how will you know if he does a superior job than Bush would have done over the next four years? It works the other way too. If Bush wins, how will you know of he does a superior job than Kerry would have done?

Can you really tell me if Gore would have done a better job than Bush over the past four years?

In any event, a "not likeable and weak" Kerry is unlikely to be an effective president and, thus, the sense that his supporters really don't want him, but think Bush is so bad he needs to be removed.

Based on history, Bush in a second term is unlikely to be effective, but these are different times so perhaps history is not that good a guide.

Never mind Brian... the team is concentrating on ensuring that Kerry wins in November. Your role is to throw the cat amoung the pidgeons but it wont work here.

You and I already know about GWB and the tactics of his party. The Kerry supporters are working to counter your well oiled, well planned, well organised machines and afford the country a better president.

Hopefully you will be supportive of Kerry when he wins and give him a chance to be likeable and to show you that he is strong.

Cheers

I think mostly we don't spend a lot of time praising Kerry because he isn't the subject of the conversation. We talk about odds of winning, campaign tactics, etc. If the subject was "Why vote for Kerry" there would be plenty of praise. This is a pro-Kerry blog and support for him is pretty much a given.

Let there be no doubt that whatever the Kerry campaign decides all of us here will work every hour of every day to ensure that John Kerry is the next president. The alternative is unthinkable ...

Further to the George W. Bush: FAILURE concept, imagine a campaign built around a series of television ads that would start with the words “George W. Bush: FAILURE … (whatever issue the ad was focused on, e.g. Iraq, Jobs, Economy, Health Care, etc.)” and then end with a voiceover saying “America can’t afford another four years of failure in the White House.”)

For example, imagine the following 45-second TV commercial coming from the Kerry Edwards ’04 campaign:

1. Black screen with words: “George W. Bush: Failure … in Iraq”

2. Screen shows a still photo of President George W. Bush wearing his flight suit on the aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him. (Background music: Hail to Chief plays normally for a moment, then is played slower and slower until it fades away and is replaced by the sound of a Shia crowd chanting militant slogans)

3. The Bush photo fades to a still photo of a scowling Muqtada al Sadr with a clenched fist in front of a frenzied crowd of gun wielding militants. (Background sound: chanting fades to mournful sound of Taps being played)

4. The Al Sadr photo fades to a still photo of row after row of American military graves. (Voiceover (male): Today almost 1,000 American soldiers are dead and another 7,000 have been wounded in Iraq. With no end to the killing in sight, almost all of America’s oldest and closest allies have refused to help George Bush out of his mess. Our soldiers are paying the price of his failure to build international support for our effort in Iraq.”)

5. US military graves photo fades to photo of small group of American soldiers on patrol somewhere in Iraq. (Voice over (John Kerry): “As president I will do what George Bush can’t, and reach out to repair our alliances and ask old allies and new friends in the world to stand with America.”)

6. Screen fades to black with the words: On November 2nd vote John Kerry for President. (Voiceover: “America can not afford another four years of failure in the White House.”)

7. (Voiceover: (John Kerry): “I am John Kerry and I approved this ad.”)

This is just an example of how the “failure” concept could be pitched by Kerry Edwards ‘04. I am sure the people on this site could come up with a lot more creative examples of how this idea could be used to create hard hitting and effective ads on the other issues.

Brian is clueless - nuff said.

Mencken - GOP is running a better negative campaign because they are experts at this stuff and have nothing positive to run on.

but that's about to change....

The next 60 days should be more a discussion about REAL issues like the economy, jobs, healthcare, environment and of course the F2F debates.

Advantage to Kerry/Edwards.

I'm looking forward to seeing a good pummeling of Bush/Cheney.

I wonder what the f*c* Georgie will say tomorrow night? He has a lousey record and he can't slime Kerry all by him self so what can he say? This should be a boring speech!

Ed... Bush willl be moderate and will take the high road most of the time.. but look for insinuations. Look for plenty cliches.

Cheers

by the way... whats there about Kerry that you like?

A bombshell from Salon...MUST READ

George W. Bush's missing year

The widow of a Bush family confidant says her husband gave the future president an Alabama Senate campaign job as a favor to his worried father. Did they see him do any National Guard service? "Good lord, no."

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/09/02/allison/

I still don't really understand why there is so little good stuff said about Kerry, but I'll leave you folks alone with one more comment.

The warp resident post is classic. It tries to say something semi-positive about Kerry for two sentences, then then he/she can't help but unleash the hateful stuff about Bush and his supporters.

Enjoy the campaign and the election. May the candidate best able to protect the country win.

Hallo everyone,

It's quite a long thread and I don't know if anyone's gonna read this again, but just to make sure: I'm with you concerning all that putting down of Kerry going on within Democratic circles. I can't stand it, and I don't understand it, and I keep withstanding it. I'm busy building up my worrying Dem friends day-in, day-out.

But when I read all that stuff about "campaign shake-up" and goofing on the Kerry team behind Democratic curtains I just go bananas (and I had to post it here; therapeutical thing). Thus they're always helping the other side, and they should know by now.

So, let's just work the conventional wisdom. I see things are already improving on that front. (It's all going so fast, these days.)

And brian,

I always have to smile at this charge that we're just anti-Bush and not pro-Kerry. I remember 2000 when all your side did was campaigning against a President who was leaving office. That governor-son-of-a-failed-President-guy was just a screen for your Clinton hatred. Otherwise you'd all be screeming fraud, by now. Since he broke every darn campaign promise he gave: about compassionate conservatism, honor-and-dignity-bla-bla, education, and not-nation building.

It all didn't matter. Maint point being that there'll never be a Democrat in the Oval office again. What is his big issue today? That he's "decisive", "not wavering". Doing what? Who cares...

Bel,


hmmm what I like about Kerry........
For me it all boils down to deciding if we want conservatives continuing to rule our country (and shoving their radical rightwing extremist agenda down our throats) or if we want liberals governing our country.

Well, it looks as though Zell Miller is auditioning to join the shrieking midgets of AM radio (thanks, Garrison) with his own show once he leaves the Senate.

Good news out of the convention last night...the Republicans nominated Dick Cheney for a second term. If he is going to run things then he should be right there on the ticket so all of us can observe, listen, hear what he has to say. Last night, in case this was not evident from the contents of the speeches, was supposed to have as its theme a focus on the Republicans and the economy.

In re to those who believe those of us supporting Kerry are more Bush critics than Kerry admirers, here are some things I like and admire about John Kerry:

*he's strong and tough. He cannot be discouraged or demoralized no matter how much garbage is thrown at him.

*he has a well-informed sense of what is going on in the country, what the problems of ordinary people are, and lots of excellent ideas for how to improve things.

*he's smart, really smart. I mean several things by that in this context. He has both the intellectual inclination and ability to wrap himself around highly complex problems, sort it out, and pursue a thought-through course of action. He's a good decisionmaker, both under extreme time pressure and when he is under less duress and has more time to chew on a problem. He he sees and can intellectually digest and deal with a big picture.

*He's brave and decisive. He is someone I would follow up a hill, figuratively speaking, because I respect both his judgment and his character. Some misguided pollster framed a question whether voters prefer someone who is---I forget the exact words, but it was something like: do you prefer a CIC who is "decisive" or "cautious", as if one cannot be both. Decisive refers to the style of decisionmaking. Cautious can refer to either the style or substance of decisions one makes. A preference for deliberation before major decisions has nothing to do with whether the decision one makes in the end is bold, cautious, or something else. His health care plan, for example, is bold, while also building on the existing approach. Bush, by contrast, has no health care plan--bold, timid, or otherwise. On alternative energy sources, likewise, Kerry's plan is bold.

*He's curious, thorough, does his homework before making decisions that can affect the lives of millions

*He listens, and is aware that since none of us has all the answers, it's best not to tune out the views of all but a small coterie of advisors. Most of the incumbent's key advisors are slaves to discredited ideologies which have resulted in incorrect forecasts about how their policies would play out in virtually every major case.

*he's patient, persistent, steadfast, kind of how I imagine Abraham Lincoln would be if he were a candidate for office now

*he respects the intelligence, character, and aspirations of the US public (which could work against him, but that's another matter...it's still an admirable quality, I think, in someone we'd want to lead us). He appeals to hope, reason and the love of country that draws Americans together and makes it possible for us to direct our generosity and moral instincts to moral ends, rather than to the misguided follies of empire and social generosity only for the already wealthy and powerful.

*he's a true patriot. After first having served his country with distinction at a time when many were taking an easier way out, he had the courage to speak truth to power and try to hasten the end to what he, with much firsthand knowledge of what was really going on, thought had become an unwinnable and counterproductive war.

*he's a hard worker. W's record for most time spent on vacation will be in no jeapardy under the Kerry Administration

*he's socially bright enough to realize that we live in a world with other nations, that we can't just do whatever we feel like doing indefinitely without paying the piper--big time, as the current czar of US foreign policy would say. When I was a child and would do the sorts of self absorbed and selfish things kids do, my father would sometimes bark at me "You live in a world with other people." Some people have not learned that lesson well into adulthood.

*He is not only open to evidence that cuts against his previous views but will seek it out. He has intellectual honesty, which is a prerequisite for anyone I trust in the Oval Office.

I could go on but will not.

Someone keeps saying that the crew says nothing positive about Kerry.. well.. bt did for everyone.. so that query should rest peacefully from here in.. was it you Brian?

Bush's character: Ignorant and Dishonest
He does not deserve the TRUST of the electorate.

"The president and the Republican Party will say anything and do anything in order to try and get elected — but anything except really take care of middle-class American families that are struggling,"

- John Kerry

The clearest illustration of Bush's inflexibility is not Iraq but his economic agenda specifically the tax cuts. Bush's tax radicalism is breathtaking.

These were conceived when the economy was booming and huge budget surpluses were expected, but when the boom turned into bust, Bush showed no ability to course-correct. Almost unbelievably, Bush not only rammed through the huge tax cut he had promised in the campaign: He cut taxes again in 2002 and a third time in 2003. Even now he seems ready to sign an appalling pork-ridden corporate tax reduction.

Again, this is not just a policy issue; it goes to Bush's character. How can he push such a dramatic shift in economic policy without grappling with the basic point that his cuts are unaffordable? He chants that he will halve the deficit within five years, but this is beside the point: The cost of the tax cuts falls mainly beyond the five-year window, as does the cost of the baby-boomers' retirement. Perhaps Bush fails to understand that his policies are unsustainable, or perhaps he understands but refuses to say so. In other words he is either ignorant or dishonest: Neither suggests that he deserves the trust of the electorate.

George W. Bush has become the new Kenneth Lay by distorting the truth with deceptive wizardry. Bush has triggered a tectonic shift in the management of official secrets, hiding more from the public across all policy sectors than any president since the conspiracy-obsessed Richard Nixon. He has fostered a White House culture that is casual about facts and is comfortable with making unsubstantiated national security assertions.

U.S. citizens are this nation's stakeholders, and the president has been misleading the public, distorting fact, and contriving false realities. TRUST is the basis of Bush has been misleading the public, distorting fact, and contriving false realities on virtually every major issue like the economy, jobs, healthcare, foreign policy, national security, and terrorism.

Bush is ignorant and dishonest and has NOT earned nor does he deserve the TRUST of the electorate.

Lack of TRUST in George W. Bush is the REAL issue that Kerry/Edwards need to push in order to win !

references:

The Character Question
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A45418-2004Aug29.html
By Sebastian Mallaby
August 30, 2004

Enronization of the Bush Administration
http://www.jpri.org/members/clemons_JT_08-16-03.html
By STEVEN C. CLEMONS
August 16, 2003