Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, September 10, 2004

Why Kerry will lose, conclusion

When we last left off, our misunderstood humanitarian was listing problems the Bush campaign has that Kerry hasn’t/can’t capitalize on. Because of these, I think Kerry'll lose. Today, I wrap it all up and move on to other less sensitive areas…

I’ve given you seven points, do I need to go on? As the Economist (who endorsed Dubya the first time and is likely to do so again) noted, there are many, many ways to attack this president. They even had a humorous photo of it on the cover a few weeks ago. But yet this Democratic candidate can’t find one? He can’t get angry, point out weaknesses, problems with policy, or anything (And boy, he tried in Ohio. At midnight. After Bush's speech at the RNC. Wow. What a flop)? There are so many ways to run the flag up and see who salutes…is he paralyzed with options? Maybe he’s like me at a favorite restaurant…you get in, sit down, look at the menu, and then there is so much good looking stuff, you can’t decide what to get. I’m always the last one to order, because I just can’t decide, it all looks good. Maybe Kerry has the Dilemma of the Easy Pickings. [Having written this the other day, I was rather amused to find this on Slate: “Kerry decided it would be a good idea in Pennsylvania to talk about how he has difficulty deciding what to eat at restaurants. "You know when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling, what do you want?" he said. A cook at a local restaurant, though, solves Kerry's dilemma by serving "whatever he's cooked up that day. I think that's the way it ought to work for confused people like me who can't make up our minds what we're going to eat."…so, umm, basically, I’m right, and the candidate says as much?]

Now, what does this have to do with Karl Rove? Do I think he is Wile E. Coyote, super genius, as RbR is fond of saying (check out this link for the cheesy theme song)? No. But I think he is a step above whatever goons Kerry has (or had, the jury is still out on the Clinton imports). The press has been full of rumors, and grumbling, from Democrats, lefties, etc., who want a new team on Kerry’s side. I’ve said the same thing since this race started. They now have one. Let’s see if the competence level increases.

Ideally, you need two things to win a campaign in this day and age, and it would be preferable to have both. One, ya gotta be charismatic. Or at least it can make up for a lot of other things. Bill Clinton, check. Kerry…not so much. Two, you need a good campaign guy. Begala, Carvel, Atwater…Rove? Certainly don’t think he’s a Dick Morris or Ed Rollins, but he clearly has maneuvered a less than stellar candidate, with serious problems, into a position he should never have attained (well, two positions…governor, then president). Kerry needs handling, big time. Clinton needed it, Reagan needed it…no matter how good they are, they need to sometimes get their image reshaped and all of that. And Kerry isn’t good enough to do this on his own. He needs a stern talking to and somebody to play hardball with the direction his campaign is headed.


Dr. Strangelove said...

The NY Times reported on Monday that a number of former Clinton campaign officials, notably James Carville, Paul Begala, and Stanley Greenberg, have now joined the Kerry campaign staff. Also, after his surgery, Clinton spoke at length with Kerry re strategy. So there is reason to believe that the tenor of the campaign may change.

I disagree with some of the comments made on this blog about how Kerry needs to focus on bringing out the swing voters and winning them over. More than a few pundits have remarked that the big decision for most people in this election isn't who to vote for, but whether to vote at all. While I used to think that winning over the undecided, swing voters would be the key to the election, I now suspect this is not so. People often talk about "mobilizing the base" as the alternative, but that's too simple--let me divide the "base" into the "core" and their "allies."

The Core: The Democrats' faithful core (e.g., most of us posting on this blog) is exceptionally well mobilized in this election (thanks mostly to George W., with a "best supporting" nod to Howard Dean). The unprecedented fundraising that Kerry has managed to achieve is evidence of this high level of interest. The Democratic core is probably even better mobilized than their Republican counterparts, if only because the anger at being out of power is more motivating than the grim determination of trying to hold on to it.

The Allies: The Republicans, however, have so far done a better job at mobilizing their allies--notably the Radical Christian Right--than the Democrats have been able to do so far. The Republicans have found some good issues (e.g. Gay Marriage) that really pander to their allies. Democrats need to do the same. Some of the Democratic allies I'm talking about are organized labor, African Americans, Hispanics, and elderly medicare recipients.

Why Mobilizing the Allies may be Key: Democratic allies outnumber Republican allies, and the number of undecided swing voters seems rather small this season. A large turnout of Democratic allies may swamp any swing vote this year. Furthermore, I believe that negative campaigning tends to depress swing voter turnout, and we're heading into a horrendous negativity tailspin now. Indeed, if Kerry chooses to mobilize the allies instead of going after swing voters (and this might be a choice he has to make--see below) then he may even wish to *depress* swing voter turnout!

How to Mobilize the Allies: A clear, simple message on Iraq or terrorism may be what swing voters may want to hear, but I suspect that specific *economic/social* issues are the best mobilizers for the Democratic allies. Note also that different allies are important in different swing states (labor in Ohio, elderly & African Americans in Florida, etc.), and that different economic/social issues are the best motivators for each.

Watching what Kerry has been doing, I think that bringing out the allies might actually be Kerry's strategy, instead of trying to win over the dwindling and fickle swing vote. This may be why Kerry has been trying to push the debate toward a variety of economic issues, tailored to individual states, and therefore has permitted himself to give a somewhat unclear or unfocused overall message. I'd like to think that he can give a clearer, stronger message while still focusing on the economic issues, and perhaps that is what the ex-Clinton advisers can help with. If it really is 50 separate elections, perhaps there is wisdom here...?

Raised By Republicans said...

Oh Great and Powerful Master of Time and Space,

Yes, there is absolutely a trade off in some of the strategies being discussed. I think what has been going - and probably the source of much of von Brawn's negative view of the Kerry campaign - is that Kerry has been trying to get out the "allies" (I'll call them "fellow travellers").

When Kerry runs ads (he ran almost no ads in August), they are on local TV and narrowly targetted. Before August they were targeted at state level. Reports coming out now say they are increasingly targeted at specific cities. Paraphrasing one ad: "George W. Bush came to Cleveland in 2000 and promised to create jobs but instead..."

But on the Iraq thing Kerry has tried to be ambiguous enough not to lose the centrists. In fact, he's been remarkably successful at that. Kerry still has a lead among self-identified moderates and independents both nationally and in most swing states.

I suspect that the first change we've seen that originated with the Clinton alums is this hyper local approach. I think its a good idea. This let's Kerry pitch the manufacturing jobs issue to the fellow travelers in North East Ohio and the medicare issue to the fellow travelers in Central Florida. People are probably more likely to personally identify with particular issue if its presented to them as a hitting their neighborhood or city than the country as a whole or some abstract principle.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Note: End of Bush bounce - 3 polls (Zogby, Fox, Democracy Corps) list Bush with 2-3 point leads only (3% MOE).

Prof. WVB tells us why Kerry is a bad candidate. That's not the same as why, or whether, he will lose.

Bell Curve said...

Not only that, but Brawny presents no facts, only an opinion, which is that Kerry is not attacking Bush enough in certain areas. Then he goes through a standard fallacy: Candidate X has done thing Y, therefore he is running a bad campaign and will lose. No wonder no one believes him.

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