Wednesday, September 1, 2004
Halfway through the Republican convention I would think that Karl Rove and company have to be feeling relatively pleased. Last night, Schwarzenegger, as the Republican Governor of the largest state in the nation, delivered a message that appeared in prime time on all the major networks:

My fellow immigrants, my fellow Americans, how do you know if you are a Republican? Well, I tell you how. If you believe that government should be accountable to the people, not the people to the government, then you are a Republican.

If you believe a person should be treated as an individual, not as a member of an interest group, then you are a Republican.

If you believe your family knows how to spend your money better than the government does, then you are a Republican.

If you believe our educational system should be held accountable for the progress of our children, then you are a Republican.

If you believe this country, not the United Nations, is the best hope for democracy, then you are a Republican.

And, ladies and gentlemen, if you believe that we must be fierce and relentless and terminate terrorism, then you are a Republican.

Now, there's another way you can tell you're a Republican. You have faith in free enterprise, faith in the resourcefulness of the American people and faith in the U.S. economy. And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: Don't be economic girlie-men.

This was powerful stuff that the average American got, unfiltered, directly through their TV. Schwarzenegger's star power guaranteed that millions of Americans who normally would tune out this type of political TV actually heard this very strong sales pitch for the Republican Party.

On Monday night McCain and Giuliani,coupled with the tributes to 9/11, teamed up to hit a grand slam for the Bush campaign. The mainstream, liberal media is reaping what they have sown with John McCain.

When McCain was bashing Bush and Republicans the press couldn't get enough of him. Now with McCain actively supporting President Bush, suddenly the press isn't liking what they hear so much. But because of McCain's alliance with the media these last four years he retains a huge influence over independent swing voters, and his speech was a huge plus for the President.

The tributes to 9/11 on Monday night were extremely tasteful and very moving. It was powerful television. The next day Katie Couric tried to get Tim Russert to engage the Democratic spin that Republicans were "exploiting" 9/11, but with Giuliani as the backdrop that is an impossible charge for the liberal media to make stick. They could possibly get away with the exploitation charge if it were Bush or Cheney, but not with Giuliani personally delivering the lead speech following the tributes. I don't think Democrats want to get in a public argument that Gluliani was exploiting 9/11.

After three weeks buried in the fog of the Swift Boat Veterans controversy, the one-two punch by McCain and Giuliani, followed up by Schwarzenegger was a stark wake up call to the Democrats. The stories of a "shake-up" in the Kerry campaign is a tacit acknowledgment that they have been getting their butts kicked for the last several weeks, and changes needed to be made.

It's funny watching how quickly the conventional wisdom swings among the talking heads on television. You can hear it in the voice and words of Chris Mathews, Tim Russert and the other political pundits. It's as if all of Bush's troubles of only three weeks ago have evaporated into the ether. Suddenly it is John Kerry who is in on the ropes and who is headed for defeat. That may be a bit of exaggeration of course, but there is no question that the tone of how this race is treated in the media has changed dramatically.

I had commented back in July and on August 13 that I was having a hard time understanding all the Kerry bullishness among the punditry. Today, I would caution joyous GOP partisans and hyperventilating Democrats, to remember that there are still quite a few rounds left in this heavyweight fight.

There is no question that Bush has had a good run. And if the final two days of this convention are as good as the first two, there is a possibility President Bush may jump out to a 7-11 point lead in the post-convention polls and Kerry will effectively be all but finished.

But there is also a very realistic possibility that even if the next two days go well for the GOP, Bush still never gets over 50% in our RCP Poll Average and Kerry stays within three to five points of the President, which would still leave this a very wide open race. And given the Gallup poll's bizarre negative bounce for John Kerry after his convention I wouldn't totally discount the possibility, though probably remote, that Bush could emerge from the convention tied or even slightly trailing.

I have maintained for months now that the real measure of this race was going to come in mid-to-late September after both the conventions and the anniversary of September 11. And I have also felt all along that President Bush was the clear favorite to win reelection and the President would win this game two out of every three times played. Even at the depth of the bad news from Iraq when the President's job approval started to dip below 45%, Bush was never worse than even money to win reelection.

With the President's job approval back around 50% , there is almost no chance Kerry can win the election in a big way. Right now there seem to be roughly three broad options: 1) a big Bush win (4-7 points), 2) Bush in a squeaker or 3) Kerry in a squeaker.

But if this election cycle has taught us anything, it is that the dynamic of this race can change quickly. As one who felt pretty good in December that Howard Dean was the almost certain Democratic nominee it would be a mistake to make too much of two-three week trend change.

Republicans should not become too cocky. Bush has had a good run and there is roughly a 33% chance that the poll bump from this convention and the 9/11 anniversary may be enough to TKO John Kerry. But there is also at least a 50% chance that before the first debate we will be staring at the same 50/50, dead heat race that we've more or less had since Kerry captured the nomination. J. McIntyre 12:57 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend


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