Wednesday, September 29 2004
WHAT CAN KERRY DO?:
At the beginning of last week I wrote:

Senator Kerry needs to get this race back to within 3-4 points in our RCP Poll Average by the first debate in ten days, or these poll numbers will start to harden and he will need a debate meltdown by the President to have a chance.

Now, the day before the big first debate Kerry trails President Bush by 5.9% in the 3-way RCP Poll Average and 4.4% in the head-to-head RCP Poll Average. On balance, the state polling continues to confirm a 4-6 point lead for the President. To complete the bad news for Kerry, the internals of the recently released ABC News/Wash Post and CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls are even worse than the headline, horserace numbers.

In the Gallup poll, voters felt President Bush would handle the economy, Iraq, and terrorism better then Senator Kerry, with Bush having a 27-point lead on the terrorism issue.

And in the ABC/WP poll Bush beat Kerry on eight, out of eight, key character and leadership questions among registered voters:

Please tell me whether the following statement applies more to (Bush) or more to (Kerry):
Bush
Kerry
Spread
He is honest and trustworthy
45

38

+7
He understands the problems of people like you
43
42
+1
He is a strong leader
58
32
+26
He will make the country safer and more secure
54
37
+17
He shares your values
48
43
+5
He's taken a clear stand on the issues
59
28
+31
He has an appealing personality
51
32
+19
He has strong religious faith
60
18
+42

These numbers are horrifying if you are a Kerry supporter and, to be blunt, Kerry has almost no chance with polling internals this dismal. At this stage Kerry only has one choice left, and that is to try and destroy the President's internals.

The Bush campaign has done a masterful job of tarring Kerry as a serial flip-flopper. Furthermore, Kerry himself has been all over the place on the central issue of Iraq, leaving him no room to debate on the issues. Kerry's only hope is to bring Bush's numbers down into the toilet with his.

Right now the President has a +9.0% spread in his favorable/unfavorable rating as compared to John Kerry's -0.6%. The only way Kerry can realistically get back into the race is to try and drive the President's favorable/unfavorable ratings down to a level that is, at the very least, equal to where Kerry stands.

With only four and a half weeks left until election day, happy talk about campaigning on the issues and providing a positive message isn't going to get it done for Senator Kerry. And hoping for Iraq to just fall apart and have the American people decide to give up and turn against the President is just that, nothing but hope.

Kerry is going to have to go for broke Thursday night, and his game plan has got to be about one thing and one thing only: making the President look as bad as possible. Winning the debate on debating points, or on this issue or that point simply isn't going to cut it. Kerry has got to figure out a way to have more people disliking President Bush at the end of the debate than before it started.

If I were the Kerry people, I would focus on two clips of video. The first is Bush's debate with McCain in 2000 where McCain's dressing down and interruptions caused Bush to visibly lose his cool. Kerry should take the tactic of Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men" and try and goad President Bush into losing his temper. The only way Kerry can win this debate, is to make President Bush lose it.

Obviously this is an extremely high risk strategy. It is also quite likely that this type of tactic will backfire and leave John Kerry looking like a complete jerk, instead of the President. But Kerry is in so much trouble right now that if he truly wants to be President he has to roll the dice, play to win, and forget about the possible consequences.

I suspect the Bush campaign is well aware this tactic is a potential vulnerability for the President - which is why they negotiated so many rules into the debate format so as to forbid tactics that might lead to the President losing his temper. Kerry should throw caution to the wind and break the rules.

All President Bush has to do is ignore Kerry and stick to what he has been saying on the campaign trail. Let Kerry win with the armchair pundits and the professional debate scorers. As long as Bush keeps his cool and sticks to his message, he's the winner on Election Day. And that's the only win that counts. J. McIntyre 9:03 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

 

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