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August 31, 2004

The Republican Strategy

Dick Morris, one of Clinton's former advisors, made some interesting comments on the O'Reilly Factor tonight. As has become increasingly obvious with recent polls on the upcoming presidential election, voters overwhelmingly believe Bush can do a better job than Kerry in the "war on terror," while they believe Kerry can do a better job than Bush on the economy and domestic issues. Morris points out that the election is not an election between two men, but an election between two issues. The result will be determined by which of the two issues issue is most important to a majority of voters. In this week's Republican convention, the goal will be simply, to convince voters that the war against terrorism is the most important issue of this election. In order for Bush to win, that's all it takes. Indeed, last night's speeches from two moderate Republicans, McCain and Giuliani, emphasized exactly that issue. This is no surprise, considering that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are about the only issues on which McCain and Giuliani can agree with Bush.

Morris's comments make clear one of the significant weaknesses in the Democrats' strategy. They aren't focusing on taking away Bush's perceived advantage on terrorism. To be assured of a win, Kerry needs to convince more voters that he's capable of dealing with terrorism. His reluctance to take a firm position on the war in Iraq causes most voters to discount his ability to handle terrorism, regardless of their opinion on the war itself, because they worry he will be similarly noncommittal on other international issues. Getting Americans to feel safe about terrorism requires a president with firm opinions, regardless of the content of those opinions. At this point in the election year, voters have already made up their mind on the war in Iraq. John Kerry is not going to change any votes by stating if he thinks it was a mistake or not. But he may gain some votes in the swing states by simply having a firm opinion on the issue and thus appearing like a strong international leader.

Posted by davemoore at August 31, 2004 10:44 PM