By Dick Morris
March 25, 2004
Zogby (March 21) has Kerry up by only 48-46, and Rasmussen (March 20) has it Bush 46, Kerry 45. Interestingly, the new surveys don't show Bush gaining so much as they show Kerry dropping. In the odd configurations of political strategy, that is good news for the Republicans.
If Bush were simply gaining because of good news or a bump from the recent focus on terrorism, he could go down as easily as he went up. Let the news turn bad, and Bush would go back to the low ratings of a few weeks ago.
But with the gap closing because of Kerry's drop, the impact is likely to last a lot longer. The fact is that 6 to 9 percent of Americans were voting for the Democrat two weeks ago and now are undecided. The doubts that Bush's ads are raising about Kerry are not going to go away; they will grow as the ads continue and the facts pile up.
The polls are starting to reflect the effectiveness of Bush's ads, which depict Kerry explaining his ultra-liberal record to the voters. This Democrat, who escaped scrutiny by posing as the un-Dean in the primary, is now being revealed as the leftist he is.
Having defeated the three candidates of his party who might have beaten Bush - Wesley Clark, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards - Kerry is finding out that America is a centrist nation.
I have doubted the conventional wisdom that this election would be close. If Bush continues to stay on the offensive and Kerry's responses remain as inept as they've been, the Massachusetts Democrat will go downhill faster than he is now doing on his skiing vacation.
Bush's attacks have focused on the issues of terrorism and taxes. Kerry has not even answered the first charge and has given only a ritualistic denial of the second. Instead of answering Bush's charges in detail, he piously asks, in his ads, if the president has anything more to offer America than negative ads. But Americans don't see the Bush ads as below the belt, but as welcome information about a man they don't know who is running for president.
Indeed, the latest New York Times/CBS survey indicates that 60 percent of the voters feel Kerry is telling them what they want to hear, not what he really believes. Bush is opening a credibility gap which is only widened by Kerry's ridiculous statement that he voted for the $87 billion appropriation for the war effort before he voted against it.
In the next round of attack ads, Bush should focus on Kerry's previous support for a 50 cent increase in the gasoline tax. Remember, it was the gas tax, more than any other issue, that cost the Democrats control of Congress in 1994. With pump prices closing in on $2 a gallon, Americans will not look kindly on someone who proposes to add another half-dollar per gallon.
Kerry's two gaffes - on foreign leaders with whom he allegedly spoke and on his flip-flop on the money for the war - were not unforced errors: They were fumbles caused by the aggressive pressure of the Bush campaign.
This Democrat is not ready to run for president, and the more the Republicans press him, the more he will self-destruct. His campaign advisers are hoping that a few hours extra sleep on his ski trip will restore his political judgment, but they ignore the fact that he never had a lot to begin with.
The fact is that Massachusetts liberal Democrats don't spend a lot of time learning how to appeal to Middle America.
Kerry only won the nomination because Dean lost it and Edwards was hobbled by Clark so he could not get the momentum he needed to mount a real challenge. With the front-loaded process, decreed by financial-wizard-but-political-amateur Terry McAuliffe, the party is united but saddled with a nominee who can't handle prime time.
Bush needs to keep up the pressure
and watch Kerry's ratings drop. In a few months, we may be wondering
why the conventional wisdom ever thought this race would be so
Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Morris is a political consultant, commentator and best selling author. Look for his newest book, "Power Plays" and his new book, "Off With Their Heads - Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists In American Politics".
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