[Another op-ed style post]
The Democrats are taking a rather odd approach to winning back the Presidency in 2004. Perhaps it is an ode to their nominee but they seem to be attacking Bush from both sides of every issue.
The most obvious attack in the last few weeks has been on the issue of terrorism. Before the release of Richard Clarke’s book, the “knock” on Bush was that he was a reckless cowboy, hell-bent on annoying the globe. As the story goes, he was out of control with the Patriot Act and used 9/11 as an excuse to attack Iraq etc. etc. The argument was that we needed Kerry to restore a sense of measure to the issue.
But with the advent of Richard Clark that all changed. In the rush to attack Bush, they are now arguing that Bush has not done enough to fight the war on terror. They will be quick to point out they mean in those 7 months before September 11th but that message is not what is getting out. The message is that Bush was too soft on terror.
By simultaneously arguing Bush is to soft on terror and too radical in his response to 9/11, the Democrats have stepped on their own message.
The newest poll numbers actually show Kerry going down since Clarke came out. Voters find it hard to accept that Bush is on both extremes of the issue and that John Kerry is Goldilocks who has it “Just Right.”
The economy, which is the issue Kerry could actually win on, might also be getting the Goldilocks treatment.
Kerry is going to the people and saying that he will both raise and lower taxes. He is quick to promise a middle class tax cut but voters are rightfully skeptical of that recycled claim. He claims the new taxes will be on the rich but things like a 50 cent per gallon tax increase scare the hell out of everyday people. The Democrats are again asking the people to believe that Kerry’s tax policies will be “Just Right.”
Bush does not have this problem. When the issue of Bush and taxes come up, people know where they stand. Every taxpayer in America has received a tax cut since he has taken office, his position is well known to all.
Voters elect leaders who are, well, leaders. For a challenger to win the Whitehouse, especially in a time of war, they must convince the voters that the current occupant is not a leader and that they are up to the challenge.
This is an uphill battle in times of peace and even harder during times of war. Running a “Goldilocks for President” campaign is not the answer. If they hope to win, they have to paint Kerry as a leader. But oddly, that seems to be the last thing on their agenda.