Tags: Disturbing | Pattern | Objective | Analysis | Last | Night's | Debate

Disturbing Pattern - Objective Analysis of Last Night's Debate

Friday, 01 October 2004 12:00 AM

Now, he did give a damn good nomination speech at the Republican National Convention and he has been strong on the campaign stump ever since.

But last night he was not “on his game” at all - and thus resumes another ‘disturbing pattern’:

2. From a purely political point of view, the Bush Campaign should have primed Bush to “finish Kerry off” last night. In other words, when you have your opponent down on the canvas, knock the hell out of him and finish the job once and for all!

In 2000, Gore squandered a similar chance in September to put Bush away. He didn’t - and thus lost the election.

This summer - after his Boston Convention - Kerry held an 8-point lead over Bush and went out on the road. What happened? He sat on his lead and allowed the Swift Boat ads to crucify him. Suddenly Bush was back in the game and soon leading the race.

Then came last night. With Bush ahead in all polls going into the debate - and with Democrats ‘demoralized’ over Kerry’s lackluster campaign appearances - Bush had his one chance to finish Kerry off and perhaps win in a landslide on November 2.

Instead, he came up oddly passive, halting, washed out and - by his own staff’s admission - ‘tired.’

His staff is attributing this fatigue to the emotionally draining visit to Hurricane Jeanne survivors in Stuart yesterday morning. Whatever caused it, the White House staff simply cannot allow the President of the United States to look tired and thus annoyed by his opponent’s attacks.

In this space I have previously written that any President has a hard time prepping for contentious debates because of the deference shown to a President by his staff. And you could see the result last night: Kerry was used to attacks because of the dozens of Democratic debates held during the past year while the President clearly looked ticked off at Kerry’s unrelenting attacks on the Bush record. (This may be why the Bush forces tried to eliminate ‘reaction shots’ as part of the ridiculous 32-page debate agreement. The networks were not a party to that agreement; the reaction shots are often more telling that the questions and answers.)

3. Kerry’s supporters are re-energized. Going into last night they were fearful of a trouncing on November 2. Today they believe the next four weeks may count for something.

The Bush forces are not daunted by last night - but the next two debates are now even more important because everyone will be wondering how the President will look and act. Will he look less tired? Will he be more aggressive?

Prediction: Bush will be much better next Friday night precisely because the first debate was good ‘prep’ for him. The more you debate, the better you get.

Overall prediction: the race is now going to tighten a bit. How much? A bit. Kerry has reversed his downward momentum. Whether he can generate upward momentum is the next question.

But this race is not over.

And Kerry can and will win if he goes into Election Day tied. In that case, the “Passion Differential’ - more ‘anti-Bush sentiment’ driving voters to the polls than ‘pro-Bush’ sentiment - will propel Kerry to a narrow victory.

The Bush Campaign needs to make sure his lead holds up - and they go into Election Day at least 3-5 points ahead.

This race has a long, long way to go.


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Now, he did give a damn good nomination speech at the Republican National Convention and he has been strong on the campaign stump ever since. But last night he was not "on his game" at all - and thus resumes another 'disturbing pattern': 2. From a purely...
Friday, 01 October 2004 12:00 AM
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