Alex's Outlook

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Bush can only go up 

I didn't bother to watch Bush's press conference last night, partially because I have a nagging head cold and partially because Bush's speeches seem stultifyingly boring. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the speech was a mediocre performance. Bush did not say anything that would sway any doubters, and he blew the Q and A with reporters. His insistence that WMD may yet be found puts him on a different planet from the rest of us. While I don't think Bush owes any apology whatsoever to the 9-11 Commission (a totally partisan hack job against Bush), some concession about WMD is long overdue. At the very least, he could stop mentioning it in every Iraq speech!

Given that Iraq has gone to hell over the last week, it's amazing to me that Bush's poll numbers haven't budged. Kerry is up about a point with Nader in the race. Bush's job approval rating has also remained stable at 50 percent.

Considering Bush's uninspiring domestic record as well as the mess in Iraq, I can only conclude that Bush's numbers have floored. Bush's domestic agenda has been singularly uninspiring. With the exception of the tax cuts and (arguably) the farm bill, I don't think a single one of Bush's domestic initiatives has won him any votes. There is definitely not a single lawmaker today who is happy s/he voted for the No Child Left Behind education bill, or the Medicare bill. However, the economy is picking up, and Bush is going to take the credit for that, right or wrong. (I don't think the tax cuts affected the economy much at all, anymore.) Also, the Iraq rebels have decided to risk everything and raise total hell, at the price of probably getting annihilated. The remaining Sunnis and Baathists have concentrated themselves in Falluja, instead of fighting a guerilla war. That was a major mistake. Moqtada al-Sadr made a similar blunder by making a stand. In both cases, the rebels have concentrated their forces, and will be easily destroyed by superior American firepower. If the Americans make examples out of the Baathists and al-Sadr, and destroy their militias, Iraq will be a much calmer place in a couple of weeks.

Because the GOP has poured a ton of money into ground organization for the past two years, and will continue to do so up until election day, the GOP will also achieve superior turnout on election day; and given that Bush will sweep the South (Florida can be considered fairly safe Bush territory now, I think), Bush's pickup opportunities are much richer than Kerry's, and Kerry needs to win eight more electoral votes than Gore to win. I think Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Oregon are Bush's primary pickup opportunities. Kerry has Ohio, and maybe New Hampshire.

Combine a surging economy with a stabilizing Iraq and a GOP advantage in the political ground war, and you have the formula for a solid, but not overwhelming Bush re-election. But considering that nobody has won a majority of the popular vote since 1988, I think even 52 percent would be a landslide by the standards of our generation.


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