Wednesday, May 05, 2004

We've all been so busy hating the Bushies, that we could use a break for positive news. So, I have some bits of good news that converge on each other. Today I'll describe one of them: an article in the May 3 issue of The New Republic about Kerry's campaign strategy.

Kerry's had Democrats worried because he hasn't been presenting the country with any positive vision of his ideas. He's been saving his money, spending just enough to defend himself from Bush's attack ads. And his defense, of course, has been augmented by the 527s, who have "spent at least $28 million in the last two months on ads attacking Bush."

But it's been a bloody attack for Kerry to weather these last two months. His "presidential campaign strategy echoes his days on that swift boat: He has spent the last eight weeks drawing enemy fire and taking hits." Bush has spent $100 million of his $184 million firing on Kerry.

The good news is that despite the avalanche of attack ads and before the positive ads have even started, Kerry and Bush are running about even. This contest is not going the way the Bush people had expected. Bush thought he had a winning strategy. He figured to be facing someone who had taken spending cap money and spent it all on contentious primaries. But Kerry didn't take the spending cap funds, and since Super Tuesday, March 2, online contributions have been pouring in. So instead of being broke and vulnerable, Kerry can expect to have $100 million to spend between March 2 and the convention at the end of July.

Meanwhile negative news from Richard Clarke, the Iraq war, and the 9/11 commission have done their damage to Bush, granting Kerry the luxury of this time to accumulate a war chest of his own. His strategy is a "large-scale version of rope-a-dope--allow your opponent to unload his most powerful punches as you hunker down and bide your time, waiting to unload in the next round, when the other guy has spent himself."

Now Kerry's positive ads are starting. He has about $60 million, which must be spent by July 29. At that point, he'll get a $75 million dollar check from the federal government to use for the rest of the campaign. Bush has about $75 million, but his money has to last until the end of August. At that point, he will also receive $75 million. "It is conceivable that, in the three months before the Democratic Convention in Boston, Kerry will spend more on advertising than Bush.

He will be trying to present himself as "presidential", which is, according to the firm that made the ads, "'a very high hurdle for challengers to get over.'" In response, Bush aired his toughest ad yet, "Doublespeak", which "features quotes from biting newspaper editorials criticizing Kerry." Bush, knowing he's vulnerable, must disqualify Kerry as a serious alternative, and Kerry must convince people that he IS a viable alternative.

Normally this battle would be fought in early spring. Let's hope that waiting until May was a wise move.


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