Bush Enters Campaign Battle Mode
Posted by Mary
Rather than continuing to float above the fray and allowing his surrogates to take on the battle, Bush started punching back against Kerry at his latest campaign fundraiser. As Bush's poll numbers have whithered under the steady onslaught of the Democratic attacks (and also the jabs from his so-called friends who booed him today because he is not toeing their line), he decided to take off the gloves and go at Kerry directly.
Tired of being a punching bag for Democrats, President Bush will launch his re-election campaign today with a blast at his Democratic rivals as his aides book time for a multimillion-dollar television ad barrage.
After insisting for weeks that he was paying little attention to his campaign, Bush intends to drop any pretense that he is staying above partisan politics. The president, whose first campaign ads will air March 4, will spell out his re-election themes in a speech this evening to Republican governors.
In the NY Times one of Reagan's advisers says that the early start of this campaign (well before the official primaries) gives Bush a window to paint Kerry in the terms Bush wants. And clearly he is already taking this advice by using his speech to describe Kerry as a waffler.
With the primary fight over, the nominee's image will come into sharper focus (the Democrats have long had the media spotlight, but there have been too many contenders for voters' attention). For a time, impressions of Mr. Kerry will remain malleable — but only for a time. Once views are crystallized, it will be difficult for him to redefine himself. President Bush's standing is somewhat less subject to change; his biography is well known and his record well established.
It is imperative for Mr. Kerry's campaign, obviously, to devise a strategy to counter the doldrums. For Republicans, in contrast, the doldrums present an extraordinary opportunity. If the Bush campaign can succeed in introducing John Kerry to voters in terms of its own choosing, then the president may be able to reverse the downward trends seen in some recent polls.
EJ Dionne notes that the standard operating procedure for Bush has been let your henchmen do the dirty work and pretend you don't have anything to do with the nasty ads. He recommends the Democrats make sure to demand that Bush is held responsible for both the above ground and under-the-radar campaigns.
So how is the story of Bush and his 2004 election campaign playing out in the media? They all seem to be saying he had to get into it much earlier than he wanted to because he had no choice -- and this is shows the weakness of his position.
In my opinion, this is a much better starting position for Democrats than I would have suspected even 2 months ago, yet the money Bush has on hand is huge. You can buy a lot of advertising time with that amount of money and we know that ads often work - otherwise there wouldn't be much of a market for them. For those who watch television, Tivo will be essential for those who want to stay above the fray themselves. It will be a long hard slog.