The Beltway Punditocracy Is Ready To Hand It To Bush
I decided last night to watch two political shows to get a sense of how the GOP convention was being interpreted by the media. First, I watched Hardball, and saw first hand that Zell Miller’s bitch-slapping of Chris Matthews had the desired effect that Rove wanted. Matthews has now crossed into the camp of “Kerry is Finished” based largely on the political media’s perception of the GOP’s mastery of running conventions and the latest poll done by Time Magazine (more on that later). Matthews has adopted the GOP talking points about the convention and the race, to wit:
•The Democrats erred in not attacking Bush continuously at their convention;
•Kerry erred in highlighting Vietnam instead of Bush’s domestic weaknesses;
•Even if a Democrat does talk on domestic issues, they are hiding from dealing with the war on terror (nice lose-lose formulation that Rove has instilled into the media there);
•Bush has made the war in Iraq synonymous with the war on terror; and
•The only issue in this campaign is the war on terror.
•Kerry’s counter attack late Thursday night doesn’t matter because no one saw it.
As a result, Matthews basically last night handed the election to Bush. Hopefully Chris has cleaned his underway by now after he recovered from the Miller incident as it certainly appears that he is back in line following orders from the White House after a brief flirtation at independent thinking.
Hoping for some more seasoned sanity, I watched “Washington Week in Review” only to find that the A-list panelists all seemed to agree with what Rove was peddling to Matthews. Furthermore, much credence is given to the Time magazine poll put out yesterday, which shows Bush now with an aggregated 52%-41% lead over Kerry (a ten percent lead with likely voters and an eight-percent lead with registered voters somehow gets translated into an eleven-point lead?). This is the only poll I have seen that shows Bush over 50%, but to be fair to Time, they at least are using the same firm (Schulman, Ronca, & Bucuvalas (SRBI) Public Affairs) that showed the race moving in Bush’s way the week before the convention as a result of the unresponded-to Swifties ads, something Joe Trippi had lamented on Wednesday in saying that the Kerry camp had slept during much of August and is now paying for it.
It should be pointed out that a Zogby poll done at the same time as the Time poll shows Bush at 46%, exactly where he was back in the first week of July, and Kerry dropping to 44%. The move according to Zogby isn’t so much with voters going to Bush, but in leaving Kerry and moving to the “undecided” category which seems to be validating Trippi’s concerns about the Kerry campaign sleeping through August. American Research Group’s poll, also done at the same time, shows Kerry at 48% and Bush at 47% with registered voters, and Bush at 48% and Kerry at 47% with likely voters. Neither of these polls reflects the bottom falling out for Kerry like the Time poll does.
Regardless, look for the more gullible pundits and those already so inclined to adopt the "Kerry is Toast" mantra hook, line, and sinker. Because Kerry didn't set the negatives early on Bush, all he can do is use valuable time doing it now by talking about the Bush record of lies and failed promises, and remind voters that the Iraq war has little to do with the war on terrorism, while the ad campaign tears down Bush like his campaigns have torn down Kerry. That is what we're left with in the run-up to the debates. Then, once Kerry gets a crack at Bush face-to-face to challenge him, he'll have to use the remaining time up until the election to sell especially the undecided and swing voters to come back to him.