Senator Kerry, Go Directly At Bush's Record
Letís be clear about one thing: direct attacks against a candidateís record work. Some of us may wish that campaigns focus on the future and forward-looking themes and ideas. But despite what voters say to pollsters about their disdain for negative, attack ads or speeches, they eat it up. The best advice that John Kerry can follow comes indirectly from the GOPís favorite message-honer and pollster Frank Luntz. What would that advice be? Go directly at Bush on his record.
Luntz convened several focus groups for the GOP convention, one of which watched Zig-Zag Zellís attack on John Kerryís defense votes. While the focus group participants didnít like Millerís attacks on the Democratic Party as being too broad brushed, they apparently ate up the specific attacks Miller made against Kerryís record, even though most of the attacks were bald-faced lies.
Despite signs of GOP ambivalence, a focus group conducted with 17 independent voters in Ohio by GOP pollster Frank Luntz for MSNBC drew a mostly positive response. These voters, Luntz said, did not care for Miller's attacks on the Democratic Party because they were too "broad-brush," but the attacks on Kerry resonated because Miller anchored his criticism in specific arguments about Kerry's record.
"They liked facts," Luntz said. "They're not responding to style. They're asking for a level of detail."
The group, in which voters turned dials to register reaction to each line of the speech, thought the most "memorable" passage of Miller's speech was his recitation of weapons systems Kerry supposedly voted against, then asked how such a man could lead the armed forces. "U.S. forces armed with what?" Miller asked. "Spitballs?"
Fine. They want facts. Then Senator Kerry, give them the facts.
Itís very simple Senator. You yourself and your surrogates will now have to tear down Mr. Bush between now and the debates by attacking his record, lies, broken promises, and failings in the war on terror (Tora Bora) and Iraq. Go right at the record and point to specifics, just like the GOP did. Regardless of whether you like this style of campaigning or not, it must be done to tear Bush down like he and his surrogates tore you down. Bush and the GOP made the war in Iraq by their formulation an extension on the war on terror, and made the issue of whom better to conduct that war the forefront of their convention argument. Well, if they attacked your basic premise after your convention, you must now do the same to them. Throw in a second argument that Bush, based on his record during the last four years, cannot be trusted with the public interest on domestic issues.
That, in a nutshell, should be the simple campaign approach between now and the debates. Remember, as our GOP friends always say, it's not negative if it is focused on the candidate's record.
Fine. Let them have it, with both barrels.