Make Voters Focus On What The Next Four Years Will Be Like
While many of us feel that the debates went very well for Kerry, and that undecideds will break towards the challenger, we need to take note of two polls that indicate otherwise. Rasmussen’s latest poll out today, notably with only one third of its sample taken after the last debate, shows Bush hitting 49% again and Kerry falling to 45.5%, as if the debates didn’t happen. Rasmussen also reports that Bush’s advantages over Kerry on the economy and national defense returned to where they were before the debates started. Now, we can all question how Rasmussen puts together his sample or the GOP composition of that sample, but the results are out there, and again, they reflect the state of the race as if the debates didn’t take place.
Second, a pollster we usually trust, Zogby, reports in his daily tracking poll roughly the same thing that Rasmussen is reporting: that Bush is moving out to a four point lead over Kerry, hitting the 48% mark. Zogby also notes that Bush is seeing a slight move of undecideds towards him, unlike what Zogby was reporting before the last debate when the floor had fallen out from under Bush with the undecideds. What is going on here? Well, note that even in Zogby’s poll, a significant portion of it was conducted before the last debate had concluded.
Furthermore, Frank Luntz himself had an interesting piece in today’s Financial Times (link unfortunately is for paid internet subscribers only). According to Luntz, with all three debates between Bush and Kerry behind us, he has seen evidence that now indicates that any remaining undecideds are leaning to Kerry, are about ready to commit, and Bush should be worried. Luntz points out what he thinks Bush needs to do to hold this small amount of undecideds from going over to Kerry, which includes stopping any further attempts to convince anyone with statistics that the economy is on the right track. Taking a page out of the Clinton playbook, Luntz says that Bush needs to outline a plan for how to improve voters’ daily lives. Luntz says that the country’s remaining uncommitted voters want less rhetoric and more solutions, a finding that has been confirmed in the various stories filed about uncommitted voters since the last debate.
Yet while Luntz argues how Bush can hold and recapture uncommitted voters, his approach offers reasons why it won’t work. Luntz states that Bush must talk about the economy through stories of real Americans and explain how a second Bush term would boost the economy. Yet there is no indication that voters would believe Bush on any such claims, especially when the University of Michigan consumer confidence survey is slumping downward this month and other manufacturing indices are also trending downward as high oil prices begin to take their toll. Plus, Kerry can hammer Bush by saying every other claim Bush has made to date about the economy has been false, so why believe him now? Luntz says that Bush needs to offer details to convince undecideds to vote for him, yet the devil is in those same details. Quite simply, Bush can’t sell and doesn’t want to get into the details of what he has planned for Social Security, balancing the budget, reducing regulations, and health care. Any attempt by Bush to do what Luntz suggests would only invite Kerry to hammer him for his true motives and who’s interest Bush will really serve in a second term, based on what he has already done (or not done) in his first term.
Which is why Kerry shouldn’t wait any further for Bush to try what Luntz suggests. Kerry should spend the remaining days of this campaign defining what a second Bush term would look like for Americans, and being specific as possible about what he would do differently. And Kerry should explain to voters how their lives can be better with him in the White House instead of relying upon more broken promises and abandoned public interest from Bush in a second term. We’re back to the basic question at the end of the day: Are you and your family better off now than you were four years ago, and how well off do you feel you will be four years from now if you give Bush another term?