The White House Comes Out Swinging

Cheney’s speech yesterday, linked by the Trunk below, is part of a broader strategy. After months of frustrating passivity while the Democrats piled on the President, the White House has swung into action over the past two weeks to take the battle to the enemy:

The hard-charging approach entails simultaneous attacks on Mr. Kerry by the Bush campaign team, the Republican National Committee, the White House and the president. An abundance of Bush surrogates and well-financed TV ads round out the strategy.
After months of refusing to respond to attacks by Democrats during their fractious primary elections, the president now appears to be having some success in defining Mr. Kerry as a tax-raising, flip-flopping political opportunist who is dovish on the war against terrorism.
“You’re going to see, over the course of the next seven months and you’re seeing it now a whole other layer of earned media to drive message,” said the Bush campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “So in addition to John Kerry having to respond to the president and having to respond to ads, he’s going to also have to respond to other surrogates, not who bracket him, but who drive their own media and reinforce our paid message.
“The combination of the events, of the paid media, of the earned media and of the surrogates is pretty aggressive,” the official added. “And it’ll even get bigger.”

The timing of the administration’s counter-attack has been the subject of some debate, with some arguing that the President waited far too long to respond to vicious Democratic attacks, while others think he should hold off on attacking Kerry directly until much later in the campaign: “It’s weird because half the people are criticizing us for coming out too early; the other half are criticizing us for coming out too late,” the campaign source said. “I think we’re doing it right.”
The Times credits the administration’s new aggressiveness for the relatively positive CBS News poll data that came out earlier this week. I think that may be a stretch, but we’ll be watching the data closely over the coming weeks to see what effect the administration’s counter-attacks are having. Senator Kerry’s poor instincts should continue to provide fodder for attacks.
By the way, the CBS News data are particularly optimistic only when Ralph Nader is included in the race. But to my knowledge, Nader has little organization, and I haven’t seen anything lately about his progress in getting onto ballots. My understanding is that it is unlikely that he will be on the ballot in most states. Also, the left is much less complacent and more focused than they were in 2000, and I doubt that many liberals will be voting for Nader, no matter what they tell pollsters. So I don’t think we can place a lot of weight on Nader’s candidacy having much impact. The President will have to be able to beat Kerry straight-up, I think. This doesn’t preclude the possibility, of course, that even a few votes for Nader might tip the balance in a particular state if the race is extremely close.
And for those looking for a little optimism and inspiration, check out this ad.

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