The Bounce That Wasn’t

Charles Krauthammer has some sensible thoughts on why the Democratic convention provided no boost for John Kerry. People are smart enough to understand, Krauthammer says, that Kerry’s Vietnam service–the convention’s main theme–has little to do with the current race. Beyond Vietnam, the convention consisted entirely of attacks on President Bush. The problem with these attacks, Krauthammer thinks, is not that they were out of bounds, but that they were redundant:

It does not work. Why? Because the political market has, as they say on Wall Street, already discounted these negatives. The people have already registered all the bad news of the past six months that has sent Bush’s approval ratings plummeting.
Four days wasted — spent on redundant attacks on a president who has already paid politically for his sins, real and imagined.

The bottom line is that the convention was not oriented to the future, and told voters little or nothing about what Kerry would do, going forward, about basic issues like terrorism and Iraq. Krauthammer’s most inspired moment, though, comes as he itemizes the negative themes of the Democrats’ convention:

[M]y favorite, because of its Escher-like yogiism: We are not the party that divides the country — as opposed to those lying, Constitution-trashing, unilateralist Republican cowboys.

If Krauthammer is right, there is still a decent number of undecided voters, and therefore some potential for President Bush to do better in New York than Kerry did in Boston. John Zogby, on the other hand, sees Bush’s prospects, both short term and long term, as poor. Zogby thinks there are only about 5% of the voters who are truly undecided, and only 3% of each candidate’s supporters say they could still change their minds. For a variety of reasons, Zogby thinks that most of the undecided voters will break for Kerry, and President Bush is unlikely to be re-elected.
I’m not sure whether that’s right or not, but unless something dramatic happens in New York, I think it’s going to become the conventional wisdom.
Both columns, by the way, are linked at the invaluable Real Clear Politics.

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