Guys, what happened? I thought Rocket Man was the optimist and Trunk the pessimist. On the other hand, the determinist flavor of Rocket Man’s prophesy that President Bush will be a one-termer reminds me of our college days.
I’ll take the middle position on Bush’s re-election prospects, but come down closer to the Trunk. I agree with Rocket Man that the “establishment” will do anything in its power to prevent Bush from winning in 2004. But I don’t think it has the clout to determine the outcome except within a small margin. The establishment couldn’t touch Reagan, nor has it been able to help the Democrats regain control of Congress. In my opinion, the establishment hated Nixon as much as it hates Bush. Yet Nixon was re-elected by a landslide during an unpopular war. And that was before Fox News and the internet were around to take on the liberal establishment.
The 2004 election will probably turn on three issues: the war on terrorism, the situation in Iraq, and the state of the economy. If the first is working in Bush’s favor, he should win as long as the second and third aren’t going too badly. Rocket Man is correct that the media will do all it can to make it seem that things are worse than they really are on all three fronts. But Americans will judge the war on terrorism largely on the basis of whether, or to what extent, the country has been successfully attacked. The media is powerless here. It can be a little more influential on the economy, as it was in 1992. But it will be hard pressed to disguse a strong recovery that starts well in advance of the election. The media can, and is, doing the most damage when it comes to Iraq. But if, say, half our troops are out of Iraq by election day, and casualties are way down, there’s not much the media will be able to do to undermine Bush.
So, while I am far from sanguine about President Bush’s prospects, I think they depend very much on what happens in the next year or so. If I had to bet right now, I’d still bet on the president.
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