Hugh Hewitt directs our attention to this piece by Walter Shapiro in USA Today regarding President Bush’s appearance on Meet the Press. Shapiro believes that the president “once again exceeded the low expectations of his partisan critics. Not only did the Oval Office setting underscore the power of incumbency, but Bush, for all the obvious tension in the room, came across as likable and presidential.” Bush’s likeability, and the Democrats hatred of him, remains a potential advantage. John Kerry’s anti-Bush’s rhetoric is just as strident as Howard Dean’s — Kerry simply avoids some of Dean’s more ludicrous assertions of “fact.” The rhetoric may be fine for now. Democrats, whose votes Kerry still vies for, eat it up, and swing voters are down on Bush, mostly because (I think) of the failure to find WMD. However, Bush is essentially likeable to non-Democrats and at some point may well start to get credit for his overall effort to keep us safe from terrorism. If a critical mass comes to believe that Bush acted in good faith in Iraq (even if his views were mistaken), then Kerry’s current rhetoric could backfire. Of course, Kerry can moderate that rhetoric once he has the nomination locked up (very soon probably). But I doubt that he will do so, especially since he’s doing so well in the polls.
Hugh continues to believe that Kerry himself is in an extremely vulnerable position:
“Kerry’s problem is that he is campaigning on a premise that the war is either over or that it never began — that terrorism’s threat has been exaggerated. I think a healthy majority of Americans disagree with Kerry’s assessment and that they won’t trust him to wage war with a ferocity they expect against an enemy that has already killed thousands of Americans. Kerry’s consistent record is of misunderstanding the nature of threats to the United States and of underestimating the necessary resolve and the necessary tactics and weaponry to meet those threats.
“I think most of the voters will conclude we really can’t afford Hamlet as president and thus will reject Kerry decisively. We are in a war. The war goes on. Win the war. Lead the world. Vote Bush-Cheney in 2004.”
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