Dick Morris thinks that President Bush’s current ads are scoring heavily against John Kerry:
At last George W. Bush is doing what he needs to do to win this election – run ads that explain John Kerry’s liberalism to moderate swing voters.
And the Bush ads are very good. He focuses on three lines of attack: Kerry’s advocacy of a “$900 billion tax increase,” his support for weakening the Patriot Act and his commitment to awaiting United Nations approval before “defending America.”
Kerry’s answer is weak. In a rebuttal ad, the Democrat just says it ain’t so without elaborating. Kerry’s commercial says “John Kerry has never called for a $900 billion tax increase. He wants to cut taxes for the middle class.”
But voters are inclined to believe that Kerry does want to raise taxes, and they have heard the Democrat excoriate the Bush tax cuts in his speeches for a year. So Kerry has to do more than just deny the charge. The Bush attack will hit home and score deeply.
Kerry doesn’t even answer the other two charges: That he would weaken the Patriot Act and await United Nations approval before acting against terrorism. These two attacks will open up a big distance between Bush and Kerry over terrorism. While the issue now works as a positive for the president, it has yet to come into play as a negative for the Democrat.
Kerry is making a huge mistake in letting Bush hit him without a response on this critical issue. But to respond puts Kerry in the position of engaging with Bush over the Republican’s strongest issue and distracting attention from the economy, which the Democrats would rather debate. The Bush attack puts Kerry on the spot. Either he lets this attack stand and suffers the consequences or he makes terrorism the central issue of the campaign and hurts himself that way.
The conventional wisdom is that the election will be close, a replay of 2000. Not if Bush keeps attacking and Kerry fails to respond. Then it will be a replay of 1988.
What a delightful thought. I still think, though, that a close election is the best Bush can hope for, given the electoral landscape in most of the large states, and that the election will be determined by events that have not yet occurred.