Sunday, October 10, 2004
On this day:

The Debate

I actually missed the debate Friday night to play poker with some friends. I would have been better off financially to have stayed home. Texas Hold-em is just not my game. Good beer, good pizza and good friends more than made up for it, though. (In exactly that order...I am Exhibit A for Maslow's pyramid at work.)

While I was giving away the fruits of my labor, my VCR was at work recording. Unfortunately, the tape ran out (kinda like my money) about 15 minutes before the end. Oh well. At least I got to watch most of it, and got a chance to read the transcript.

So, from the parts that I've actually seen, it seems to me that both men did a very good job overall of defining and defending their positions. I think Bush probably edged out a win this time, though. His answers were generally more pointed and effective than Kerry's. He did slip a few times...he botched the answer about reimportation of drugs from Canada, and he didn't seem confident answering the stem-cell research question. But, Kerry evened things out with his response to the question about federal funding for abortion, among others.

Most importantly, I think Bush struck the themes that will clinch the win for him in the final weeks of the campaign. Up until now, the Bush campaign hasn't really focused on the issues that cast Mr. Kerry as the diehard liberal that he is. They haven't concentrated on Kerry's voting record in the Senate. They haven't pointed to the social issues where he is way out of the political mainstream - the death penalty (he opposes it), abortion (he voted against the partial-birth abortion ban and is for federal funding), racial preferences (he is for them), same-sex marriage (he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act), etc.

The unfortunate thing for Kerry is that he doesn't have those kind of "clincher" issues in his back pocket to use against Bush...or if he does, I can't possibly think of what they are. President Bush is a known quantity. The attacks on his policies have been relentless - from the Kerry campaign, from the news media, from the entertainment industry, and from the "foreign leaders" that Mr. Kerry likes to say are his best buds.

So, in next week's debate, expect the President (with a devious Karl Rove whispering in his ear) to continue hammering at Mr. Kerry's liberal record. This is the winning strategy that will put the President over the top, just as it did for Nixon, Reagan, and his father before him. Maybe after this election, the Democrats will get the message that if they insist on nominating a liberal, they have to nominate one like Bill Clinton who is able to hide it well and who is able to compromise when he sees the unpopularity of his policies. John and John just don't get it, and that's why they will lose.