Friday, October 08, 2004
JOBS REPORT AND TONIGHT’S DEBATE
Forgive me for tooting my horn, my article in the Spectator yesterday looks all the better today with the release of today’s jobs report. Only 96,000 jobs created last month. Sure, much of it, like the hurricane season and the oil spike, has nothing to do with the President’s economic policies. But the job creation could have been sped up if the President had held fast to supply-side policies instead of playing politics with economic policy as he has done on occasion. As I noted yesterday,
Consider that conservatives criticized Bush for excessive spending, steel tariffs, and not front-loading his tax cuts in 2001 (he didn't fully phase them in until mid-2003.) It is all but irrefutable that those policies have slowed the recovery, giving the Democrats one of their best talking points in this election, namely, that Bush is the first President to lose jobs in his first term since Herbert Hoover. Can there be any doubt that Bush would be running away with the election right now if the economy were booming? Indeed, perhaps if the Administration had listened more too such criticisms, it would have pursued better policies.
It seems likely that the President will end his first term having lost jobs. He will need 292,000 jobs to be created in each of the last three months (not impossible but not very likely) of this year just to break even.
You can expect that to be brought up at the debate tonight. Bush had better have a good answer, like “Our economy has taken a lot of hits in the last four years, a recession, corporate scandals, and 9/11. But know we are seeing a return to job growth. Since my tax cut was fully phased in the middle of last year, we’ve had thirteen straight months of job growth. We are on the right track, and my policies will keep us there. My opponent wants to raise taxes, something that will put us on the wrong track, something that will hurt job creation.”
A lot rides on the debate tonight. Bush has to look like he is in command. No looking peeved or acting pissy. Be upbeat, gracious, and self-deprecating. He needs to get in a few zingers: Kerry will inevitably get in a remark about how he “has a plan for Iraq.” Bush need to respond, “And that plan is already falling apart. It depends on France and Germany sending in troops, and just this week Senator Kerry admitted that they won’t be sending any troops. We need better leadership than that.”
In short, Bush needs at least a modest win tonight. If he gets that, he will regain the momentum. Another bad one like last Thursday, and he the race could very well become Kerry’s to lose.
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MORE ON THE DEBATE
Robert Bidinotto has more analysis.
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Thursday, October 07, 2004
STILL SEARCHING FOR A FOREIGN POLICY POSITION?
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My review of Hugh Hewitt’s book.
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Wednesday, October 06, 2004
CALLING THE SENATE, PART II
For the first part to this, just scroll down to yesterday, where I analyzed the races the races in the South. Today, I look at Alaska, Colorado, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Alaska: Tough one to call, primarily because Frank Murkowski engaged in nepotism. It’s pretty hard for an incumbent like Lisa Murkowski to win when she is polling as lousy as she is. Although, Wayne Allard did just that in Colorado in 2002, so it is possible. Bush will win Alaska by a huge amount, so he might pull the Governor’s daughter to the finish line. Still…gonna give this to Democrat Tony Knowles for now.
Colorado: Right now a lot of analysts are giving this to Democrat Attorney General Ken Salazar. I don’t think that’s right. Pete Coors is beginning to beak 50% in some polls, and he has the money to keep the pressure on Salazar. Right now, the race is trending Coors’ way. GOP holds this.
Oklahoma: Former Representative Tom Coburn has really dropped the ball on this one, going from a double-digit lead to giving Democratic Representative Brad Carson a six-point lead. That lead is shrinking some, but at this point Coburn has a ways to go to get it turned around. Right now, this is a Democratic pickup.
South Dakota: I’m going to pick John Thune to win this one. Tom Daschle has only hit 50% once in recent polls, and in many he has been at or below 48%, which is a danger point for an incumbent, especially one who is the Minority Leader in the Senate! Latest poll has Thune up by four. Add to that that Bush will carry this state by at least a dozen points, and this is a GOP pickup.
Wisconsin: Tim Michels seemed to be making this a race a few weeks ago. Now, Feingold is up by double-digits. It will be a huge upset if Michels wins. Put this in Feingold’s column.
Thus, based on my analysis, I see the GOP picking up four seats in the South, one more in South Dakota, and losing seats in Alaska and Oklahoma. Barring the electoral miracle of all time, the Democrats will pick up the Senate seat in Illinois. Right now, I see it as the balance in the Senate come January as 53-47 in favor of the GOP, for a gain of two,
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THE VP DEBATE
My one concern about the debate last night would be that a lot of people might have tuned in late, during the domestic part of the debate, when John Edwards had the upper hand. Cheney didn’t go after him on the trial lawyer issue, and he didn’t mention all the job creation that has occurred in the last year until his closing statement. He let Edwards get away with the “job loss” jabs.
Other than that, the whole debate had to be scored as a modest victory for Cheney. He outperformed Edwards so well on the foreign policy portion that it was near impossible for Edwards to make a comeback. Edwards often looked like a deer in the headlights, while Cheney looked composed and confident.
So, what effect will this have on the race? I agree with PoliPundit that to the extent that Bush is bleeding in the polls (see below), this will probably stop it. But those stitches aren’t too strong: if Bush has another bad performance on Friday or next Wednesday, the wound opens up again.
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SO IS BUSH BLEEDING?
I’m not really sure that Bush is slipping in the polls that much. A lot of the polls showing Kerry pulling even are a bit suspect, while others show no change at all. My guess is that right now he’s at about 49-50%, with Kerry at 46-47%. Kerry got a slight bump from last Thursday, and I suspect it will be temporary. The problem is that Kerry’s problem is not the sort that can be fixed by one good debate performance. His indecisiveness is something that is now rooted very deep in the psyche of the electorate. Once the luster from the first debate wears off, concerns over his flip-flopping will again be front-and-center in voters’ minds.
Consider this. In last night’s debate, how many times did Edwards say words similar to this statement:
The American people saw John Kerry on Thursday night. They don't need the vice president or the president to tell them what they saw.
They saw a man who was strong, who had conviction, who is resolute, who made it very clear that he will do everything that has to be done to find terrorists, to keep the American people safe.
If the Kerry Campaign is so confident that their man is now seen as a man of “conviction,” why do they feel the need to keep reminding people about the Thursday debate? The fact is that they aren’t confident at all, and they keep harping on it in the hopes that it will sink in. It is also why Edwards said ludicrous stuff like, “John Kerry has been, as have I, been completely consistent about Iraq.” That’s just laughable, ripe for mocking. Why say it, unless you’re still worried that the flip-flopping label has stuck?
As long as Bush doesn’t screw up the next two debates, doubts about Kerry’s fitness will soon reemerge. And the polls will reflect it.
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Tuesday, October 05, 2004
CALLING THE SENATE
Today is the first of a two parter that examines the competitive Senate races in the nation. This one will examine the five Southern states: Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Florida: This is the toughest of the five to call. Recent polls showed Democrat and Education Secretary Betty Castor with a six-point lead over Mel Martinez. A recent one now has Martinez with hitting the 50% mark and with a four-point lead. Bush is trending well in the state right now, so I’m giving a sleight (very sleight) edge to Martinez. Right now it’s the sort of race that a new poll could have me switching it back to Castor tomoorw.
Georgia: This one is barely competitive. One of the best laughs I had recently was reading an article in which Democratic Congresswoman Denise Majette complained that the DSCC wasn’t going to spend money in Georgia. If Republican Congressman Johnny Isakson doesn’t win this by double digits, I’ll be very surprised. And special thanks to Majette, whose run for the Senate means that Cynthia McKinney will probably return to the House of Representative. Moron.
Louisiana: Republican Congressman David Vitter is looking very good, but will he crack the 50% mark, or be forced into a runoff in December? Right now, it looks like the latter. Unless the GOP figures out how to win a December race in this state, have to give this one to the Democratic candidate, whomever it will be.
North Carolina: A few weeks ago, it looked like this was former Clinton Chief-of-Staff Erskine Bowles to lose. He was way ahead, and cracking 50%. Now, it looks like he’s losing it. Republican Congressman Richard Burr has finally gone on the offensive, going on the air and hitting Bowles for his association with Clinton. Burr is gaining, with two recent polls showing him only a point behind Bowles. Bowles is losing ground, and unlike Burr, his name recognition is maxed out statewide, having run against Liddy Dole in 2002. Right now, have to hand this to Burr.
South Carolina: Superintendent of Schools Inez Tennenbaum looked to be making this a competitive race a few weeks ago, with one poll showing her pulling ahead of Republican Congressman Jim DeMint. The fight was over a national sales tax, but DeMint appears to have gotten the upper hand, with the latest poll showing him up 12 points. Bush will carry the Palmetto state by at least fifteen, so right now it is DeMint’s to lose.
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Monday, October 04, 2004
WHEN WILL I MAKE MY LAST VISIT?
I have visited Andrew Sullivan’s site since before I even knew about the blogosphere. If I recall correctly, I may have learned about the phenomenon for one of his posts in the Daily Dish. And for the most part, it has been well worth it—he is one of the best writers of our generation. Lately, though, I wonder if I won’t soon make my final visit. Like many, I have noticed his recent turn on Bush over the Iraq War, which is undoubtedly due to Bush’s support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. Bush endorsed the FMA in late February. I checked Sullivan’s archives to see if he had criticized Bush’s handling of the war before then. Nope.
That’s all fine and good. Bush’s handling of the war is far from perfect. And Sullivan can decide to oppose Bush for whatever reason he wishes. That’s not why I’m contemplating my final visit to his site. What has finally pushed me to that point was this post from about two weeks ago that was at best a lapse in memory and at worst intellectually dishonest:
AGAINST THE MEME: I get countless emails from mostly conservatives arguing that the only reason that I have become disenchanted with Bush is that I'm gay, obsessed with gay marriage, and nothing else matters to me. They even accuse me of betraying the war because of it. On the left, some agree. These kinds of charges, because they are really about my motives and integrity as a writer, are impossible to disprove, and so I have largely ignored them. They're an unanswerable smear. To say that, for example, my opposition to Bush's spending profligacy only began after his decision to back the FMA is both factually wrong (I criticized this long before he endorsed the FMA) and also ignores my long record of being a fiscal conservative, which led to my only real criticism of Reagan. Ditto Iraq. Some are saying that my anger at the administration's incompetence and arrogance in Iraq is somehow related to the FMA. In fact, it's related to my enthusiasm and belief in the Iraq war and its importance in the war on terror. It's precisely because I am so pro-war that I am so enraged that this administration went into Iraq on a wing and a prayer, when so much was at stake. I'm not alone in this among many neoconservatives; I'm just alone in being so vocal about it. I still hope we win; and I will support any president, including this one, who is serious about fighting it. But, unlike others, I cannot ignore the evidence of incompetence in front of me for short-term political reasons.
Got that? If you say Sullivan has turned because of the gay marriage issue, you are not merely wrong, you are engaging in an “unanswerable smear.” Sullivan comes off as defensive, as well he should. Apparently, he doesn’t think that anyone will check his archives. Because there you can find the moment at which Sullivan decided he wouldn’t support Bush for reelection. Guess what was the clincher:
I CANNOT SUPPORT HIM IN NOVEMBER: I will add one thing more. And that is the personal sadness I feel that this president who praises freedom wishes to take it away from a whole group of Americans who might otherwise support many parts of his agenda. To see the second family tableau with one family member missing because of her sexual orientation pains me to the core. And the president made it clear that discriminating against gay people, keeping them from full civic dignity and equality, is now a core value for him and his party. The opposite is a core value for me. Some things you can trade away. Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why, despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot support his candidacy. Not only would I be abandoning the small government conservatism I hold dear, and the hope of freedom at home as well as abroad, I would be betraying the people I love. And that I won't do.
Even there, he was trying to muddle the issue. Yes, it’s all about gay marriage, but don’t get the wrong idea, it’s also about small government conservatism. And just for good measure, there was this post:
The Bushies preposterously claim they only want to "protect" marriage. But quietly they pass amendments and laws that would make even basic protections for gay couples legally vulnerable and renegotiate employment contracts so they can fire homosexuals at will. Maybe some gays will vote for Bush this time around. But they must know it's a little like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders.
He published that just three days before he denied that gay marriage had anything to do with his position on how Bush is conducting the War in Iraq! So, since Sullivan is gay, he can’t vote for Bush. But there is that little problem that Bush’s opponent has given every indication for us to believe that the complete bungling of the Iraq situation would begin on day one of his administration. So what to do? Pretend like Bush has already bungled it so badly that we need a new commander-in-chief.
Of course, Sullivan has marveled at how well Kerry did in the debate. No mention about Kerry’s “global test” remark, i.e., Kerry will give the U.N. a veto over our foreign policy. Nor is there any discussion of Kerry’s comment, “I didn't say I would bring troops out in six months. I said, if we do the things [such as get France and Germany to send in troops] that I've set out and we are successful, we could begin to draw the troops down in six months.” A classic Kerry flip-flop, and one that means that Kerry knows he has no chance of convincing France or Germany to commit troops to Iraq. In other words, Kerry is not being honest about his Iraq plan.
None of that matters to Sullivan. I’m sure soon we will see him write a piece that Kerry’s approach to Iraq is a superb one. I’m sure it will be a monumental intellectual feat.
But I doubt I’ll read it.
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