Saturday, November 06, 2004

A Man in Full

It is the wish of every father to be surpassed by his son. Tuesday's 58 million votes for George W. Bush made evident what many of us having been saying for a long time; that George W. Bush is the most effective politician of his generation. Since the GOP's 1998 mid-term election debacle, the GOP (under Bush's leadership) has won two presidential elections, recaptured control of the United States Senate, increased its influence in the House of Representatives, and stands ready to appoint 2 and possibly 4 US Supreme Court justices over the course of the next four years.

Mr. Bush's accomplishment is made larger by the fact that he did all this in the face of constant, withering criticism and ad hominem attacks from the news media, the publishing world, Hollywood, the music industry and the academy. From Farenheit 9/11 to Kitty Kelly to the daily onslaughts of The New York Times to Eminem to the fabulists at CBS News, the so-called "media elite" painted a caricature of President Bush that was truly frightening.

It was also wrong. The thing that separates President Bush from the rest of us 50-something fuddy-duddies, aside from his discipline and personal fortitude, is his capacity for growth. Like President Clinton before him, he has grown in office and become a much bigger, much more interesting man. He stood before us on Thursday a man in full; tempered by war, sustained by faith, humbled by success, confident in the future.

My mother asked me what I thought his father thought about all this. I don't know, I haven't talked to him. But I suspect that he was enormously proud and pleased. The son who kept him up some nights years ago had passed him going by. For the rest of us in the family, I think I speak for most everyone when I say he has our undying admiration and respect.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Big Winner of The 2004 Election

The single most impressive performance of this election year was that of Real Clear Politics. I don't know who they are or where they find the time, but the site was simply sensational all year long. As best I can tell, it's two guys and a modem. They blew everyone away.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Why Kerry Lost

Five reasons, I think. In no particular order: Culture, Lifestyle, Rationale, Strategy, War.

Culture. Senator Kerry was never going to be credible as a faith-based candidate. It’s not who he is and it’s not what he’s about. He didn’t need to be. What he needed to do was let a vast swath of Americans (particularly in the middle of the country) know that he shared their cultural concerns. Chief among these are the porno-ization of American media, the sexualization of children and the “pimp and ho” Rap culture. Kerry never uttered a critical word of the media sewer. He aligned himself with Hollywood, the music industry and Big New York media. He paid the price in exurbia.

Lifestyle. Pick your poison: wind-surfing, wind-surfing outfits, snow-boarding outfits, $8000 bicycles, the daughter’s dress at Cannes, Teresa, Nantucket. A veritable Robin Leach smorgasbord. Teresa especially was emblematic of the Kerry disconnect.

Rationale. Kerry’s book on Bush might have been called Liar, Incompetent, Moron, Fool. It was never going to sell above 50%. It felt good and it ginned up the base, but a majority of people simply did not and do not share this view of President Bush. The court martial strategy was too harsh. A “gold-watch strategy” – in which President Bush was thanked for his service and shown the door – was much more in tune with the national mood.

Bush as initiator, Kerry as consolidator was a potentially powerful paradigm. And it would have enabled Kerry to portray Bush as spent; exhausted by the stress and bone-crushing pressures of the job. Americans were and are grateful to Bush for his superb leadership in the wake of 9/11. They were never going to fire him. They might have retired him.

Strategy. Did the Kerry campaign really imagine that they could out direct-market Karl Rove? By buying into the 17-state strategy, they walked right into Rove’s trap. By reducing the battlefield, they enlarged the Bush campaign’s tactical brilliance. The key to defeating Bush in the biggest national election since 1968 was to nationalize the race, not localize it. And the way to do that was to do it, with national campaign advertising, national campaigning and a direct national appeal that said: this is not Florida’s election or Ohio’s election, this is your election. You pay taxes, you have a right to be heard. I will not disenfranchise you. I will not marginalize your vote.

Yes, national advertising and campaigning is inefficient and expensive. But the Kerry camp had money to burn. Had they advertised nationally (and had the DNC supported national advertising with thematic national advertising of its own), the Kerry campaign could have built a much bigger lead in national polling and put a great deal more pressure on the Bush campaign early. By changing the scope of the battlefield, the Kerry campaign could have maximized the Bush’s campaign’s most glaring weakness, which was communications.

War. I never thought the metaphor for Kerry’s waffling on the War issue was the famous “I voted for it, before I voted against it” quote. John Edwards was the better metaphor. A presidential campaign has five Big moments; the VP selection, the convention speech and the three debates. The first of these was a disaster for Kerry because it sent exactly the wrong message about his view of the War on Terror.

Had he chosen former Marine Corps Gen. Zinni (or someone like him), he could have said: “In choosing Gen. Zinni, I promise you that he will not be delegated to campaign for Democratic candidates, or be sent to attend state funerals. His sole job will be to coordinate the War on Terror and to do the planning for post-election Iraq. Toward that end, I have asked him to put together a comprehensive strategy, deliverable on October 1st, that will become the roadmap for our counter-terrorism efforts, our Middle East initiatives and our anti-proliferation campaigns. I will reveal that plan on October 15th. A final plan will be ready by December 15th. In the event that we are elected, we will not miss a beat as the baton passes hands.”

Choosing Zinni would have elevated Kerry substantially on national security issues. I don’t think he could have achieved parity, but it would have enabled him to focus more of his campaign on domestic concerns (which were more favorable to him politically). Choosing Edwards, who turned out to be Quayle Lite, gained him nothing at all politically and signaled a strange indifference to the central issue of our time, which is the War.

Another Election, Another Exit Poll Debacle

The weirdest thing about Election Day 2004 was the seven or so hours, from roughly 1:30pm to roughly 9pm when Big Media's story-line was based upon fiction. Kerry never led Bush nationally by 4 points. He was never ever close in any Southern state save Florida (and he lost that by 5). Colorado wasn't close. Virginia wasn't close. Kerry never led Bush by double-digits in Pennsylvania. Everything that was hinted at, winked along, or implied by the deluded talking heads was, in fact, fiction.

The lost productivity at places like The New York Times and The Washington Post, where literally hundreds of reporters and editors spent the equivalent of an 8-hour work day writing and preparing fiction, will likely cause those outlets to look very long and very hard at buying any more NEP product in the foreseeable future.

Indeed, all of the consumers of this content have to be asking themselves: "why in the world do we pay for this?" I expect that at least two of the networks and at least one of the major papers will demand that the job be outsourced to Gallup or some equally well-regarded organization. Three election day mis-reads is three too many.

Failing Ever Upward

"This is the best election night in history."--Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, Nov. 2, 2004, just beore 8 p.m. EST. (From Taranto)

Ellisblog asks the question no one else dares ask! What, exactly, does Terry McAuliffe have to do to lose his job? He has presided over two presidential defeats, a mid-term debacle (2002) of remarkable dimension, the loss of California in 2003 and the steady erosion of Democratic power at every level of government. When people in business lose market share across industry segments, they get fired. When Terry McAuliffe does it, he gets good press.

Ellisblog answers the question: The more McAuliffe fails at his job, the more certain it is that he keeps his job!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Where We Are Right Now

Mike Barone's 5am take on matters is worth reading. His speculation that Democrats may have slammed the exit pollsters seems a bit weird, but who knows?

A Narrow Escape

Is still a win! The most fun was watching the collective broadcast news mood crumble as the night wore on. They had started the day with the certainty that only bad exit polling can bring. Kerry was in! By the time they all finally signed off, the GOP had again run the table; more control of the House, more control of the Senate and four more years of George W. Bush.