Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Big week for Bush

This week kicks off the start of the convention season leading up to the traditional election starter's gun of the early September US Labour Day. And this week is a particularly tough one for Bush. On Thursday, the commission investigating Sept. 11 is to release its final report, criticizing government efforts to prevent the attacks, and Mr. Kerry is about to enjoy a week of extensive coverage of his nominating convention. In addition, one of Kerry's planned key plugpoints, the administration's involvement in Halliburton, has just been given added weight with revelations of a criminal probe into Halliburton's dealings in Iran.

In response, Bush is planning a month-long campaign that will "blend criticism of the Democratic ticket with what aides said would be Mr. Bush's first effort to set out a second-term agenda." Bush has thus brought forward his definitions of his second term, an campaign strategy traditionally reserved for the period subsequent to the Republican Convention. In addition, according to White House communications director Dan Bartlett, "White House senior adviser Karl Rove has told Republican allies that, in the 2000 campaign, Bush suffered from having little new to say in September and October, and that the 2004 campaign plan was drawn up to avoid that mistake."

Bush has been forced into a position of incessant campaigning due to his under-50% approval ratings and the fact that the campaign is currently on a knife-edge. He simply cannot afford to concede poll data to Kerry in this week, as the momentum (if Kerry could jog himself to take advantage of it) carrying through to the real electioneering in September may be significant. His key campaign theme of the economy is increasingly coming under attack for the lack of real job growth, as much of the job growth has come from low income positions, the so-called "McJobs". Stephen S. Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, reached the conclusion: "While there has been some improvement on the hiring front in recent months, the quality of such job-creation has been decidedly subpar…Unless that changes, the risks to a sustainable economic recovery will only intensify."

However, Kerry has been up to some less intelligent campaigning recently. Over the July 4th weekend, Kerry fielded reporter's questions after picking up a Beretta 12-gauge shotgun and shooting 17 of 25 clay pigeons and noting "I'm just doing what I normally do". Whilst clearly an attempt to lessen the attacks of the NRA, the NRA. executive vice president Wayne LaPierre retorted that Kerry has voted against its positions 51 out of 55 times and has "not fought for gun owners' rights once in 25 years". The NRA is planning an extensive print campaign in support of Bush to begin airing this week. Bit of a waste of time then...