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June 23, 2004

Ask Not For Whom the Cowbell Tolls; It Tolls for John Kerry

The booming economy is forcing Democrats to attempt to better balance their message between "specious claims" and "total fucking bullshit":

...Democrats are edging away from their charges that President Bush is presiding over a "jobless recovery," which has been a staple of their campaign rhetoric. That argument is giving way to the line of attack that working America is suffering a "middle-class squeeze."

Certainly the new version of the economic debate is harder for Democrats to win. Voters are less likely to turn out an incumbent if they see the economy broadly improving, even if they still have some specific pocketbook complaints.

The changed terrain increasingly has Bush advisers comparing their candidate to Bill Clinton, a politician they're usually loath to invoke. Mr. Clinton launched his 1996 re-election campaign amid doubts about the strength of the economy, but by that November, voters were widely persuaded a solid boom was under way.

The Kerry strategy "is similar to what Bob Dole tried to do in 1996," says Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd, referring to Mr. Clinton's Republican challenger. "At first Dole thought he was going to run on the economy, but when it started turning strong, he switched his message to 'middle-class squeeze.' " By November, Mr. Dole was left to wonder on the stump, "where's the outrage?" as he pulled just 41% of the vote.


The current reality is a mixed picture. Forecasters expect the economy to grow by 4.7% this year, according to a survey by Blue Chip Economic Indicators, the fastest pace since Ronald Reagan won re-election in a landslide in 1984. Employers have created 1.2 million jobs since August, and the unemployment rate is 5.6%, down from a peak during Mr. Bush's term, last year, of 6.3%.


Yesterday, a statistical duel broke out between the two campaigns, with Bush aides releasing a two-page "policy memo" comparing the U.S. economy in 1996 and 2004, purporting to show that conditions were about as good as they were during Mr. Clinton's re-election bid. The list showed numbers like short-term job growth about comparable, while the Bush era registered more money spent at restaurants, per capita, and more passengers taking cruises. Four hours later, the Kerry campaign shot back with its own data page accusing their rivals of "misleading statistics" and slower wage growth and faster tuition growth under Mr. Bush than Mr. Clinton.

A USAToday editorial, meanwhile, calls "shenanigans" on Kerry's "Middle-Class Misery Index":

Kerry's downbeat economic talk may be inevitable for a candidate challenging an incumbent's record in the wake of a recession. But as the economy blooms, his index's credibility is wilting...

By talking down the economy, Kerry may hope to pick up votes in economically struggling states where the November election may be decided. But in doing so, he risks sounding out of touch with millions of Americans who see signs of an improving economy β€” and want a president with a sunnier outlook. The recent death of former president Ronald Reagan recalls just how powerful an optimistic message can be.

Exaggerating the nation's economic misery is not wise policy or politics. The nation is looking for an upbeat problem-solver, not a gloomy naysayer.

And a tangible political upshot to all this is Kerry's frighteningly small lead over Bush in New Jersey, 46-40, despite Al Gore's 16 point margin in 2000. Furthermore 54% of New Jerseyans think the Iraq War was wrong. So why isn't Kerry doing better in New Jersey?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that New Jersey is one of the states doing best under The Bush Boom.

New Jersey could be a leading indicator of what the rest of the nation will be feeling come November. And that doesn't bode well for John Kerry.

Here's a small factory-refurbished cowbell I was able to get at a discount price:

Update: This guy's worth reading, too:

Forgive me while I leak information vital to our national security: The economy is kicking butt.

I assume this must be closely guarded information because you have to go deep undercover to find it in The New York Times or The Washington Post.

digg this
posted by Ace at 04:18 PM

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