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September 04, 2004

Big Mo: "The Smell of Panic Is In the Air"

I think Bush is now up but not by 11 points. I'd guess he's really up about 4-5 points, and that could quickly change. It sure changed quickly on John Forbes Kerry.

But however much he's up, there's not much doubt that he has all the momentum at the moment.

SurveyUSA has been tracking not "who will you vote for" but "who do you expect to win."

They do this to capture shifts in political momentum-- or at least perceived political momentum, which is of course just a redundancy. In the big liberal cities, Bush has jumped 15-20 points so that about 58-60% of the citizens there now expect him to win.

In Las Vegas, only 55% expect him to win. But in Oklahoma City, 78% expect him to win, which is pretty goshdarn high.

I don't know what this means, but it must mean something: Bush's big speech garnered 28 million television viewers, while the Kerrey's only managed 25. The entire RNC also pulled in more eyeballs than the entire DNC.

The New York Post quotes a
"veteran Democratic operative" as saying "The smell of panic is in the air."

Kerry has two problems.

His first problem is his liberal Democratic base. My current pet theory is that both sides of the political aisle have become somewhat radicalized by the twin political shocks of impeachment and the Florida recount, and that partisans in both camps have overly personalized politics. Many of us (myself included) are now cheering on political parties as if they were sports franchises, and we live and fall with each victory and each defeat, just like a dedicated football fanatic might (myself, again, included).

And we're not just cheering to cheer; we all of us now have some personal stake in all of this nonsense. We're not just looking to win elections, but to win arguments, arguments this nation has been having now for ten years. The arguments never get settled, but we're always hoping the next victory will finally give us the personal vindication we're looking for.

At any rate: Kerry's supporters don't just want him to win. They now have an emotional need for him to win, and furthermore, they don't just have an emotional need for him to win the election-- they have an emotional need for him to vindicate them by humiliating Bush and finally proving they were right on Iraq/Impeachment all along.

The problem is that these people are misprioritizing, especially from Kerry's viewpoint. They want validation; he just wants to win a freaking election. They are demanding that he do certain things -- like call Bush AWOL and Cheney a draft-dodger, and, you know, actually announce a clear and coherent position on Iraq -- that help their cause but not necessarily Kerry's.

And furthermore, since there is emotion riding on the outcome, Kerry could easily be turned on by his supporters the moment he seems to falter. They picked him as their candidate not because they liked Kerry or his policies (whatever they are) but because they hated Bush and wanted Bush humiliated before the world as the AWOLiarThiefWarCriminalFascist he is. They picked Kerry because they thought he'd make a good champion; whether or not he'd make a good ruler is something of an afterthought.

The only thing holding them to Kerry's side is the belief that he can win. When that belief fails, so does their loyalty.

And if it looks like Kerry can't deliver them the delicious vindication they crave, they will turn on him. We won't have recriminations; there won't be time for that. We'll have precriminations, starting in October.

The other problem Kerry has is simpler: Kerry does not perform well when challenged. He can perform adequately, if unremarkably, so long as he's ahead/winning; when he's losing, he acts, talks, and looks like a punch-drunk corpse dripping with sweaty desperation. Some men can portray a winning optimism whatever the circumstances; Kerry isn't one of them.

It's way to early to say "it's over" or any of that. But a big key to Kerry's strategy was to get ahead and stay ahead. Once behind, he becomes a bad candidate with supporters whose anger at him is only surpassed by their anger at the Bushcreature.

The Big Mo is especially big this election, and it just turned like a bitch.

Stuff I Should Have Said The First Time Around Update: There weren't "twin shocks." There were triple shocks. 9/11 was the last and worst blow. When the towers came crashing down, so did the uneasy compromise that superficially united the left and the right. We've always had very different ideas about how the world works and America's place in that world; for years we remained in our shotgun marriage by ignoring our irreconcilable differences.

9/11 was like catching the the other party in bed with someone else, and worse yet, that someone else was Osama bin Ladin. I don't mean to necessarily say that the left was in bed with bin Ladin. I mean that, from the point of view of both the left and the right, the opposing camp had either caused or negligently allowed 9/11 to occur.

I'm tired of the marriage analogy by this point even worse than you are, but I can't resist finishing it off: We agreed to try to "work things out" for a spell after 9/11, but by 2002, the marriage was officially dissolved.

The liberals ultimately decided they needed to be "free to explore themselves."

The other thing I meant to mention is that Chris Matthews, who provided the perfect thesis-proving quote last time 'round, also gave me a good quote this go. While blathering on about the convention and Iraq this week, Chris concluded a segment by saying (close paraphrase):

I just wish we could put a second question on the ballot asking the American people if the war in Iraq was a mistake and settle this once and for all, by referendum.

Chris is obviously in the tank for Kerry, but I think this quote demonstrates that, once again, the issue isn't Kerry per se; Chris just wants a certification, signed in triplicate by the American people, telling him "You were right all along. God, you're so smart." He can't have that referendum question on the ballot, of course, so he's madly advocating for the election of John Forbes Kerry as a good proxy for what he really wants.

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posted by Ace at 04:36 AM

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