Man Without Qualities

Monday, July 19, 2004

Partial Awareness
The first signs that the mainstream media are beginning to understand that this election is probably going to be about the domestic economy - not foreign affairs - are beginning to appear.  Not too surprisingly, those signs correspond with a simultaneous dawning of an understanding that this is not good news for the media's favored Democrats and that the higher reaches of the Democratic Party understand that they have a big problem on their hands. The Associated Press breathlessly reports:

Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards are gambling that there is enough lingering uneasiness about pocketbook issues that their message about a struggling economy and loss of jobs will resonate despite rising public optimism. 
"It's the best issue they've got, especially in some of the swing states," said Democratic consultant Dane Strother.

When it comes to voters' anxiety about the economy, this election year is a far cry from 1980, when Ronald Reagan (
news - web sites) famously asked: "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"

Nor does 2004 measure up to 1992, when Bill Clinton (
news - web sites)'s team summed up the campaign's theme with the memorable phrase: "It's the economy, stupid."

Kerry and Edwards have a bigger selling job than Reagan had in 1980 when he defeated President Carter or Clinton had in 1992 when he beat the first President Bush (
news - web sites).

In June 1980, three-fourths of Americans disapproved of Carter's handling of the economy at a time of rising inflation and little growth.

In June 1992, three-fourths disapproved of the elder Bush's economic performance when the economy was just starting to revive.

An AP-Ipsos poll this month found that voters were about evenly divided about the current president's handling of the economy, with 49 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving. Also, consumer confidence has been on the rise.

Yes, indeed, and that 49-50 split is a November disaster-in-the-making for Democrats. For some reason most of the media - including this AP report - willfully ignore the fact that historically it has taken about six months for consistently good economic news (especially consistently good employment news) to translate into solidly higher support for an incumbent - and that the support for the incumbent tends to accelerate towards the end of that period and closer to election day. Looking back to the point at which consistently and clearly good jobs data began, we see the country is now at about the third or fourth month point in that six-month period. The positive economic news  continues despite the pathetic attempts of those such as Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman to spin it otherwise. 
If the economy continues to  perform (never to be taken for granted, but likely at this point) and there is no enormous new development in foreign affairs (including a major foreign terrorist attack on American soil), the glacial and overwhelming progress of the domestic economy on voter perception should put Mr. Bush back in the Whitehouse and the Republicans back in control of Congress by very nice margins.
The smarter Democrats, including Senator Kerry but still a surprisingly small minority of the Democratic Party, know all that. All-but-certain knowledge of their coming serious defeat explains some recent Democratic shenanigans - such as the bizarre attempt to bar Hillary Clinton as a major speaker at their Boston convention and the sharp public counterattack on that attempt launched by Senator Clinton's camp - a public tiff widely seen as driven by Senator Edwards' desire to suppress Senator Clinton's rise.  Such doings make most sense in the context of a general scramble for advantageous positioning by those assuming that the Kerry-Edwards ticket will probably go down hard in November.
What does it say about a candidate like John Kerry when his own convention planning is most consistent with his own coming defeat? Isn't that carrying his policy of trying to have things both ways just a tad too far?

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