Is It Bush Vs. Dean?
October 20 2003
With an uptick in his approval rating to 56 percent – higher than Reagan
at this point in his presidency – George W. Bush seems to have weathered
his summer squall and to be well-positioned to do what his father failed
to do: Win a second term.© 2003 Creators
The resurgence in the president's ratings appears due to two factors:
the California recall election that riveted the nation – and in which
the face of the Democratic Party was that of Gray Davis, and of the GOP
that of Arnold. Second, the bull market, with the Dow nearing 10,000
If Wall Street remains the lead indicator it has usually been – a
predictor of what is to come in the economy six to 12 months out – Bush
could be presiding over good times in 2004.
Moreover, with the dollar sinking, aiding U.S. exports, with most Bush
tax cuts taking effect before November '04, with Alan Greenspan gunning
the money supply and with a $550 billion deficit pumping out cash, the
economy has all the steroids it needs for an Olympic performance in
Then there is Iraq, about which a consensus seems to be emerging. Those
who opposed the war do not want to cut and run and leave Iraq to chaos
and civil war. Those who supported the war do not want to stay on
forever and fight an Iraqi intifada.
The consensus appears to be this: America will not send fresh new
divisions to fight a 5- or 10-year war. Iraq will be helped onto its
feet and power transferred as soon as possible, so Iraqis themselves can
take responsibility for their own independence. And then, the Americans
But if the United States is losing half a dozen soldiers a week with
scores wounded in October of next year, and Bush comes back to Congress
for another $87 billion, "Bush's War" will be the issue of 2004.
Especially with the Democratic nominee likely to be Howard Dean of
Here is another reason to bet on Bush. Though badly cut up by rivals
over the summer, Dean still runs ahead of Rep. Gephardt in Iowa and of
Sen. Kerry in New Hampshire, with summer sensation Gen. Wesley Clark
trailing badly in both states. And we are only three months away from
During the summer, Gephardt failed to win the endorsement of the
AFL-CIO. Clark has had problems both with message and organization, and
was beaten up in the last debate. And Kerry just got some very bad news
from a Granite State Poll.
Last winter, he led Dean 39 percent to 11 percent in that New Hampshire
survey of likely Democratic voters. Now, Dean leads Kerry 30 percent to
17 percent, a turnaround of 42 points. Where 65 percent of likely voters
had a positive image of Kerry as of last winter, only half that number
do today. Add to this that Dean led all other Democrats in fund raising
in the third quarter, and it is becoming difficult to see just who is
going to stop the anti-war ex-governor.
The anti-Dean vote may be the majority inside the Democratic Party. But
it is divided among Gephardt, Kerry, Clark and Sens. Joe Lieberman and
John Edwards, with no sign any of the five can pull it together before
Dean begins rolling up victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, and pulling
away. One Democrat could step in at this late hour, stop Howard Dean and
seize the nomination. But she is reluctant.
If, however, Dean is nominated, he will be an anti-war candidate of a
party most of whose national leaders – Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards,
Lieberman, Daschle, Clinton – voted for war. The last Democrat to take
so vivid an anti-war stand was George McGovern in 1972.
Second, Dean's call for repeal of the Bush tax cuts will make him, for
the purposes of GOP campaign commercials, the pro-tax candidate.
Lieberman is already on tape predicting a "Dean Depression." Democrats
have not nominated a tax-raiser since Walter Mondale in 1984, and like
McGovern, he, too, lost 49 states.
Third, Dean's support of civil unions for homosexuals in Vermont will
make "gay" marriage, and the GOP constitutional amendment restricting
marriage to a man and woman, the social issue of 2004.
In 1972, Nixon ran against McGovern as the candidate, in Sen. Hugh
Scott's phrase, of "acid, amnesty and abortion." If Bush and Karl Rove,
using the $170 million they plan to raise by spring, can paint Dean as
pro-homosexual weddings, pro-hiking taxes and "soft on Saddam," Dean and
the Democrats could face a wipeout.
Nothing is certain in politics. Few predicted the Bush swoon of last
summer. And the economy could go into that "double-dip" recession some
predict. But as of now, it looks like "Four More Years!" for GWB.
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