What has to be done now is to KEEP THE PRESSURE ON. The question is how? Here is what I think will do the trick:
- Support the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. They must keep their pressure on the Kerry campaign and not let him get away with ducking the issues their group is bringing up. On a psychological note--this is Kerry's Achilles' heel. He seems to be blind to the fact that by his not answering the charges (he has gone over 1 month and still counting...and not talked to a single reporter) he gives further fuel to them. Without an explanation of his excellent non-adventure in Cambodia; the conflicting stories he has told about his service and the changing medal citations; people are going to believe the Vets. Additionally, his anti-war stance while still a Naval Officer; and his complete trashing of fellow veterans in Vietnam, is not something that people are going to forget. What is so astonishing is that he KEEPS BRINGING BOTH ISSUES UP INDIRECTLY TO THE PUBLIC ! He can't stop talking about how heroic he was in Vietnam even when it is clearly hurting him. He has no insight into his behavior and thus, this is a big area of vulnerability.
- Fred Barnes has an interesting comment in his column: apparently the speech at the RNC that most "wowed" the general public, was President Bush's !
Whose speech got the more favorable reaction? Bush's. Really. At 17 focus groups organized by Democratic consultant Bob Beckel in battleground states, voters were mesmerized by Bush, especially when he talked about the war on terror. At an MSNBC focus group in Cincinnati run by pollster Frank Luntz, 13 of 21 undecided voters jumped to Bush after hearing his speech.
This tells us that people want to hear from Bush about what he is thinking. They want to understand his decisions and what leads him to make those decisions. President Bush needs to communicate this over and over again to the public. He needs to explain again and again why he went to Afghanistan; why he went to Iraq; Why Iraq is important in the War on Terror; and even more importantly, why the U.S. must be the carrier of the torch of Liberty for the world. And then, secondarily, he must tie this belief in Freedom and Liberty to his policies at home. He must show that while we bring Liberty to others on the planet, we should not be eroding Freedom here in our own country by ever-expanding government and reliance on government to solve all economic and social problems.
- Finally, Bush and members of his administration must remain Presidential. They need to stay on message and not use any of Kerry's own tactics to denigrate Kerry. I think we will see a lot of personal attacks from Kerry and Edwards on Bush and Cheney. I believe that Bush must continue to do what he has done: praise Kerry's military service--even talk deferentially about it--and focus any direct attacks on Kerry's record post-Vietnam. If possible, continue to make light of Kerry and Edwards; mock their inconsistencies and make self-effacing jokes while doing it.
We have two months more to go until we can relax. Anything can happen in that time--both for Bush and against him. But, if Republicans stay on message; resist the urge to strike back at Kerry's attacks; and continue to press him on his senate record--well, then it will be time to be a little cocky; and pretty proud of an America that still listens to reason and can understand the reality of the world and is willing to lead it to Freedom and victory over Terrorism.