HANDICAPPING THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE
Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D.
With Sen. John Edwards dropping out of the Democratic race for the presidency, one of the Bush administration's worst fears was removed, as they consider Kerry an easier opponent to defeat.
In the November election, most Democrats and Republicans will vote along party lines. So, the key to winning will be which candidate can get the most votes from independents. In Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Delaware and Tennessee, Kerry's vote share was lower among independents than among Democrats, but Edwards' vote share was higher.
In addition, a sizeable number of Southern conservative Democrats will probably vote for Bush since the southerner Edwards is not their party's presidential nominee. The National Journal recently published a statistical analysis by the Brookings Institution showing that Kerry is the "most liberal" member of the Senate, even more liberal than Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Some might say that a Kerry-Edwards ticket could overcome the points made above. But history shows voters do not often cast their votes based upon the vice-presidential candidate.
Bush ads will show Kerry over the years voting to raise taxes even on the middle class, and Kerry does not "connect" with voters as well as Edwards or Bush. Charisma, which Kerry lacks, has often been a factor in political races.
Of course, Kerry will claim that Bush is not trustworthy, as no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. But Bush will counter this by pointing to a number of Kerry "flip-flops" on important issues.
And while Kerry will appeal to pro-choice Republicans, there are probably more pro-life Democrats who will vote for Bush.
Kerry and the Democrats could argue that Bush could have prevented what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. But so far, they have not made that case. Vice President Cheney has acknowledged the administration knew terrorists were going to do something "big," and "soon," so Kerry could say, "Why didn't you have Black Hawk helicopters on standby alert in New York City since terrorists had already tried to blow up the World Trade Center towers in 1993?"
The edge, according to a recent Newsweek survey, is currently with the Democrats. But they are forgetting the power of the presidency.
Democrats have gone out on a limb by saying there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but don't be surprised if some WMD (but not large stockpiles) are found before the November election.
Also, the Democrats have charged that Iraq has been a distraction from the war on terror, but don't be surprised if before the November election Osama bin Laden is found. This would undercut two of the main Democrat charges against Bush and would boost his public support.
On the other hand, if the situation in Iraq is unstable just before the November election, Bush could lose support. The planning for Iraq after Saddam Hussein's removal was extremely inadequate.
It is inconceivable to me how former President Bush needed about 600,000 soldiers just to remove Saddam's forces from Kuwait in 1991, but the current President Bush believed he could police the entire nation of Iraq with only about 200,000 soldiers after Saddam's removal.
With the June 30 deadline for turning over authority to the Iraqis, the governing council there may not be capable of providing security for the entire nation. Plus, the Shiite majority may want their brand of Islamic law to rule despite the wishes of the Sunnis, Kurds and others.
By next fall, the overall economy in the United States will be better (favoring Bush), but job creation will be less than the Bush administration has projected, which could hurt him.
There could be a surprise before the November election, which will be close. Furthermore, in key states, Ralph Nader's newly announced candidacy could again, as in 2000, make enough of a difference with Independents to give the election to Bush.
© 2004 Dennis Cuddy - All Rights Reserved
Dennis Laurence Cuddy, historian and political analyst, received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (major in American History, minor in political science). Dr. Cuddy has taught at the university level, has been a political and economic risk analyst for an international consulting firm, and has been a Senior Associate with the U.S. Department of Education.
Cuddy has also testified before members of Congress
on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Cuddy has authored or
edited seventeen books and booklets, and has written hundreds of articles
appearing in newspapers around the nation, including The Washington Post,
Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He has been a guest on numerous radio
talk shows in various parts of the country, such as ABC Radio in New York
City, and he has also been a guest on the national television programs
USA Today and CBS's Nightwatch.
"It is inconceivable to me how former President Bush needed about 600,000 soldiers just to remove Saddam's forces from Kuwait in 1991, but the current President Bush believed he could police the entire nation of Iraq with only about 200,000 soldiers..."