For several weeks now consultants on both the left and right were wondering when the Bush campaign would start using more of its tougher hits on Kerry.
We have our answer. The answer is April 21. The latest Bush-Cheney ad, “Doublespeak,” is, in a word, magnificent.
This new ad is, as they say, “gonna leave a mark.” Contrary to what many believe, people don’t actually learn from history. Senators make awful presidential candidates. The Democrats are going to re-learn this hard lesson.
Sure, the Bush campaign hit Kerry on his gas-tax scheme, taxes, and on Iraq funding. And, it worked. Polling shows Bush survived several awful weeks and defined Kerry in no small measure as a waffler and someone who takes three sides of an issue. In fact, I can vouch for the success of this effort. In focus groups I conducted for an association in St. Louis, Missouri, and Columbus, Ohio participants joked about Kerry’s “flexibility” on the issues.
Team Kerry has been giving us the line that the Bush camp took their best shot and missed in its opening salvo. But that’s all hopeful spin. The Bush camp landed a direct hit with those ads and set the stage for the ideological contrast they’re going to begin drawing.
Most of the folks I have talked too in the consulting community have kept asking when the Bush camp would roll out the really tough ideological attacks.
This new ad answers that question. It uses several newspaper quotes to reinvigorate the image of Kerry as waffler and panderer, but it closes with a clear ideological assault: “And the non-partisan National Journal magazine ranks Kerry the most liberal member of the Senate–more liberal than Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy”
This indicates the beginning of what is sure to evolve into a full-scale ideological assault on Kerry. The Bush team has already shoved Kerry’s image to the left, but this is the beginning of what will become a very large effort aimed at disqualifying Kerry.
The problem Team Bush has is that there is so much material here. To the opposition researchers on the Republican side of the aisle, Kerry’s long Senate record must seem like a Vegas “All U Can Eat” buffet. You can literally gorge yourself on vote after liberal vote and they keep bringing more. When you’re tired of working through votes against the death penalty, you come across votes against the death penalty for terrorists. When that gets old, Kerry’s legion abortion votes present themselves. When that grows tiresome there are his votes against America’s defense. Tired of that? Order up a plate of high-profile votes for tax increases. It just doesn’t stop.
Finally, it’s worth reviewing the National Journal vote ratings. When they came out you could hear the shouts of glee at the Republican National Committee and in Old Town Alexandria (the home of most Republican consulting firms). It was only a matter of time before this was used against Kerry.
But that’s not the half of it. These vote ratings have been conducted for years. They allow political scientists and political hacks to compare members of Congress to each other over their careers. That means, for example, it’s possible to compare Al Gore’s voting record to John Kerry’s while they were in the Senate together. Stay tuned…
–Robert Moran is a vice president at Republican polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates. He is an NRO contributor.