Politics & Policy

Donkey Temperature-Taking

With 12 days left, what one New Dem is thinking.

Ed Kilgore is a friendly (however misguided) Democrat over the Democratic Leadership Council. NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez checked in with him Wednesday night to take the “New Democrat” election temperature.

(Full disclosure: The italicized asides were added long after Kilgore went to sleep.)

See if any of his answers surprise you–and do with them what you will. And check www.newdonkey.com, where Kilgore not-so-anonymously blogs.

And may the best man win!

NRO: What’s the electoral mood over where you are?

Ed Kilgore: Guarded optimism. The optimism is from three sources:

(1) Bush and Kerry’s approval/disapproval ratings have wound up very similar, with Bush’s strengths more concentrated on one of the three issues the public cares most about (terrorism, Iraq, everything-else). Given the issue landscape, and the well-known tendency of late breakers to remember the things they don’t like about the incumbent (reinforced by the strong “wrong-track” views of the remaining undecideds), Kerry should have the late advantage if nothing else changes.

(2) Kerry seems to be doing better in battleground states than he is nationally. Bush’s apparent decision to underplay Ohio makes his ability to get to 270 a lot harder.

(3) We continue to think the “ground game” will favor Dems; the long early-voting lines in minority neighborhoods in Florida may be a leading indicator.

The caution comes from two sources: the crazily varying polls, and the uncertain impact of the GOP’s under-the-radar “kulturkampf” effort to convince voters that Kerry’s the symbol of elitist moral relativism.

NRO: Kerry’s doing Godtalk Thursday night, and to some extent has been since the last debate. What’s the thinking there? He seems to just be…completely confusing when he talks about religion.

Kilgore: Kerry’s views on the connection between faith and politics are typically “nuanced,” which sounds terrible until you reflect on the less-than-crystalline clarity of, say, the Nicene Creed or Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. I think a full-fledged speech on this subject will help him.

NRO: The Nicene Creed is a heck of a lot clearer than Kerry’s “article of faith” vs. NARAL endorsement record, but anyways… What’s most impressed you about Bush on the trail?

Kilgore: As always, Bush’s message discipline is awe-inspiring. Kerry argues with his consultants; Bush obeys his.

NRO: You’re just killing me, man. You expect any surprises in the time that’s left in the election?

Kilgore: Surprises? I’d be surprised, but I’ve been surprised before.

NRO: What’s Kerry got to do to win?

Kilgore: Kerry may well be able to “win ugly” by just slugging it out with Bush along the he said/he said lines the campaign has followed recently, but it would be helpful if he works hard to frame the final push as a change/status quo choice. He should also do everything possible to rebut BC04’s “big-government liberal” attack line, because (a) it’s very weird coming from the absolute rulers of the biggest, most debt-ridden federal government in U.S. history, and (b) it’s the last weapon in the incumbent’s arsenal.

NRO: Nice bone to the conservatives, Kilgore. We got a lot of big-picture types in NRO’s parts, though, unfortunately for you. So, is Dashcle going to pull it out?

Kilgore:Since I am not personally acquainted with the thousand or so undecided voters in South Dakota, I cannot make an iron-clad prediction, but my gut is that Daschle wins, in part because he’s led in most polls in a state where both candidates are universally known, and in part because S.D. is one of those places where tactical voting (give the White House to one party, give the Senate to another) is an old and familiar habit. The fact that Daschle’s GOTV operation calls forth hosannas from the kind of people who pay attention to such things is the clincher.

NRO: Write your most realistic guess at an Election Day Washington Post headline.

Kilgore: Oh, I guess it will be “Kerry Claims Victory; GOP Demands Recounts in 3 States.” Subhed: “Bush Says ‘Every Vote Must Count’”

NRO: Cute, but dream on. [Fingers crossed.]


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