Recent Bush/Cheney campaign rhetoric strongly suggests that the president’s target in this debate will be John Kerry’s liberal Senate voting record.
The Kerry campaign should be worried; in St. Louis their candidate was as afraid of the liberal “label” as Dracula is of crucifixes and wooden stakes. Kerry’s record is demonstrably, unequivocally liberal, his handlers know it, and they are petrified at the thought that the Bush campaign could use Kerry’s record against him.
This election is coming down to just two states–Ohio and Florida. Neither are culturally liberal and both have significant rural and exurban communities that offset Democratic advantages in the metropolises.
Liberalism, as defined by opposition to the death penalty, and support for higher taxes, race-based affirmative-action programs and partial-birth abortions is not a winner in these states. Liberalism as defined by serving as Michael Dukakis’s lieutenant governor and voting lockstep with Ted Kennedy is not a winner in these states.
To win tonight’s debate, Bush doesn’t have to promise more goodies or eloquently describe the healthy-forests initiative, he has to clearly paint a stark ideological choice for the voters. He needs to make Kerry squirm. The voters have a keen visual sense and they know when a candidate is hiding something.
To this end, watch for Bush tonight to return again and again to Kerry’s liberalism. And expect Bush to use humor to get his point across. It is not beyond the realm of imagination for Bush to turn Jeff Foxworthy’s famous “you could be a redneck if…” routine into something like the following:
“Senator Kerry seems to have some trouble figuring out if he’s a liberal or not. I’d like to help him out.
‐Senator Kerry, if you voted for the largest tax increase in American history, you could be a liberal.
‐If you support more than two trillion dollars of additional federal spending, you could be a liberal.
‐If you consistently opposed the death penalty, even for terrorists who kill Americans overseas, you could be a liberal.
‐If you support race-based quotas in hiring, you could be a liberal.
‐If you support partial-birth abortion as a choice, but are against Americans choosing to have private Social Security accounts, against parents choosing the best schools for their kids, and against Americans freely choosing weapons to defend themselves, you could be a liberal.
‐If your biggest supporters are the Hollywood elite, Michael Moore, and Barbra Streisand, you could be a liberal.
‐If you were Michael Dukakis’s lieutenant governor, you could be a liberal.
‐If you vote the same way as Ted Kennedy more than 90 percent of the time, you could be a liberal.
‐If you have the most liberal voting record of any senator last year, you could be a liberal.
‐If you have a more liberal voting record than Hillary Clinton, you could be a liberal.
‐If Al Gore’s campaign manager says you’re more liberal than Al Gore, you could be a liberal.
‐If you are all of these things, Senator Kerry, you are a liberal.”
—Robert Moran is a vice president at Republican polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates. He is an NRO contributor.