The Corner

John Kerry, the GOP’s Message & the Midterms

The Kerry flap offers an opportunity to punch away at the forlorn loser of 2004. That of course was a great victory year for President Bush and the Republicans. And Kerry’s miscue certainly underscores his anti-war bias. But we already knew that.

It’s possible that some voters will take enough umbrage at Kerry’s stupid remarks and translate that into Democratic Party disrespect for our brave troops. But I have a suspicion that those folks are already voting Republican anyway.

That said, I do remember in 2002, after Sen. Paul Wellstone of (D-MN) was killed in a plane crash, Minnesota Dems nominated Walter Mondale. That Mondale nomination started at Wellstone’s funeral service which was a highly publicized media event.

As a symbol of the disastrous 1970s, and a reminder of the reviled Jimmy Carter presidency, the Mondale Democratic metaphor may have helped Congressional Republicans in the last week of that campaign. Bush was riding high in the post 9/11 national security glow, and Mondale could have reminded the country that this was no time for peacenik, soft-on-defense Dems. However, with today’s disillusionment over Iraq, I’m not sure the Kerry piece falls into place for the GOP.

Veep Cheney drew blood in attacking Charlie Rangel on Kudlow & Company Monday night for raising taxes. And President Bush’s slam on Rangel for wanting to slash funding for troops on the battlefield—a point Rangel made to The Hill newspaper—may also be productive. But I still think the best GOP message is low taxes, low unemployment and a solid Goldilocks stock market and economy.

Today’s Wall Street Journal/NBCpoll shows Bush approval at nearly 50 percent on the economy—a very significant gain. Last week’s Washington Post/ABC poll showed 55% approve of the economy, although Bush didn’t get as much credit in that survey. Nonetheless, if the GOP is to hold Congress, or at least shave Democratic margins, they need a big investor class turnout.

That gets back to the stock market and low tax rates on capital gains and dividends. To me, that’s the key GOP issue.

George Allen in Virginia has lost this message and has fallen behind Jim Webb. Webb wants to raise taxes and Allen should be hammering him for this. In that race it would seem that low tax rates might trump sexually promiscuous novels; if Allen would only make that case.

Nationwide, tax cuts, the economy and the stock market is the best message and Republicans should keep their eye on that ball.

Larry Kudlow — Larry Kudlow is the author of JFK and the Reagan Revolution: A Secret History of American Prosperity, written with Brian Domitrovic.

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