Thursday, September 30, 2004

There is hope

We've all had time to wring our hands and worry about Kerry's performance tonight against Bush at the debate in Miami. Worries that Kerry will be flat and unprepared despite his debating pedigree have pervaded the blogosphere for some months. But this morning's Hoagland column in the Washington Post has something that gives me hope.

"We've got the better campaign speech and the only candidate who is good at delivering one," says a Bush campaign insider. An internal study by the Kerry campaign echoes this view. It found that in 2000, Bush took 18 lines from his standard speech and repeated at least one of them 59 times in three debates against Al Gore. "We have to deal with the fact he stays on message," says a Kerry strategist.
The hope lies in the knowledge that they know exactly what Bush's debating strategy is. Bush is going to repeat his best applause lines over and over again. It doesn't matter to him if he looks stupid every time he says it, he'll repeat like a parrot. He doesn't care about winning the debate, just the post-debate debate and spin wars that follow. Now a clever person knows this is coming. An even cleverer person can guess which lines from said stump speech will be used. The clevererest would come up with answers to questions that include just how stupid Bush's response is. Inoculate yourself early in the night with something like that and watch him repeat himself into foolishness. I consider myself pretty clever so I'm just going to say that I'm going to take a drink everytime he says "Getting rid of Saddam has made America safer." Now making your opponent look foolish isn't enough. The trick is getting reporters to talk about how foolish and unprepared Bush was for this debate and how much of a lightweight he is in foreign policy compared to Kerry. That's not easy, but if you've got aggressive people out there pushing that version of events on every network afterward. It's a pretty simple formula. Point out the Colin Powell thing from earlier in the week, and the recent report that al Qaida is more of a threat now than before 9/11 and that in fact al Qaida has launched more attacks in the 3 years since 9/11 than in all the years before then ask the question "How can we be both safer and at such great risk, Mr. President?" Then get your surrogates to repeat that all night long anytime someone plays or mentions America being safer. That's it. This debate could be won with that simple phrase and a few quotes from the relevant source material. So I have hope that someone as intelligent and politically savvy as Sen. Kerry can do just that.

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