Back on the horse

Sorry it's been so long. I guess I've been feeling a bit of campaign fatigue. I'm happy to read about it and talk about it, but spending the energy to actually write about it is harder.

This isn't exactly going as planned, is it? While I wouldn't say the Republicans are trouncing yet, they have executed their game plan skillfully. The goal for the GOP has never been a decisive victory in this election, and they have tailored their campaign to that understanding. The best case scenario for Bush, after all, is a sort of confused ambivalence on the part of the voters. Can't let reality in, that's for sure. On the other hand, making stuff up is getting harder.

So the GOP strategists, cynical realists that they are, have settled on their gamble, and, no doubt, it has a fair chance of working. They understand how to push the right media buttons capable of transforming a story in their negative column into a draw--how to concoct and deploy sordid morsels for the press' baser instincts to feed upon, all the while maintaining their virtue, or at least well-timed invisibility. That formula may not win them unmitigated triumph, but it blurs all the edges enough so that, provided it still exists, their slight inherent advantage will be decisive.

The Democrats have figured none of this out. With six weeks to go until the election, all their sympathizers can think to haggle about is whether the Kerry camp is going to find its message or not. Democrats by and large still believe that the message sweet spot is out there somewhere, and, if we can only hit it in time, the swing voters will see the light and come running in droves to our side. They still see the media leviathan as a scalpel, rather than a bludgeon, as the Republicans do.

In part, its a David vs. Goliath mentality. The right's ability to manufacture stories and support is viewed as so insidious and monolithic, that the only weapon capable of stopping it must be the truth. It looks small in comparison, but launched in just the right place, and just the right time, and it will bring the whole thing crashing down. Republicans on the other hand, see the beast for what it is. Lumbering, ineffective, and least dangerous when stunned.

So what does this suggest for the campaign? There was a time not too long ago, we must remember, when the media was souring on Bush. Newspapers were doing a whole lot of real reporting on big issues that, inevitably, turned out poorly for him, and consequently, his negatives were skyrocketing. If the Democrats can't figure out a way to drown the right wing's distraction tactics in negative stories about Bush, then there will be little hope. Mind you, these don't have to all be on message for the Kerry campaign. Let Kerry do what he does. But figure out how to get the media hooked on bad Bush stories. In a world where this was done more effectively, one would not have seen the travesty of this past week, where confusion over documents that proved nothing we didn't already know, and that, by the way, were negative for the president regardless of their authenticity, took precedence over the dramatic deterioration of the situation in Iraq.


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