Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Thursday, September 30, 2004
 
As several others have noted recently, the televised 'debates' are a lot like gymnastics: the outcome is determined not by the competitors but by the judges, who in this case are the media.

That worked well for Bush in 2000. After a very poor performance in which he lost ground in overnight polls, Bush was propelled forward by negative commentary on Al Gore's dreadful misconduct during the debate (his main offense was breathing) and received by far the largest post-debate surge in history.

With the media engaged in a crusade against Gore, almost the only way Bush could have failed in 2000 would have been to spend the debate drinking from a whiskey bottle and pass out onstage halfway through. It won't be so easy for Bush this time. The refs are likely to actually call him on any blatant foul. While still cringing in fear of the right's slime machine, they are belatedly noticing that wrecking the country actually does have consequences.

I think the debate is likely to go well for Kerry because it will be something of a replay of 1980: most of the country continues to be dissatisfied with Bush, but he has been successful so far in reducing Kerry as an alternative. The debate, starting with the traditional handshake which will show Kerry's height advantage of about 5 inches, puts them on an equal footing. Kerry only has to come off as an acceptable choice to pull enough of the undecideds and Bush's weak support over.


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