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:: Wednesday, April 07, 2004 ::

Ur Tax � @ Work

A European MEP with too much time and too few clues has translated part of the draft constitution into "SMS" language, in a horribly misguided attempt to make it more accessible to youth.

Leaving aside the fact that he's misappropriating a jargon that he's mistaken for slang, this guy sounds like an aging hipster making a desperate and embarassing effort to prove he's still cool and in touch with todays youth.

Update: No, this doesn't appear to be an April Fools joke. At the very least, the EU Observer article and the Lib�ration article it references are dated 7 April.

:: Erik | 4/07/2004 06:27:00 AM | | ::
:: Tuesday, April 06, 2004 ::
If you're intent on handicapping the Presidential election at this early stage, it helps to consider the Feiler Faster Thesis and the effects of campaign finance reform.

The good news is that we won't have to face "seven more months of this." The bad news is that we'll be facing something much, much uglier starting in August.

The first thing to keep in mind is that it's still very early in the cycle. Nobody is actually even trying for a knockout blow yet; both campaigns are trying to harden their own defenses and soften up the other guy in preparation for the real attacks that will come later in the cycle.

That's not to say that the polls are irrelevent. Neither campaign can afford the perception of a sustained large decline, so both campaigns intervene as necessary to kill the other guys momentum. The end result of all of this manuvering is the back-and-forth seesawing we've seen for the past month or two.

The Bush campaign has more money than the Kerry campaign, but the Democrats have a lot more money in "527 organizations" like MoveOn. The 527's are much less constrained than the Kerry campaign itself, since they can go negative with a lot less blowback onto the candidate. The downside to the 527's is that their activities are extremely restricted within 60 days of the election.

There's all kinds of manuvering in the courts to change the rules governing 527's but, assuming nothing changes and there are no dramatic surprises elsewhere, here's what we have to look forward to:

  • Another couple of months of sniping and mudslinging. Both sides are doing better on offense than defense right now, so they're likely to keep hammering at the same targets. The Bush campaign will drive home the message that Kerry waffles and panders, is a big spender and is weak on defense. Kerry will keep grinding away at the perception tha Bush is stronger on defense and will push "Bush lied" for all that it's worth.

  • Starting sometime in August, the assorted 527's will empty their coffers (use it or lose it) and we'll be treated to a huge, extremely negative anti-Bush blitz. The handful of Republican 527's will respond in kind, but Bush himself is likely to hunker down and try to ride out the storm. He'll fight back if things get too far out of hand, but September should see a low point in the polls for Bush.

  • Once the 527's are out of the game, the dynamics change (mostly) to Bush's advantage. Probably most important is the fact that the Bush campaign has more money. The fact that the candidates will have to personally affirm the contents of their ads is also significant, as it means that both candidates will have to choose their attacks carefully. Bush has more latitude here since he usually comes across as folksy and genuine when he delivers a smackdown while Kerry mostly sounds strident, condescending and/or fake.

  • Washington will shut down as neither side will want to give the other ammunition or a free stage. High profile Democrats like Teddy Kennedy will continue go on the attack on behalf of Kerry, but I'm not sure how effective they'll be.

  • From September on, it's a (probably mostly tactical) slugfest, the details of which depend largely on what happens to the economy and in Iraq. If the economy clearly improves and Iraq is under control (not unlikely in November, despite the chaos right now), Bush has a strong advantage -- Kerry's only hope is to go extremely negative, and that is not his strength. If the economy is still mixed, or if Iraq is still a mess, Kerry's job is a lot easier.

  • In short, I expect the race to stay close and ugly right up until the end, with a low point for Bush in September followed by a gradual and uneven climb until election day.

    All of this assumes no dramatic surprises. If a convincing stash of WMD's turns up somewhere (e.g. in a suddenly cooperative Syria), a lot of Bush negatives disappear. Another major terrorist attack in the US could theoretically go, but I expect that the press would turn it to Kerry's advantage (as they did with the Clarke book and the 9-11 hearings). Thwarted major attacks, or successful major attacks in Europe would probably work to Bush's advantage. And so on...

    We're in for some interesting times and, given that I'm already sick of this campaign, I mean that in the worst possible way.

    FWIW, I suspect that Bush actually does have something up his sleeve. His defense has been so weak on both the 9-11 hearings and the question of WMD's, that his opponents are piling on ever harder. Every time he's seemed this beleaguered in the past, he's executed a perfect political judo move that sends his opponents sprawling under the weight of their own assumptions. That's purely a gut feeling at this point, though, so don't ask where it'll come from or what form it'll take.

    :: Erik | 4/06/2004 01:24:00 PM | | ::

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