Round #1 for Herald Readers: Will it be Bush or Kerry?
In the race to nominate a Democratic Party candidate to face incumbent President George W. Bush in November, John Kerrys impressive victories in nine of the ten "Super Tuesday "states left the sixty year old Massachusetts Senator as the sole viable contender for the task. He has now amassed more than half of the 2,162 delegate votes needed to win at his Partys convention to be held in Boston in July.
North Carolina Senator John Edwards withdrew his candidacy on the Wednesday after his disappointing showing, especially in Georgia, a state in his home territory, where Kerry beat him by two percentage points. That defeat laid to rest any hope that he would best the front runner in next Tuesdays primaries in the South. Edwards won none of Tuesdays primaries. Kerrys only loss was in Vermont, where voters gave Howard Dean a sentimental victory, even though their former Governor had earlier withdrawn from the primary campaign.
The next day, the Republican Party unleashed a multimillion-dollar TV campaign in an attempt to regain momentum lost during the hotly contested Democratic primary process playing out over the past several months. The Presidents supporters are worried that he is slipping in the polls in most all categories and show Bush loosing to Kerry if the election were held today. The ads show Bush as a steady leader in times of crisis. One shows brief flashes of the rubble left by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Another is produced in Spanish with the President speaking a few words in that language.
Although neither candidate has officially named a running mate, Republican mailings are referring to a "Bush Cheney" ticket, putting to rest some speculation that the Vice President might be replaced. The Democrats, so far, are keeping options open. Senator Kerry seems unready to move on the issue, instead naming a prominent Democrat, James Johnson, a former aide to Walter Mondale, to develop recommendations.
Kerry may wish to choose a vice presidential running mate who can help him in specific regions or states; Senator Bob Graham in Florida, Representative Dick Gephardt in Missouri and the Midwest, or John Edwards in the South generally. Not out of the question for the Democrats would be the nomination of an Hispanic for the second spot, such as New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former multi-term Congressman, U.N. Ambassador and Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration. Whispered on the cocktail circuit is the possibility that Senator Hillary Clinton of New York might be convinced to back up the ticket, if necessary.
Both parties are actively pursuing the Hispanic vote, especially in states like California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, each heavy with electoral votes and each wherein Latinos constitute a "swing vote." The Democratic National Committee, concerned that there has been some slippage in support for its candidates by Hispanics in recent elections, has established a website to answer Hispanic-related policy questions and is preparing a 5-million dollar TV ad campaign to make the case for Hispanic support for the defeat of President Bush and election of Democratic candidates in state and national offices.
Republicans, convinced that significant Latino support is essential to victory, also have prepared TV and radio ads to penetrate the heavily populated Latino areas. Both the President and Brother Jeb Bush, now Governor of Florida, speak Spanish and the Governors wife is of Hispanic descent. Democratic Caucus Chairman, New Jersey Congressman Robert Menendez, recently told reporters that, "The Republican strategy isnt to win a majority of the Hispanic vote, but just to get a high enough percentage in key states, and thats the risk."
Puerto Ricans resident on the mainland, because of their concentration in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida, are poised to have a significant impact on the election if they vote in large numbers. Except for the participation of its delegations in the conventions of both major parties, Puerto Ricans on the island will be watching the election of their President from the sidelines. Island residents may not vote for President and have no voting representation in either Congressional body. ?
Observers predict that the eight months between now and the election are likely to produce the most negative campaign in modern history. There is still Democratic resentment over Bushs narrow and controversial defeat of Al Gore in 2000 and deep dissatisfaction with the administrations handling of domestic and foreign policy during its more than three years in office. The intensity and volatility of the Democratic primary, and the larger than usual voter turn-out of party members, both point to a single-minded passion by Democrats to defeat the incumbent in November.
Insiders report that the Bush campaign has prepared a dossier on John Kerrys 4-term voting record in the Senate, intending to show that he is the most "liberal" member of that body, a characterization that Democrats shun in national campaigns. Vice President Chaney has already launched the attack on the Senator, accusing him as being a frequent foe of defense and intelligence budgets.
Both parties agree on the focus of the national debate. The election will be a referendum on President Bush and his handling of the nations affairs during a difficult and dangerous time, his management of the economy and his policies affecting the health and welfare of the American people. His supporters give him high marks and believe that voters in November will vindicate that belief.
John Kerry disagrees. He has called the Bush administrations foreign policy "the most inept, reckless, arrogant and ideological
in the modern history of our country." Further he has painted the President as an unwavering friend of the rich and powerful to the detriment of working Americans. The candidates mantra is that he "will fight to give America back its future and its hope."
This week Herald readers have the opportunity to cast an early vote on the candidate of their choice for the Presidency of the United States beginning in January of 2005. How do you vote?