WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Round #2 for Herald Readers: Will it be Bush or Kerry?
Four months ago, almost to the day, Herald readers, in impressive numbers, expressed their preference for the next President of the United States. At that point, Senator John Kerry had amassed more than half of the delegate votes necessary to win the nomination, but victory was not official. Since then, the Democratic Convention, held last week in Boston, officially blessed the candidate and his running mate, North Carolina Senator John Edwards and now their joint campaign is well underway. At this point in the race, most national polls show the Kerry/Edwards ticket with a slight advantage over the incumbent Bush/Cheney team.
That could change when the Republicans have their convention in New York City beginning on August 30th.
In the intervening time since the last Herald Poll, President Bush and his running mate, Vice President Richard Cheney, have been canvassing the country, concentrating on the so-called "battleground states," those where the election was very close in 2000. By their own estimates, Republicans say they must maintain their 2000 victory margin in those states for the Bush/Cheney ticket to prevail in 2004. In some states, Ohio, and West Virginia, Bush was victorious last time, but since then those states and others have experienced dramatic manufacturing job losses, and many voters cite the Presidents management of the economy as the culprit.
The Presidents message to the "rust belt states," so called because they are home to much of the nations heavy industry, is that the economy is ready to "turn the corner" and with that new compass direction will come more "blue collar" jobs. He also points to Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicating that jobs have been growing in the last two quarters, which the Administration attributes to the tax cuts that it pushed through Congress in 2001. The cuts, according to Bush/Cheney, have simulated investment and consumer confidence and that their full effect is yet to take hold.
The Kerry/Edwards team is working the same states with a radically different message on why the job losses occurred and what the Bush tax package has meant to the economy. They point out that the new jobs created pay, on average, $9,000.00 less than the manufacturing jobs lost to "outsourcing," the tendency for industrialists to move manufacturing operations from the U.S. to countries such as China where labor is cheap and working conditions poor. Kerry says that, as president, he will cut taxes for businesses that create jobs here in America instead of moving them overseas. Also, his Administration will enforce trade agreements so that American manufacturing is "playing on a level field."
Bush is promising to increase the tax cuts across the board, in spite of growing government deficits, while Kerry is promising to cut middle-class taxes and eliminate the Bush tax breaks to those earning over $200,000.00. The Democrats message to voters is that, "Americans are working harder, earning less, and paying more for health care, college, and taxes. Corporate profits are soaring, the government keeps expanding, but the opportunities for our middle-class are shrinking." They also argue that recent job growth no where nearly reaches the level of employment enjoyed at the beginning of the Bush Administration.
Bush responds that more money in the hands of the "investor class" will stimulate the economy even more, thereby creating more jobs and taxable income to reduce the deficit. In America, he says, "a rising tide will lift all boats." The Republicans mantra is that the deficit is not a matter of declining income; it is a matter of government spending that is "out of control." Kerry rejoins that Bush "lavished tax cuts we couldn't afford on those who didn't need them," while passing the bill to the next generation, "Because of this President's decisions, a child born today will inherit a $20,000 debt - a "Birth Tax" that he or she had no part in creating."
When pressed to explain the record setting "red ink" of the federal budget, Bush points to extraordinary costs of the war in Iraq and the need to beef up the nations defenses against terrorism. Kerry counters that the Republican Party has controlled the federal budget process for the past thee years and the federal budget as it moved from a record $2.6 trillion surplus left by the Clinton Administration to a deficit today estimated at $7 billion, $293 million, and growing by $1.73 billion each day. Each citizens share of this deficit is an estimated to be approximately the price of a new, fully loaded, mid-sized sedan.
Both campaigns 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." Central Florida, the new abode of nearly one-half (1/2) million Puerto Ricans, has become "ground zero" for both parties to woo new Boricua mainland voters. In the last Herald Poll, conducted March 4 11, 50% of respondents preferred John Kerry as the nations next President, while 43% voted for George W. Bush and 7% were undecided. Among voters in Puerto Rico, the race was virtually a "dead heat," with Bush enjoying a 1% lead over Kerry among island voters. 495 readers participated in the poll.
It seems that the Bush/Cheney campaign sees its best argument for reelection revolving around the leadership issue. The President has been leading off his rallies by casting himself as the candidate best able to lead the nation in a time of danger from the terrorist threat. The nation, he says, "need(s) a strong, decisive and courageous leader," one that will not hesitate to "make the tough decisions."
Last Sunday, events occurring in Pakistan gave President Bush the opportunity to be decisive. Through Homeland Security Chief, Tom Ridge, the Administration warned of possible terrorist attacks against financial institutions in New York City, Washington and Newark, New Jersey, saying that "actionable intelligence" obtained from a recently captured al Qaeda agent pointed to a likely car or truck bomb assaults on such "icons" as the World Bank and the New York Stock Exchange. Then, throughout the week, affected areas of downtown Washington and lower Manhattan were cordoned off with a massive display of police surveillance.
As the week developed, however, it was revealed that the "actionable intelligence" was over four years old, hardly warranting the unprecedented show of force seen in the two cities and unworthy of the dire warnings that the Administration disseminated to the nation and the world. Skeptics called it an election ploy, designed to remind voters of their continuing vulnerability. The Kerry Campaign refused to criticize the actions, and the White House is on the defensive. Secretary Ridge declared the "Homeland Security does not play politics," yet he went on to praise the anti-terror efforts under President Bush's leadership. As this issue of the Herald goes up, it is still the hot topic for the national news programs and is certain to become an election issue.
On Wednesday, in a scheduling quirk, both major candidates where in the same town at the same time - Davenport, Iowa conducting rallies close by each other. John Kerry lightly suggested that George Bush "turn the corner" and come down the several blocks to his event to debate him on the issues. The President declined the un-heard invitation, soon thereafter boarding "Air Force One," waving an ear of fabled Iowa corn. Before leaving the state, John Kerry also flourished two ears of Zea mays to the applause of his supporters.
Wags quickly noted that the physical proximity of Bush and Kerry is likely to be the closest that the two candidates will come to being together on anything, especially since the are so far apart on such issues as the war in Iraq, homeland security, the economy, health care, education and job creation.
The nation is split and George Bush and John Kerry personify that split.
With three months to go before the election, cast an early vote for the next president of the United States. Whos your choice?