Kerry and Bush to fight for a divided country

    The primary season is officially over. Well, not officially, but with just over half of the states reporting, the Democratic nominee for president is clear. Sen. John Kerry (D — Mass.) has accomplished a miraculous comeback, not only overtaking former frontrunner Howard Dean, but totally crushing him in almost every state.

    Kerry sealed the nomination with last Tuesday’s big primaries, which knocked out his last major competition, Sen. John Edwards (D — N.C.). It’s no surprise really. Virtually everyone in politics has known that the Edwards nomination was a fiction from the moment Kerry pulled ahead. Yes, Edwards finished second place in many states, and actually won one for himself. But even Dean managed to win a state, and one must remember that second place is first loser. The only thing keeping the Edwards campaign afloat this far was media buzz. With Edwards still in and presenting the illusion of viability, the media could have still somehow managed to make the race exciting and interesting, and thus get more viewers or readers. But in reality, Edwards was finished long before March 2.

    Now that the important position has been filled, attention turns to the number-two spot. Who will Kerry choose as his running mate? Media pundits are having a field day with rumors that Kerry will select Edwards. After all, why else would Edwards bow out just when Kerry was starting to get tired of him, and in his concession speech lavish praise upon the Massachusetts senator? Dean and Lieberman made no similarly praise-laden speeches after their respective concessions, although it was clear even then that Kerry would soon clinch the nomination. An Edwards vice president spot may make for juicy speculation, but such a choice would make little real political sense.

    Kerry is being painted, rightly, as a flaming Northeastern liberal. His voting record is farther to the left than Sen. Ted Kennedy (D — Mass.), according to National Journal, and that’s going to hurt him in the general election. Vice presidents are supposed to fill in holes that the candidate himself can’t cover, and woo voting blocs that the front man can’t appeal to. Edwards does not fit these criteria well. Sure, he’s from the South, but Edwards failed to win more than a single state there.

    Speculation aside, Kerry still has mountains to climb if he wants to be president. Democratic strategists and liberal columnists have made much of the polls showing Kerry either in a dead heat with or slightly ahead of President George W. Bush. What one must take into account is that polls are nothing but a snapshot of public opinion at a single moment in time. February polls will not matter in November.

    But there are important factors contributing to these polls. Most importantly, the Democratic candidates have had the field to themselves for months. Debate after debate, speech after speech, and commercial after commercial bashing President Bush have all gone unopposed. It is only logical that Bush be running even with Kerry at the present moment.

    But things will change as the election nears. Even now, the Bush campaign has started to run TV ads, beginning what will surely be a hard-fought campaign. The president has millions of dollars stored up, and his ability to raise much more is uncontested. The campaign has not yet even begun in earnest, and to proclaim victory for Kerry now would be grossly irresponsible.

    Money is not the only Bush resource. The situation in Iraq improves daily. More and more jobs are being turned over to Iraqis, and our counterinsurgency operations grow ever more successful. As reported in the Feb. 9 New York Times, a recent letter written to Al-Qaeda leaders by a foreign terrorist operating inside Iraq cried out for help, complaining bitterly about the American successes in winning over the Iraqi people and bemoaning the successes in creating a new free Iraq. Also, despite what the mainstream media outlets portray, the economy has been rapidly improving. The unemployment rate has been on a steady decrease, from a high of 6.3 percent last year to a current 5.6 percent.

    All of these things added together leave Bush in a very good position come November. He will no longer have the luxury of running against Dean, who it was universally agreed would lose badly to the president. But Kerry is not much better. He has his post-Vietnam antics to account for, as well as his far-left votes in the Senate. And Kerry is not exactly an inspiring figure. Whatever can be said about Dean, he could at least connect with a crowd. Kerry, on the other hand, possesses no charisma.

    With the Democratic nominee, the campaign will quickly focus on the two men — Bush on one hand and Kerry on the other. With the nation divided upon familiar ideological grounds, the 2004 Election will be one to remember.

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