George W. making promises let's hope he won't keep
By Nicholas Sanchez
Looking at the current political scene, it seems obvious that Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush are running neck and neck right now in their bid for the presidency.
There are, of course, a million different polls out there that are sending conflicting messages to the public: Some show that Gore is leading Bush by 3 to 6 points; others have Bush edging ahead by a similar lead. One state-by-state breakdown shows Bush winning the Electoral College count, taking over 300 electoral votes (this is the only vote, by the way, that counts). And yet the American Political Science Association -- a group of political professors from across the country -- has decreed that Gore will run away with the election.
These conflicting polls aside, I believe that Al Gore and George Bush are running dead even. This is going to be a hard fought race, and the ultimate victor is likely going to claim his prize in one of the closest national political elections since Senator John F. Kennedy bested Vice President Richard M. Nixon in 1960.
And so, neither one of these candidates can leave anything to chance. They'll have to duke it out for every independent and uncommitted vote. But most importantly, neither candidate can afford to alienate his political base.
This is why, ceteris paribus, I am (grudgingly) going to add my voice to the current political wisdom, aligning myself with the overpaid pundits on television, and give the political edge right now to Al Gore. The reason for this comes down to a look at how each candidate is treating his respective base. And here Al Gore is the clear winner.
Early in the primary season, most conservative activists (the folks who do the nitty-gritty political work, organizing voters, making phone calls, and licking envelopes) were wary of George W. While it was clear that W. was not exactly a liberal, he wasn't exactly a movement conservative either. Many of the movement's leaders rushed to the Steve Forbes camp; many stayed out of the fray; and a few -- just a few, mind you -- signed on to the Bush Campaign early, convinced that he was the "only one who could win."
When John McCain emerged as the only serious contender to W., he killed any chance he had of winning the nomination by attacking religious conservatives -- a constituency that Republicans cannot, no matter how much they try, win national elections without. McCain's vitriol made it easy for W. to emerge as the candidate of religious conservatives.
Later, W. consolidated his base by picking Dick Cheney as his running mate. This pick was brilliant in a number of ways. Cheney was the one conservative, pro-life running mate that former President Gerald Ford couldn't attack. Prior to W.'s selection, Ford was loudly urging him to pick a pro-choicer to "broaden the GOP." Ford was personally close to Cheney, who served as his Chief of Staff, and Ford praised him to the skies. The Cheney pick also appeased conservatives because of his stellar voting record while in the Congress and his outstanding performance as Secretary of Defense. And, of course, there was The Speech. W.'s acceptance speech at the Philadelphia convention was one of the most eloquent and conservative addresses in recent memory.
But after all of this brilliant positioning, W. has been stumbling about a bit, which has allowed Gore to put him on the defensive. Following Gore's surge in the polls after the Democratic National Convention, W. began to engage in what has, unfortunately, become a time-honored Republican tradition: "Me too-ism."
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular affliction, it is a strange disease that Republicans often suffer from when they get into tight races. These Republicans, facing a hostile press, will break into fitful shouts of "Me too!" after hearing their Democratic opponent spout off one liberal plan after another.
On what issues has W. done this? Well, on prescription drugs for seniors, for one. Although the GOP Congress caved on this issue as well, Bush has said that he will soon be coming out with his own plan on prescription drugs to counter Al Gore's which would allow beneficiaries to have 50 per cent of their prescription drugs paid for by the federal government. (Wanna bet that W.'s ends up closely resembling Gore's?)
In addition, he has also come out in favor of beefing up those pesky Head Start programs (which have no business being financed by the federal government). And he has recently been trying to increase his appeal to Generation X and Generation Y voters, one would imagine, by coming out in favor of increasing federal funding of Pell grants. Ugh.
Chris Matthews has pointed out that Republicans are bad at playing this game. They look opportunistic and disingenuous. He's right.
Should W. pull out of this rut and come back to beat Gore in November, let us pray that these political promises of W. move no further than some of the promises that have been made by past presidents. Like "Read my lips! No new taxes", for instance.
Nicholas Sanchez is host of the Free Congress radio program "New Nation."
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