Friday, August 27, 2004

The ads that bite 

John Kerry continues to be bogged down in the quagmire of Vietnam, as Swift Boat Vets for Truth release their third ad, focusing on Kerry's now discredited claim about his secret mission to Cambodia on Christmas 1968. While not nearly as powerful as the previous two ads, it will provide yet another blow to Kerry's credibility and reinforce the growing public concern about the candidate's trustworthiness, judgment and relevance.

If the latest opinion polls are anything to go by, the issue is
finally starting to bite:

"For the first time this year in a Times survey, Bush led Kerry in the presidential race, drawing 49% among registered voters, compared with 46% for the Democrat. In a Times poll just before the Democratic convention last month, Kerry held a 2-percentage-point advantage over Bush...

"Although a solid majority of Americans say they believe Kerry served honorably in Vietnam, the poll showed that the attacks on the senator from a group of Vietnam veterans criticizing his performance in combat and his antiwar protests at home have left some marks: Kerry suffered small but consistent erosion compared with July on questions relating to his Vietnam experience, his honesty and his fitness to serve as commander in chief."
Meanwhile, the new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows Bush leading Kerry 50%-47% among likely voters, and Kerry winning over Bush 48%-47% among registered voters. With Ralph Nader thrown into the equation, Bush leads Kerry, 48%-46%, among likely voters. The report comments:

"Bush's favorable rating of 54% was his highest since April. By contrast, Kerry's 52% was his lowest since January. Bush dominated on personal traits such as 'honest and trustworthy' and 'stands up for what he believes in.' But Kerry continued to lead Bush when people were asked who would better handle taxes, education, Medicare and the economy."

"Bush leads Kerry 49%-43% on who would handle Iraq better. Kerry was ahead 48%-47% right after the convention. Bush leads Kerry 54%-37% on who would handle terrorism better. Kerry had risen to 41% after his convention. Bush leads Kerry 54%-34% on who people think is 'a strong and decisive leader.' Kerry had halved that lead to 10 points right after the convention."
The Vets rear their head too:

"The encouraging signs for Bush came as Kerry's Vietnam War record was under attack by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The attacks, though most have not been substantiated, appear to have contributed to the slippage in Kerry's numbers on national security issues...

"At the same time, the poll found that most people, 63%, think Kerry is definitely or probably telling the truth about his military service. Half say Bush is very or somewhat responsible for the ads the group is running, although Bush and his campaign have denied any involvement. And 56% say Bush should denounce the ads."
Yet they still bite.

John Kerry tried to use Vietnam in this election like Harry Potter used his Cloak of Invisibility. The problem is that once you put it on, no one can see "the rest of you." And it seems more likely by the day that this election will not be won in the Mekong Delta, but in a more contemporary and relevant setting.


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