. . . Friday October 8, 2004

This Townhall’s Not Big Enough for Two Strategies

In his article, Bush’s Isolation From Reporters Could Be a Hindrance, Mike Allen writes:

“Several Bush advisers said the president may well pay a price for his decision to remain isolated from tough or unexpected questions when he faces Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), whose events are notably less scripted, in a town-hall-style debate tonight at Washington University in St. Louis. The questions are likely to be tougher than those he faced when he taped an interview about parenting for the “Dr. Phil” show this summer.”

Doesn’t this just sound like pre-debate spinning to you? To quote our Commander in Chief: “Of Course.”

Even with the unpredictability of the questions, I’m sure that all of the Bush folks were looking forward to this debate. W is a people person and shines in these town hall settings. I would think it would offer him a decent opportunity to get back on track – certainly more than another one on one would.

But here is the President’s problem:

As I’ve discussed here several times, since the official collapse of the WMD house of cards, the Bush team has gone back to the original strategy (perhaps their only one left) of attacking John Kerry.

And there’s the rub. President Bush was supposed to thrive tonight because he is the solid guy, the folksy neighbor with a swagger and the guy you’d rather have a beer with.

But viewers will not be thirsty for beer and neither will Bush. He needs to draw blood. The harsh attacks required will not mesh well with efforts to increase the likeability gap.

When these debates were negotiated, I’m sure the Bush team assumed that they would have effectively soiled and destroyed Kerry’s image by now. Instead, that task still remains. And with bad war reports and bad jobs numbers, the need to achieve this goal has become more urgent.

If W answers a question by saying, “If my opponent wins this race you and all of your loved ones will immediately die a horrible death…” viewers might reconsider which guy they’d rather hang out with.

I think the format may favor W tonight. But I also think he might get sidetracked because he has to still do a job that he and his thought would already been long ago done.

Concentration is important!