Perhaps it is too easy to see the 2004 election as a "consensus" for the Republicans or as a "collapse" by Democrats. Despite gains in the House and Senate, I tend to see the Republicans as a big Texas oilman, roaming the casinos of Atlantic City with a pair o' lucky dice. The Democrats, by extension, are the old ladies from Nutley, NJ who keep abandoning the quarter slots just before somebody else hits three cherries. Whatever the metaphor, I say the election was won and lost because of seemingly insignificant errors and advantages. Let's take a look.
Mistake by Kerry: The Impromptu Stand-Up Bit
While I'm absolutely in favor of the candidates getting "off message," Kerry really shouldn't have tried the spur-of-the-moment stand-up comedy:
What is the deal with states with names containing mostly vowels? I mean, really — what is goin' on there? Iowa? Ohio? I mean, hey! I like the Native American peoples as much as the next guy, but please. Somebody find Pat Sajak and let these states buy a consonant, you know what I mean?
It wasn't funny, and reports are that even Ohio-ans didn't think that Theresa was a convincing "Elaine Benes" look-alike.
Advantage Bush: Relying on Middle-aged Churchgoers Rather Than College Students
The last thing to do is further to stroke the ego of Karl "the architect" Rove. But give him credit for pinning Bush's election hopes on the kind of people who can actually commit to something, such as going to church every Sunday morning, rather than counting on the support of college kids, too many of whom apparently believed the Rove-generated rumor that Trey was going to get Phish back together if enough people spent November 2nd "totally smoking up and listening to bootlegs."
Mistake by Kerry: Trusting the Magic
In the waning days of the campaign, Kerry dutifully wore his mustard-colored "field jacket," an item he sported during the decisive portion of his Iowa primary victory. There are two problems with this sartorial choice. First, like clutching a lucky rabbit's foot during the debates, it was not exactly a sign of confidence and command. Second, the whole thing just served to make Kerry look even more like one of those L.L. Bean male models: tall, gaunt and graying, handsome in a blandly unsexy New England kind of way, and oddly reminiscent of both the tame 1950s and the high-porn 1970s. In summary, the jacket made Kerry seem one part Pete Rose, one part Robert Young and one part Herschel Savage. Yuck.
Advantage Bush: Calling Kerry
It's not just the way this pejorative reminded people of Michael Dukakis. I think this also worked for Bush because it gave him an excuse continually to repeat the word "Massachusetts," which he pronounced in such a labored, adorable way: "Mass - ah - two - schett - sschsch." Even as his eyes glistened with stinging hatred of liberals, his little-boy lips and little-league smirk made every woman in American picture an awkward first-grade boy trying to say the word "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Kerry: taxing and spending; Bush: playing with Leggos. The "security moms" ate it up, um diddle-diddle-diddle, um diddle-ay.
Mistake by Kerry: Too Much Boss,
I love Springsteen as much as the next short, balding middle-aged man from New Jersey, trust me. And he's a working class, Woody Guthrie-ish hero, no doubt. But his last hit was during the Reagan administration, and his first name – it's Bruce. The gay marriage issue just wouldn't go away, and we don't think a dozen incredible versions of "Rosalita" was going to help. In the alternative, Kerry should have sought an endorsement from sit-com star and Maxim cover-girl Alyssa Milano. You put Alyssa on Kerry's arm and nobody's thinking gay marriage, eh? Karl Rove, eat yer heart out.
Mistake by Both Kerry and Bush:
Cheney is a snaggle-lipped maniac and walking stress-test, a man as likely to greedily rip your relatively unclogged aorta straight outta your chest as he is ask you to pass the butter. Edwards is a phony, glad-handing haircut with one eye on yer wife and the other on yer wallet. What did America want in a vice-presidential choice? Plainly: Oprah. Liberal guilt assuaged, and the Republican desire for a free new car fulfilled; a mogul and a sister; a Midwesterner and yet a part of both Hollywood and the liberal-elite media. Plus, you know Obama would have chosen her.
A Final Word on the Campaign
Whatever our political stripe, it's time for America to heal, to come together, to see the ways in which this great nation is united as one people with a yearning to stay free and to spread democracy and peace throughout the world. Ha! Had you going there? All I really want is to see gas prices come down so I can personally drive my SUV over to the Pakastani / Afghani border and find Bin Laden myself. Whoever catches him is guaranteed the presidency in 2008, and you know Hillary is already planning some kind of "fact-finding mission" during which she plans to mud-wrestle his ass on prime time. Either that or Jeb Bush has already got him chained up in a Tallahassee swamp, guarded by a bunch of starved gators. It's never too early to get started on the next campaign, and – 'f you ask me – I'm due.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/laymanelect.html]
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