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The Former Calpundit Nails It

Why is Kerry lagging in the polls? Per Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum:

Now, I happen to agree with Tomasky that Republicans generally go for the jugular more effectively than Democrats, but it's a big mistake for us liberals to kid ourselves into thinking that Republicans win elections solely because they fool people into voting for them. It's not just that this is a debilitating mental attitude — although it is — but it's also not true. Our main problem isn't that this year's campaign has ignored the issues, our main problem is that the #1 issue in this campaign is national defense, and on that issue — like it or not — the majority of Americans favor the Republican position. If John Kerry wants to win, he should focus on the issues, but he has to focus on the issues that matter most in this campaign cycle.

It's all about 9/11, Iraq, terrorism, and national security, baby. This election is going to be won on that issue, and Kerry needs to convince the country that he can handle it better than Bush. And really, considering the botch Bush has made of national security, that shouldn't be all that hard.

Well, maybe. Kos makes some plausible efforts along those lines here and here. But when he writes, "Force Bush to defend his 'war presidency.' He's got nothing to brag about" -- well, it ain't that easy, fella. Obviously, Bush supporters think that Bush has done pretty darn well on national security. Saddam's in a stockade, and we haven't been attacked on U.S. soil since 9/11/01.

If Kerry can climb over that mountain -- and his best chance to do that will be in the debates -- then he can win. If he can't -- well, Maslow's hierarchy is in full effect. More people would have to feel threatened by their current economic situation than by the threat of terrorism. And because our economy is stagnant but not in depression, and because most people do have access to health insurance, and because everybody remembers exactly where they were when they heard about the Towers....

Kerry is going to have to convince a majority of the voters in states holding the majority of the electoral votes that he can do a better job against al-Qaeda. There are a lot of "broken glass Republicans" out there who'd sooner crawl over just that than vote for Kerry, and there are a lot of people sufficiently bewildered by the post-9/11 world that they'll go with what they know rather than turn over the Commander in Chief role. Daily Kos and Atrios readers would say those voters are opting for "stability" over "security." But they're preaching to the choir. It's Kerry who has to make the sale to folks who don't read the liberal blogs.


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Thank you for posting the link about Maslow's Hierarchy. I had not run across it before, and I found it quite insightful. (i.e. "Aha! This explains the insomnia! Wow! :P)

Anyway - I hope that some of the Democrat Powers That Be find your argument and employ it. :)

A personal experience here -- Paul and I went to visit my folks this past weekend. Folks who are normally staunch Rah-Rah flag-waving Republicans, who give lots of $ to the GOP and usually have one or more bumper stickers on their cars for the assorted GOP candidates for state and national races.

This time, not only did they not rib us about our Kerry-Edwards sticker, they didn't have any on their cars. Not that I think they'll vote Democrat come November, but at least they're not blindly following the Republicans anymore. Personally, I'm terrified of what would happen if Dubya wins in '04.

And remember -- you can't spell AWOL without Dubya! ;)