The 2004 American National Election will be between the incumbent president, G W Bush, and the Democrat challenger, Senator John Kerry. Many pundits have stated that the election will be close and that the voting public will home in on the perceived advantages and disadvantages of both men. Political commentators have also stated that those who have yet to make their minds up (the so-called 'floating voters') will be of great importance to the final result.
Bush – advantages
1) He is in the driving seat – he is president and has the kudos that goes with that position. To the American people, the office of president is one to respect – even if you do not agree with the views of the person who holds that office.
2) The economy, according to some pundits, is doing tolerably well. Those who historically vote in large numbers in American elections are doing quite well in 2004. Many of these people benefited from the tax returns of Bush since he took office. Those who are not doing as well, the ethnic minority groups and ‘trailer trash’ (low income whites), traditionally do not vote Republican anyway. But even this group is benefiting, according to the White House, from a fall in unemployment that is predicted to continue in 2005.
3) There are many who support his stance on terrorism - it may not be going superbly well, but at least the president is seen to be making an effort.
4) Highly influential interest groups are supportive of Bush – the National Rifle Association and the Carlyle Group, for example. As with any issue surrounding an interest group, pinning down its exact impact is hard, if not impossible, but the major interest groups in America have access to huge sums of money.
5) Bush has amassed a huge sum of money to fight this campaign – $205 million by the end of July. Money is a major component for electoral success in America. Apparently, $100 million has been put aside to finance an anti-Kerry campaign in the media.
Bush – disadvantages
1) The war on terror has not gone as planned. The invasion of Iraq is now being questioned by more and more people who may vote accordingly. Some pundits claim that Bush was so fixed on finishing what his father had not done (removing Hussain) that he has taken his eye off of where the real issues are regarding terrorism.
2) The independent enquiry into 9/11 did not show the Bush administration in a positive light – though it did not overtly criticise him. Many will re-call that Bush did not want the enquiry to sit.
3) Some economic experts believe that America’s current economic ‘good times’ are window dressing and that the recovery is based on very thin ice and that America’s balance of payment deficits simply will not be sustainable in the near future. Some predict America will swiftly descend into a recession. At the end of July, the White House announced that the annual federal budget deficit will be $445 billion – a record.
4) Dick Cheney, the vice-president, may not be as useful as a running mate as John Edwards. Cheney is tainted with public declarations about Iraq’s WMD which have now been disproved and his association with Halliburton has proved a problem – though he committed no abuse of his position.
5) More and more analysis is being done on the relationship between the Bush family and the Saud and Binladen* families. What has come to light to date, might lead to a backlash for Bush. Recent evidence suggests that the Bush family as a whole has made over $1.4 billion in business deals with the Saud family and it was the Saud’s who rescued an effectively bankrupt oil company in Texas run by G W Bush before he entered politics. The Binladen’s have built their vast wealth via engineering and it has again been stated that the Bush family has worked hand in hand with them over the years. This should not condemn Bush as the respectable Binladen family have condemned and disowned Osama, but the mere link with the name might be unpalatable to many Americans.
* - the Binladen’s prefer their surname to be spelt this way. Osama uses the ‘bin Laden’ variant, claiming that his family has adopted the western was of spelling it, which to him is unacceptable.
Kerry - advantages
1) He appears to have a ‘clean’ political past with no skeletons in the closet. All of America knows about his part in the Vietnam War and his heroism. He has the support of the powerful Viet Vets interest group who claim that he was perfectly entitled to criticise America’s decision to fight the war as he was there and not hiding behind a desk etc.
3) He has a very charismatic running mate – John Edwards – who many will be drawn to and some see him as the future of the Democrat Party.
4) Any bad economic news up to November will benefit Kerry and harm Bush.
Kerry – disadvantages
1) He has not made a mark in America. He is still the “what does he stand for?” man with three months to go to the election. Some pundits said that even the Boston national convention did not dispel this. The party’s platform was not specific and the media picked up on this – more spending on health, education etc – but how is it to be paid for?
2) Many feel that he has a personality issue, that he is too stuffy when compared to G W Bush. One observer commented that G W Bush is the type of person you would buy a drink for in a bar (though non-alcoholic) whereas you would not do the same with Kerry. He has been described as “wooden” when speaking and lacking in charisma. His attempts to ‘lighten’ up (such as riding a Harley-Davison motor bike on to the stage of a David Letterman interview) have not gone down very well. Many believe that he is forcing himself to be someone he is not. Kerry was seen, post Boston, going hunting and carrying a shotgun – not quite the image the party wants as it has made an anti-gun stand in the past. (Also the similarity to G W Bush is too great as Bush makes no play over his love of hunting and his support of your right to carry a gun).
3) Kerry has been caught out publicly when he changed his mind over whether he would support the war in Iraq. Initially, he did support Bush, now he does not. His critics claim that this shows that he cannot make up his mind; he argues that he did not know then what he now knows about WMD. Bush has labelled Kerry a ‘flip-flopper’.
4) He might get overshadowed by Bill Clinton campaigning for him. In 2000, Clinton did little to help Gore – at Gore’s request. That was seen as a major factor in the Democrats not winning that election. Clinton has everything that Kerry seemingly does not have.The Republicans are almost certainly going to play on the fact that John Edwards has minimal political experience and that his career, and others, as a compensation rights lawyer has resulted in inflated health insurance bills – something Bush wants to end. Ironically, the Democrats have called for cheaper health care. Edwards made his fortune getting compensation for those who have won cases against medical authorities. These medical authorities have had to pay higher insurance premiums for themselves, which insurance companies have passed on to their customer – hence higher personal health insurance costs.