Wednesday, September 25, 2002

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THE GORE EFFECT: What to make of Daschle's tirade against President Bush? That my previous post about Gore + Bully Pulpit = PR Disaster for Democrats is coming to fruition.

Follow the logic:
1) Pundits accuse Democrats of not having position on Iraq.
2) Gore articulates unserious but clearly anti-administration position. (Though check out The New Republic's new blog on this point)
3) Gore gets media play.
4) Daschle thinks, "Hey, I'm the leader of the Democrats!" and blasts Bush.

So, Gore is still the straw that stirs the Democrats' drink. Why will this lead to a PR disaster? The rest of the causal chain:

1) Media reports will focus on Daschle's factual error in the speech -- namely, that his quote from Bush was not about the Iraq resolution but about the Homeland Security bill. Look at CNN's take, for example.

2) The story will inevitably be twinned with Tony Blair's vigorous approach to Iraq. And between Daschle and Blair, the latter will come off looking like the brave, forthright liberal.

3) Daschle's speech sucks the oxygen away from the economy, stupid. The reason the Democrats have avoided Iraq is because they do better with voters when they talk about the economy. The attention on Iraq will draw attention away from bad numbers on the economy. Furthermore, Daschle's objections are not about substance, they're about the politics -- which means he's led the Democrats right into the trap Karl Rove wants -- linking the war with party politics. Senator, this isn't Germany -- what were you thinking?

4) Division, inevitable passage of resolution makes Democrats look unfocused. When you have five potential Democratic candidates for president in the Senate, one of them is going to disagree with Daschle, which keeps the Dems from looking coherent. This effect will be enhanced when the resolution passes, which is the expected outcome.

Let me be clear -- there are substantive reasons to challenge the Bush administration's position on Iraq. I'd like to see a fuller debate. But Daschle's comments are the political equivalent of a hanging curveball for Republican operators to smack. And none of this happens without Gore's Tuesday speech. Disadvantage: Daschle!

posted by Dan on 09.25.02 at 03:26 PM