2. Bush Holds Back until Kerry Picks Running Mate
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources, President George W. Bush is biding his time before firing all his campaign guns in his bid for re-election. First he wants to see who the Democratic presumptive candidate John Kerry picks for vice president. That will tell him where to concentrate his resources.
Kerry’s choice will likely be governed by the strategy he opts for the next stage of the campaign. He must choose between attempting to wrest the South from Bush or focusing primarily on the Midwest where the Democratic contender is on firmer ground. If he decides to tackle the president in the South, he will have to put up a heavy infusion of campaign cash and pick an attractive Southern running mate to support his bid.
Former Energy Secretary and UN ambassador under the Clinton administration, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is a leading candidate; so is the last contender Kerry defeated in the Democratic primaries, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.
But if the Democratic nominee decides not to waste money and energy on an uphill fight for the South but to concentrate instead on a lite fight for the Midwest, his choices of issues to hammer and a partner to run with will be of a different order.
The names coming to the fore in the second case are Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Senator Evan Bayh (Indiana).
The key battles will then be fought by the two candidates in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin as well as the pivotal state of Ohio, which Bush’s campaign advisers are confident he can carry against Kerry.
In the last few days, the president carries himself with a lot more confidence in his re-election for another term. This confidence characterized his televised statement on Tuesday, April 13, and the way he reacted to reporters’ questions, especially when he was asked why he did not admit to making mistakes. That judgment, he rapped out, would be left to the voter when they came to elect the next president.
Bush derives his assurance from the latest opinion polls in the hands of his campaign managers that show him ahead both among electors and the general public.
Bush’s decision on a running mate likewise depends on Kerry’s choice of primary battle arena. Although Vice President Dick Cheney reiterates that the president has asked him to stand again, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources say that this is far from certain. Cheney’s supporters are pretty much in Bush’s pocket already, which reduces his assets if it comes to a knockdown fight in the Midwest. Bush would need a fresh partner with special appeal for that part of the country as well as the expenditure of the bulk of the campaign funds he has raised.
Not relying on the volatile issues of Iraq and the war on terror, the Bush campaign is focusing primarily on the economy where the president’s performance is seen to be robust and steady. One formula claims that no president has ever lost a second-term election with 3 percent annual growth behind him. Bush will be able to point to 4 percent growth in 2004.
But, just as nothing in Iraq can be taken for granted, so too the Democratic challenger is almost certain to have one or more surprises up his sleeve for the final lap of the campaign.