President Bush and Senator Kerry would be wise to check out New York Yankee relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, the best closer in the baseball business. Because with just about three weeks left in the campaign, the most determined political closer will win the election.
At this point, the Kerry campaign seems to have brought out all its heavy artillery, especially on the primary issue this year: Iraq. I mean, how many times can John Kerry tell us the Bush administration has screwed up in the land of sand? We’ve got the picture. Whether we believe it or not is a personal choice, although there is no question, after the Duelfer Report, that the Bush administration bought into bad intelligence about WMDs.
The Bush campaign has held some of its powder, and that is focusing on John Kerry’s historical liberalism. During these three terms in the Senate, Kerry has consistently voted against defense projects and in favor of entitlements and left-wing causes like partial birth abortion. The Senator is now running to the center, but the Bush people are readying some new, withering attacks on his fundamental philosophy. Kerry is vulnerable as an opponent of the Reagan defense policies and the first Gulf War. Expect that stuff to be all over the place in the final days.
John Kerry can counter that the Bush administration is simply incompetent in Iraq and on the economy, but the Senator needs some new fuel to light the fires of undecided voters. One of the reasons the President lost the first debate was that he kept repeating the “hard work” mantra when questioned on Iraq. Voters want answers and fresh perspectives. Numbing repetition is boring and annoying, and not a good thing for any candidate.
And then there is the physical toll. I’m exhausted just analyzing this race while sitting on my butt! Can you imagine how tired the candidates are? Many thought Mr. Bush was too spent to mount an energetic presentation in the first debate, and that might be true. Both Bush and Kerry are in the middle of a cross-country marathon where mental and physical stamina is a must, because any mistake can cost them dearly.
So the winner will be the guy who closes tough and keeps his endurance and energy level high. Both men are notoriously competitive and driven. When I first met George W. Bush four years ago, I didn’t see that fight in his eyes – but when I interviewed him a few days ago it was there.
John Kerry has always been crazed about winning. Most politicians would have given up last December when Howard Dean was dancing the Lambada with democratic voters. Kerry did the opposite. He trudged through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire while pinhead pundits like me were writing him off. If Kerry is denied this time, it will only be because Bush is even more determined.