So, last Thursday George Dubya gave a speech accepting the nomination to run for President on the Republican ticket. First of all, you’ve got to love the process! A guy with no challenger still has to go thru the nominating process to run…Democracy in action!
Bush’s speech was the single best I’ve ever seen him deliver. For once in his life, he seemed genuinely comfortable with what he was saying. It’s never been the subject matter, but rather an inability to feel at ease speaking in public. While he still screws up rather often, and seems overly tense, for this speech, for this half-hour, Bush was in-the-zone. And it made a world of difference.
The speech itself signified a partial shift in campaign strategy. While all the media focus, and in fact the first three days of the convention were dedicated to the almighty swing voter, Bush’s speech was aimed directly at the base of the Party. Dowd, Mehlman, Rove and Co figured that there would be no better use of a speech who’s audience was comprised mostly of Republicans than to get them pumped up.
Lyn Nofziger and Pat Buchanan have really been the only ones hitting this point, but it’s not an automatic that every single Republican a)goes out to vote, and b)votes for the President. In fact, the difference between 60% turnout and 90% support, and 55% turnout and 85% support is wider than the margins of most of the major polls. “Swing Voters” be damned, Bush’s speech was about getting the troops motivated and out to the polls.
This was much needed. Pollsters I know have said that the Democrats have been much more enthusiastic about voting than the Republicans. The hatred of Bush has been more overwhelming than the aggregate of support for Bush and hatred of Kerry. Bush’s speech last Thursday was a step towards fixing that.
The speech itself was brilliantly written. It read like a mini-State of the Union address, but much more politically targeted.
The first 30% of it was FISCAL
The next ~10% was SOCIAL
The final 60% was SECURITY
Much as Bush added the word “Compassionate” to Conservative to make Republicans more fuzzy, he changed the word “Privatize” that scares the bejeezus out of moderates, and called it “Ownership.”
President Clinton scored high points talking about building a bridge to the 21st Century. Bush’s “Ownership Society,” looks to actually make that happen. By pushing for Medical Savings Accounts, and Individual Retirement Accounts, Bush looks to hand Americans the control of their own future. Policy-wise its great, and PR wise it may be even better
But Bush didn’t stop there – he also singled out Medical Malpractice Reform, and talked of its urgency. Richard Shelby watch out, this needs to get passed!
I was shocked that President Bush – the risk-averse man he is, used the “U” word. He actually said that we as a society, need to protect the unborn. WOW! The “Fundies,” as the Clam used to call them are now back in action, and are fired up to re-elect the Prez.
The other part of the section on social issues that I loved was the part where Bush defined values.
"My opponent recently announced that he is the candidate of "conservative values," which must have come as a surprise to a lot of his supporters. Now, there are some problems with this claim. If you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood, I'm afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values."
Taking the class-warfare rhetoric, the Two-Americas nonsense, and shoving it back at Kerry is awesome. Good for Bush for using this line. Polls consistently show a disdain among regular-Joes for the “Hollywood elite,” and Bush delivered the line near-perfectly.
Bush finally made the case for Iraq, and that was a good step. (Guliani did it better, but who’s counting?!?)
More than that though, Bush contrasted his straight-forward ways with Kerry’s flip-flopping (Campaigning 101 – DON’T let your opponent define you!) He talked about his strength, consistency, and resolve to not let up. The money line, I thought, was almost the throw away line:
This election will also determine how America responds to the continuing danger of terrorism — and you know where I stand. Three days after September 11th, I stood where Americans died, in the ruins of the Twin Towers. Workers in hard hats were shouting to me, "Whatever it takes." A fellow grabbed me by the arm and he said, "Do not let me down." Since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America — whatever it takes.
Polls show consistently that those who think of the “War” as the “War in Iraq” favor Kerry, while those who think of Iraq and the war as an ongoing “War on Terror” favor the President. Thus, the President wisely pushed the necessity of the War on Terror. I think he won big points on that one.
Again, the theme of a good part of Bush’s speech was that he is consistent in his decision making, and in these trying times, I think that will matter a lot.
“Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand.”
Bush also had some really good self-deprecating lines about his bluntness and his frequent fumbling of the English language. Good for him for being able to change the mood of the speech in parts, to transition from serious part to serious part, without making the speech seem old really quickly.
Towards the end of the speech is where I think Bush won-over anyone watching who was truly undecided. As he spoke of personal experiences with families, he really started to tear up. Now, he didn’t make a show of it, the way surely Kerry would have, and therefore I took it as genuine.
“I've held the children of the fallen, who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom.”
The Republican Party is essentially a coalition of three groups, Social Conservatives, Fiscal Conservatives, and Military Conservatives. Bush’s speech had something for everyone, and gave ample reason to push any Republican not-yet convinced to support the President to do so.
As the polls from here-on-out show a constant bump dating from the Convention, it is likely made up of re-born supporters of the President – those like myself.
This speech was a push for turnout. The President’s campaign knows it can only convert so many of the “Undecided” voters, and the only other well it can draw voters from are the Republicans (both the not-thrilled-with-the-President sort, and the low-propensity voter sort). I think it hit a homerun with all groups – great speech!