I've just returned from New York City, where Bush voters are as scares as hen's teeth. I managed to keep peace in the family, by not embarking on the futile task of trying to convince Bush-haters that Kerry would be a disaster.
I remain convinced, however. I could write a book about what Bush & Co. have done wrong (e.g., no concern over the deficit, corporate welfare, no message of sacrifice on the war, an expensive and ill-thought-out prescription drug program), but I think Kerry's caught in the fundamental contradiction of having to be the anti-war candidate with a wink and a nod to the party activist left, while trying not to seem so to the swing voters, who won't support a McGovern anti-war campaign. Howard Dean, though he didn't start out so left on many domestic issues, had a clarity of position on Iraq that might have turned out to be effective in the fall campaign.
So Kerry seemed inconsistent and torn because he needs to cobble together a base from groups that disagree. Moreover, separate and apart from these contradictions, he really is an opportunist. He also has an unpleasant personality, a singular lack of achievement in the Senate, and mouths the usual Democratic "tax and tax and tax, elect and elect and elect" social programs. There are too many snouts in the public trough as it is. We don't need more.
Bush was vulnerable to an attack on the conduct of the war, but coupled with a "maybe yes, maybe no" position on whether we should be there in the first place, Kerry couldn't make the case. Even less could he make the case that he and his party are, any longer, capable of leading the country in a time of danger. For me, that's the bottom line.
In hindsight, another error was selecting Edwards as his running mate. Although engaging, the man is not ready for prime time. Kerry should have picked Gephardt. He might have then carried Missouri, but more importantly, like him or not (and I don't, particularly), he's experienced and has enough gravitas for one to picture him as President.
How will it turn out? Nobody knows, least of all I. Bush is still ahead in most national polls, and is poised to take Florida. He can make up for Ohio, if he loses it, with Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Hugh Hewitt continues to predict a Bush blowout, but he's a partisan and likely to project pre-election optimism no matter what. It's more likely to be close. There are enough nightmare scenarios about post-election litigation and stalemates. I don't need to add to them.
If I had to guess, at this point, I'd say Bush 49-48, and in the EC, 281-257. That's close. The GOP will pick up a few Senate seats, enough so that Lincoln Chaffee can't be the next Jeffords, and a net gain in the House.
There. I put it out there. My face won't be red if I'm wrong, and I say a pickle for the mockery of the knowing ones.