Charlie Cook Breakfast Briefing: Strip the Bark Off the Son of a Bitch

Wonkette's Bacon-and-Eggs Operative sends in a report on this morning's Charlie Cook breakfast briefing. Highlights:


Cook's opinion is that the Bush campaign was been very well run and that the Republican convention was very well planned.  When asked about Zell Miller, Cook thought it was the single most effective moment of the convention.  A friend of his had compared Miller to Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.  But Cook felt that it was an effective way of penetrating the skulls of the undecideds and grabbing their attention.  He quoted Lee Atwater from 1998, when Atwater said of Dukakis, "We're going to strip the bark off that son of a bitch."

[snip]

Cook feels that the Kerry campaign has been overconfident. The Democrats should have attacked Bush on his weak points: the economy, health care and the deficit.  Instead, they focused on Kerry's military past. Barack Obama's speech was terrific but didn't move ball forward at all for Kerry and was a waste of airtime. The Swift Boat attacks have been devastating for Kerry and he took too long to respond. As Cook put it, Kerry lost three pints of blood and you can only lose five before death. Kerry's campaign also looks a bit like Noah's ark, with everything in pairs: two consultants, two experts, etc. In contrast, Karl Rove can make a decision while shaving in the morning and have it executed before he pulls out of the driveway.
and lastly:
While the undecideds are not looking as ugly for Bush, the election isn't over.  This is a big election and it's going to be close. Cook forecast the biggest turnout in 30 years, with 57-59 percent showing up on Election Day.
And of course, the quiche was delicious. Full report after the jump.

This morning brought another of the National Journal's periodic Charlie Cook breakfast briefings.

Cook began by discussing the wildly divergent polling results for Bush.  His lead ranges, according to the poll, from eleven points to one.  Cook suggested that people could follow the polls on sites such as RealClearPolitics.com and keep their eyes on the average.

In talking to the two campaigns, Cook has found that the consensus is that currently Bush has a five-point advantage, holding steady. Kerry has had six horrendous weeks, but Cook opined that we will now see a little closure.

Going back to the beginning of the race, the Republicans had every reason to think economy would be better, that Iraq would be better and that Democrats would be their normal fractured selves.  Of course, the economic recovery has been much more sluggish that they had expected, and Iraq is going much more poorly than anticipated.  The Republicans also didn't know that the Democrats would be outspending them.

Cook's opinion is that the Bush campaign was been very well run and that the Republican convention was very well planned.  When asked about Zell Miller, Cook thought it was the single most effective moment of the convention.  A friend of his had compared Miller to Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.  But Cook felt that it was an effective way of penetrating the skulls of the undecideds and grabbing their attention.  He quoted Lee Atwater from 1998, when Atwater said of Dukakis, "We're going to strip the bark off that son of a bitch." Cook compared Miller's speech to the ads against Max Cleland. They could have blown up, but were as effective as hell.

Cook feels that the Kerry campaign has been overconfident. The Democrats should have attacked Bush on his weak points: the economy, health care and the deficit.  Instead, they focused on Kerry's military past. Barack Obama's speech was terrific but didn't move ball forward at all for Kerry and was a waste of airtime. The Swift Boat attacks have been devastating for Kerry and he took too long to respond. As Cook put it, Kerry lost three pints of blood and you can only lose five before death. Kerry's campaign also looks a bit like Noah's ark, with everything in pairs: two consultants, two experts, etc. In contrast, Karl Rove can make a decision while shaving in the morning and have it executed before he pulls out of the driveway.

Something's got to happen to shake up the Kerry campaign. He's going to have to take some risks, to swing for the fences. Cook predicted that we might see Kerry directly ask Bush some tough questions in the upcoming debates.

While the undecideds are not looking as ugly for Bush, the election isn't over.  This is a big election and it's going to be close. Cook forecast the biggest turnout in 30 years, with 57-59 percent showing up on Election Day.

In regards to reports of Clintonites showing up on the Kerry campaign, Cook felt that the Clinton people are pretty good at running campaigns. They found the sweet spot. Kerry has not and Cook said he wasn't sure if he'd know what to do with it if he did. The campaign structure is too convoluted; if someone comes in, someone ought to go out. In addition, Kerry is an agonizer. In a campaign, a deliberate approach doesn't work.

In response to a question about Kerry's ability as a "closer," with the '96 campaign against William Weld typically cited as evidence, Cook was quite skeptical.  He felt that Kerry does not have a history of running good campaigns.  Bill Weld was a moderate running in a liberal state, during a time when Newt Gingrich and his crowd were running amok in Washington.  Cook feels it was the worst environment for a Republican to run in. Rather than Kerry winning, Cook feels that Newt lost it for Weld. In addition, Kerry didn't win the Democratic nomination; rather, Dean and Gephardt killed each other, destroying each other like scorpions.

And that was the end of another lively and informative Charlie Cook breakfast briefing.  Ham quiche was served and was delightful.

 

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