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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bush wins the election, because he won the debates

Well, that was some party. The largest turnout in American history
for a national election that may rank as one of the nation's most
important referendums, pitting a conservative George W. Bush against
a more liberal John Kerry.

Now that it's all over, you can bet that the media is going to spend
the next three weeks performing a post-mortem on John Kerry, John
Edwards and their campaigns. What worked? What flopped? Why didn't
they win?

I'll tell you why they didn't win: the media screwed them - and not
the way you think.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the way the election
turned out. As I've written here before, I thought Kerry blew it big
time by not having a clear, concise message he could deliver to the
American public. If he had just presented himself as "the only
solution to America's problems," he might have squeaked this one out.

But Kerry never developed that message. Instead, he allowed the
media to carry him forward, thinking that if the media loved him,
that's all he needed. And that, ultimately, is what cost him the
election.

Let me give you an example. There were three presidential debates.
In the first, Kerry looked graceful; Bush looked pathetic. In the
second, Kerry looked commanding, Bush looked disconcerted. In the
third, Kerry looked forceful, Bush looked around the room. The
media, relying on their polls, immediately pronounced Kerry the
winner of the debates. The talking heads regurgitated second-hand
data fed to them by newswires, recounting how alert and well-informed
Kerry appeared.

What the media completely missed was Bush's performance. They
totally wrote off the fact that Bush's main appeal is his humanity.
They mistook his perceived nervousness as ineptness, when in fact,
millions of Bush supporters related all too well to him: they saw a
human being in front of millions of TV viewers and thought to
themselves, "I know just how he feels."

Throughout the campaign, Bush had a clear (and from the looks of
things) somewhat unpopular agenda. But at least he had an agenda
that anyone could recite. Neither John Kerry nor John Edwards could
claim the same. In the end, the Anti-Bush strategy couldn't - and
didn't - hold up, proving once again that most people choose what
they know over what they don't know.

This afternoon, Bush did the right thing by appealing to Kerry
supporters, acknowledging their dissent and pledging to work for
their trust. Once again, millions of TV viewers thought to
themselves, "I know just how he feels."

And that's why George W. Bush is president today.

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