2004-10-28 / View From the Middle

It’s Down To The Wire; Now It’s Up To You... And You...And Me

By next Tuesday we will have weighed both sides and, hopefully, made our decision whether to vote for another four years of President George Bush or a new man in the Oval Office, Senator John Kerry. Many of us have already made up our minds, but the race is so close that I’m afraid there are many who are still undecided (Of course, there are those who will remain in the “undecided” category for the rest of their lives). There aren’t many fence-sitters now.

Frankly, I thought it was almost refreshing to see both candidates finally start to yell at each other as their campaigns wound down. I guess nervousness is taking over, to a degree, and both Bush and Kerry have found themselves so professional at their respective tasks, as a result of the repetition of rhetoric: Kerry is actually getting some animated character in his face; losing the mask of the Frankenstein Monster and breaking into out-and-out semi-sincere smiles now and then. Until now, he’s been so stoic, you’d think he’s a statue. Things must have turned around for him a few months ago when he moved up and started using a bevy of tough cookies in the persons of Joe Lockhart, Mike McCurry and Douglas Sosnik, to name only a few, as consultants and they straightened him out.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush started out like Gang Busters and immediately ran high in the polls, making all sorts of hay out of the “leader in war” bit.

Then, unfortunately, he opened his mouth during the first debate.

Sorry, George. It was too obvious that you didn’t make it out of Debating 101 in college; high school either.

On the other hand, the president made a better accounting of himself in the second debate as he became more down to earth (too much, of course) and lost his smirk and scowl, to a degree. In the third debate, George Dubya was better than in the other two by a long margin, but still couldn’t match Master Debater Kerry, who obviously DID pass Debating 101 at the head of the class.

On the other hand, being too smooth a debater might have cost Kerry points by making him appear stuffy and above it all. A few weeks later, he counterattacked on that level by going out and shooting a goose, just to show that he is “one of the guys.” He could have cost himself some votes there from animal lovers and activists, but he preferred to console himself with thoughts of winning over a few Na-tional Rifle Association voters, the same NRA he has voted against in Congress.

There are some deep divisions in the race. Both candidates have become absolutely vociferous about Iraq, Social Security, Homeland Security, the death penalty, jobs, tax cuts, health care and, oh, yes, we mustn’t forget that they generally agree on the role of the First Lady and Proposed First Lady in their lives and that their daughters are adorable.

So where are we as the race winds down? Both men have pulled out all the stops in these last few days. Kerry, frankly, seems to be running at about nine cylinders in an eight cylinder vehicle. His pitch is getting more of an edge and more feverish by the speech. His usually resonant voice is getting higher, as he pulls out statistics from everywhere, whether they’re true or not. Seems as though he got a shot of testosterone during that final debate. Of course, as of last weekend he started back on that Vietnam experience course again. He didn’t have to do that and, I expect, the adversarial Swift Boat contingent will get after him before next Tuesday.

Bush is getting edgy too, although, as Election Day comes closer, he seems to be getting more folksy, so much so that soon the twang will be so deliberate we won’t be able to understand a word he says! Of course, he’ll continue saying the same things he’s been saying all along, which continues to be a turn-off to the decideds and undecideds.

Tuesday’s the Big Day. Whoever is your man, let it be known. One thing we know for sure is that it is extremely important. The rest of your life could depend on it.

View From The Middle By Charles Rogers

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