Every Republican in the political playing deck is sticking firmly to the message that George W. Bush is the man for the next four years (as firmly as those curious Purple Heart bandages were sticking to the cheeks of uniformed vets at MSG in bold mockery of the severity of Kerry's battle wounds and subsequent medals).
In the abstract, there is room for John Kerry to outflank George Bush on the right on some foreign policy issues and some domestic ones -- but not if he is seen as a liberal, weak, flip flopper.
And all this has been going on since March.
We aren't saying that Kerry and his allies haven't engaged in sharp partisan (often personal) attacks against President Bush, but the list going the other way is clever, tough, and textbook -- (arguably) misleading lines of attack against Kerry on a gas tax, for voting to cut defense programs that a then Congressman Dick Cheney also appeared not to support, for allegedly supporting oil drilling off the coast of Florida, to name just three that were as shameless as they were insufficiently responded to.
And yesterday, the President added in another classic: "What I'm telling you is we're not going to nationalize health care under George W., and my opponent is, see. That's the difference. My opponent will; we won't."
As for the Kerry campaign -- as one Democratic strategist surveying the the last three weeks said, they have gone from "delusion obliviousness straight to panic. Not even a pause at anywhere constructive."
Yesterday, as the in-transition rapid response team flailed about, Kerry spent time on debate prep. It is unclear if there were any fiddlers present.
We'll say it again: all this can still of course turn around for Kerry. There is still plenty of room in the data for the Democratic nominee to make the case for change. And the horserace by all accounts remains tied.
But Kerry is hyper-unlikely to turn things around during the next three days. However, the campaign IS trying to get constructive; see our Kerry section for more on that.
As for the events at the World's Most Famous Arena, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Laura Bush headline Night Two. Schwarzenegger's speech is expected to be a "personal one" according to a spokesman for the governor. Laura Bush is expected to tout her husband's achievements as president and ability to be a strong and steady leader.
President Bush continues campaigning today, speaking this morning at 10:30 am ET before the American Legion National Convention in Nashville. Sen. John McCain will join him later. When and if McCain is questioned by the White House press corps, we'll see if he is the Johnny Apple version or the Mark Leibovich version.
The President will also speak at the 2004 Farm Progress Show, in Alleman, IA at 4:00 pm ET and at 9:30 pm ET he visits a softball game and family-style picnic in Gettysburg, PA.
Sen. John Kerry is down on Nantucket with no events scheduled before flying to Nashville later in the evening in preparation for Wednesday's speech before the American Legion National Convention. Kerry, in a somewhat unconventional convention-week move, will speak to the American Legion on Wednesday in Nashville. The campaign says this was a pre-scheduled commitment that they felt compelled to honor, not withstanding the tradition of being down during your opponent's convention, reports ABC News' Dan Harris.