Here then, in no particular order, are some of the things the Bush campaign did that could have lost them the election had they not been running against an inept candidate from a party that has completely lost it's moorings:
- Scheduling three presidential debates. What in the world was that? The incumbent has little to gain and everything to lose in debates. The Bush campaign took a hard line in negotiations, to the point where many were wondering if there would even be debates this year. Then, suddenly and inexplicably, three debates...three...are announced. What in the world did the Bush campaign get out of the negotiations? Was Kerry asking for ten and they felt they got a good deal? It was as if the Bushies had told Kerry "We've decided to agree to whatever number of debates you write on this here napkin."
- Bush's disastrous performance in the first debate. Bush had a solid lead over Kerry throughout the campaign season. Then came the first debate, where Bush came off like a heavily medicated Boo Radley. There were times when one wondered if he was even going to answer the question. A pause would last two seconds, then five, then eight, and you'd be thinking "Oh my, the President has had an aneurysm." Fact is, the Bush campaign never completely recovered from this debate performance. Kerry surged in the polls, and his lead only began to recede very late in the game.
- The endorsement of Arlen Specter in his state Republican primary. Specter, the quintessential RINO (Republican In Name Only), was receiving strong opposition from a solidly conservative, pro-life Republican. Foolishly, the White House decided to back Specter for reelection, despite the fact that he's been nothing but a thorn in the side of Republican presidents for his entire career. He's the man who led the "Borking" of Robert Bork. The Bush Administration made a deal with the devil to try to maintain what they saw as a narrow majority in the Senate. Now, they have a much larger majority than expected, but an incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee who has already vowed to oppose conservative judicial appointments. This is the mistake of the campaign that will haunt Bush the longest. And it cost him conservative enthusiasm in Pennsylvania, a state he wound up losing.
- The failure to even attempt a rebuttal of Kerry's Tora Bora charge. In all three debates and in stump speeches around the country, Kerry accused Bush of having Osama Bin Laden "cornered" and then "outsourcing the job to Afghan warlords." And all three times, Bush did not offer one word of response to it. Even I was starting to wonder what the story on it was. It's a serious charge, and the Bush campaign's failure to respond to it damaged their credibility on Bush's main point--national security.
- Over-reliance on the "flip-flopper" issue. It's an important point, to be sure, but the Bushies incorrectly believed for far too long that they could ride that single issue all the way to victory. They couldn't. They never did mount a proper attack on Kerry's abysmal Senate record. Though Bush finally mentioned it in the third debate, I never saw one ad showing that, for all his talk of coalition building, Kerry voted against the first Gulf War.
- The makeup Bush wore in the Sean Hannity interview the other night. Okay, in reality I don't actually think this was a factor. But I still had to mention it because it was just so....disturbing. I remember seeing my grandfather looking that way and feeling that the mortician had really overdone it. They must've used the same guy. One coat heavier and he's Cesar Romero on "Batman."