Different Strategies, Different Implications
Both candidates went to Wisconsin. Bush visited only Oskosh, a small town almost certain to support the President by a large majority. Kerry, on the other hand, spent an entire day in Wisconsin visiting small towns and major cities alike. On October 14th, both candidates were in Vegas - Bush to speak to Republican governors, Kerry to speak to the AARP. The President is persistently speaking in areas he is certain to win. The Senator, on the other hand, appears to be trying to speak to a far broader spectrum.
In terms of what they're saying, Bush is now almost entirely negative and lauds what his administration has, supposedly, done in the past. He is barely saying anything about the next four years and he has also started moving further to the right. Take his comments about the Dred Scott case in the 2nd debate. While that seemed like nonsense to most people, far right neocons like Bush and his cronies often refer to Roe v Wade as Dred Scott II. Senator Rick Santorum (R, Pennsylvania) has even used that analogy in public. Was Bush slyly trying to tell his base that he would nominate justices who opposed abortion? Kerry, on the other hand, is playing to the middle. Some people might say that he has gone negative, but the Senator is merely attacking the record of the administration. He is not throwing around labels, he has yet to get up on a stage and refer to Bush as a "neocon". Instead he speaks of a record of losing jobs, lower income and a quagmire in Iraq.
The differences may seem like minor issues, but their underlying implications are extremely important. President Bush is appealing to his base, all but giving up hope on middle America. Kerry, on the other hand, seems content to assume the far left will support him in sufficient numbers and is appealing to the middle. Bush's political guru Karl Rove believes that 4 million evangelicals did not turn out to vote in 2000. The Bush strategy seems to be to get every single evangelical in the country to vote, and assume those increased numbers will turn the tide their way. Kerry is catering to those hit by the Bush Presidency but who feel comfortable with him as commander-in-chief. Fewer than 20% of these undecideds believe Bush deserves to be re-elected (Zogby) but still they do not trust Kerry (as seen in the NYT poll). Perhaps there is no secret plan, but merely one which has been forced upon the candidates. Is Kerry's appeal to the middle simply the result of a Nader candidacy? Is Bush's plan just because of an abysmal record on jobs? In either case, the concept of a Bush victory and the implications it carries are frightening.
This election is not just a choice between left and right, it presents a grand question on the state of our democracy. Have we, almost two-hundred and fifty years after the birth of our nation, reached a point where winning an election no longer requires compromise but merely fanaticism?