If these numbers hold up, the campaign strategy of Bush political adviser Karl Rove will be vindicated. While Kerry's strategy seems to have a thousand fathers, no presidential campaign in my experience has been so completely in the hands of one man as Bush's. Amid much private criticism in GOP ranks, Rove has concentrated on mobilizing the base behind Bush as the anti-terror candidate rather than making conventional overtures to undecided centrists.
With his base secure this week, the Bush strategy did turn to Democratic voters -- not with the usual leftward turn but appealing to hard-liners who have trouble accepting Kerry leading the war against terror. Campaigning in Wisconsin Tuesday, Bush invoked the memory of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy for their "resolve in times of war and in hours of crisis" -- drawing an unfavorable comparison with Kerry. Bush is after the security moms, Republican or Democrat.
On the same day, the Kerry campaign threw out previous plans and made the candidate's centerpiece a New York Times report of 380 tons of explosives found missing from Iraq. Although NBC embedded reporters said the explosives were gone when U.S. troops arrived in March 2003, Kerry insisted for two days that this was another example of Bush's inadequacy in waging the war on terror. Whether such a complex issue appeals to security moms is another matter.
A lot can happen in the next few days. In 2000, Zogby had Bush three percentage points ahead at this stage, but Al Gore seized the lead because of the attack on Social Security privatization and the revelation of Bush's drunk driving case.
Kerry needs what he has been unable to accomplish so far: a direct hit on Bush's anti-terrorism credentials. It is hard to imagine a Democratic victory without removing those security moms from under Bush's anti-terrorism banner.