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Campaign 2004: What Lies Ahead
February 17, 2004
With the presidential primary season in full swing, the race for the White House is beginning to heat up. Will John Kerry keep riding his recent wave of momentum? What's in store for President Bush? We discussed the latest events and what to look for the next nine months with two Bentley faculty members closely following Election 2004: Professor of Government Christine Williams and Associate Professor of Government Rick Frese.
"Band wagon effects and momentum seem to be bigger factors than usual. You would have expected Kerry to lose another place or two, or not to have won by such a runaway," said Williams. "I wonder if it's the 24/7 media coverage that's almost entirely focused on what we call the horse race- who's ahead and by how much, why that leaves little time for discussing much else."
Q: Is it typical to see all these candidates falling by the wayside before and around Super Tuesday and with over four months to go to the convention?
"I think we knew that we'd have a pretty good idea by March 2 who the Democratic nominee was going to be," added Frese. "One thing with these candidates is that they're all first-time contenders for the nomination, and the dilemma for them is that if they stumble anywhere along the way early on, the campaign collapses simply because they don't have legions of long-time supporters. They don't have that national recognition that a Gore or a Clinton or Bush might have."
Q: Will July in Boston have any real value to it?
"The conventions have not had decision-making value in a great many years. Once more and more states switched to primaries starting in 1968 and 1972, the delegates are pledged to candidates as they happen and the press and everyone else need only keep track of the count until the magic 50% of total is reached," said Williams. "Today, the role of conventions is to unify the party and to put on a show that will bring the party good publicity and give candidate a bounce in the poll standings - and that is important."
Q: Is President Bush in danger of not getting re-elected?
"There's a possibility [of not getting re-elected], but I'm not betting money on it," said Frese. "Clearly, he has enormous advantages. For one thing, he is going to raise $200 million, and now that we're in the reconstruction phase in Iraq -even though there we still have casualties, we're still beating the resistance in that country that war itself is winding down. Now the economy is beginning to come back. If going into November, people have a good feeling about the improvement of the economy and are not experiencing continued casualties in Iraq, it could be enough for Bush to win a second term."
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