Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.

What New Jersey Is Saying (We're Safer With Bush/Cheney)  | e-mail post

Dick Cheney made big news yesterday showing up to campaign in New Jersey. Since everyone pretty much knows that candidates don't invest significant time in any state that's not in contest at this point in the election, Cheney's visit to New Jersey seems to have surprised a lot of people given that Bush lost big in the Garden State in 2000 and it also went for Clinton in both of his elections.

But, first, New Jersey is a liberal state like Minnesota is, that is to say, it's got a liberal image more than a liberal reality. While both the senators are Democrats, seven of their 13 representatives are Repbublicans. And, let's face it, it's not like Governor Jim McGreevey has been doing a lot of campaigning for Kerry/Edwards, maybe he was interviewing for his new job.

On top of it, McGreevey has also chosen not to help Kerry/Edwards much, only releasing a truly token amount of state party money $25,000) to help with get out the vote for the presidential campaign. And since McGreevey didn't resign effective with his announcement outing himself, there aren't any statewide races to drive Democractic GOTV in NJ. [Philly.com] [AP via Miami Herald] [NY Post with the kinda racy headline of "McGreevey Stiffing John in Jersey"] According to the Post, Senators Corzine and Lautenberg are kicking in a combined $270,000 to help with GOTV.

My personal theory is that McGreevey, as a gay, probably doesn't appreciate that the Kerry/Edwards ticket is relying on (dare I say exploiting) the fact (assumption?) that the gay community is a natural Democractic constituency, and they're playing it politcally safe by maintaining their opposition to any kind of gay marriage. Let's face it, assuming McGreevey is at all interested in gay rights, Cheney's the only guy on either ticket who is on his side. He probably didn't care for Edwards' backhanded compliment of "And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter," as if it's some sort of dark secret they would be expected to hide.

But that's just my theory, and it's kind of irrelevant to Cheney's visit, because the New Jersey race tightening up doesn't have anything to do with gay issues unless (if you'll pardon me) you want to say that New Jersey doesn't want to get metaphorically sodomized by terrorists.

They key point is that New Jersey lost 674 residents in the 9/11 attacks. It's also home to the busiest seaport on the east coast and a top-ten airport in terms of both air cargo and people. My point is they have directly felt the impact of terrorism and they are obviously exposed.

It shouldn't be surprising then, that according to recenting polling, 31% rate terrorism their #1 concern (followed closely by the economy, then Iraq, with health care a distant fourth).

And it certainly doesn't surprise me that they rate Bush above Kerry for handling terrorism 52% to 38% (among independents, it's 52%-35%). They also think Bush "acts more like a leader" by 49% to 41%. Further, they think Bush has done a better job than Kerry making it clear what he would do as President (52%-35%). So they are pretty certain they know what they're getting.

So, this Democratic-leaning state that has terrorism on their mind, and more direct experience with it than 48 other states, thinks Bush would be better for fighting terrorism. So much better that they the more they listen to Kerry, the more they lean toward Bush, overcoming the natural tendency of Americans to vote their pocketbooks. I'm thinking that all things considered, that's sending a pretty strong message that we're safer with Bush.

Bear in mind that until yesterday, neither Bush nor Cheney had set foot in the state this campaign season. (OK, they may have flown through Newark at some point, but no campaigning.) Of course some Dems probably feel like Ann Barzda, a Kerry volunteer field director:"It's a little disturbing that a strong Democratic enclave like New Jersey was so easily influenced by the Republican convention." [via Mercury News] But the truth is, Kerry's numbers have been in a steady decline since the Democratic convention. The Republican convention didn't really accelerate it.

I am curious how this sort of message may be digested, consciously or unconsciously, by the general electorate that may be wavering on the question of which candidate would be more likely to insure domestic security. As close as many states are, it really only takes a few people to lean more strongly toward Bush in this area. Some Dems might call that playing on fear, but fear has been an enormous motivator in elections, certainly LBJ knew it worked when he ran against Goldwater and introduced the world to the first negative television ad, "Daisy."

Fear may not be the most noble of human emotions, but we've been wired up through the course of evolution to respond to it. Why? Probably because early humans with a pronounced lack of fear tended to have shorter life expectancies. And no matter what some people want to say, terrorism is not a nuisance when it strikes on your home turf. The British and Israelis have known that for years. We're just learning it now.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Tuesday, October 12, 2004
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