Pre debate comments
I'm going to miss bout two thirds of the debate when it runs live, so I'll have to watch it on tape later tonight.
Bush is in a tough spot. Kerry is ahead and this debate is expected to be Kerry's strong suit. Bush clearly lost the first debate and Kerry gained in the polls because of it. Bush's supporters were spooked by his bad performance. In the second debate, Bush reassured his supporters, but didn't recoup any of his losses from the first debate. Bush can't lose tonight. Kerry is slightly ahead, so a tie works in his favor. Bush needs a clear win.
Bush will, of course stay on message and be drearily consistent. He will repeat all of the messages that haven't worked that well so far. The economy is great and getting better. The bad parts of the economy (all past now, thanks to the tax cuts) were all Clinton's and the terrorists' fault. Being president is hard (actually, Karen Hughes has probably slapped that line out of him). He might even have the gall to work in the "don't change horses" theme. Kerry will end our lovely recovery.
Further repeating the big lie isn't enough and his people know it. Bush needs something else. He might try unveiling some new program tonight (puppies for everybody!). He can promise anything he wants tonight since you'll never hear of it again after November 2.
That still won't be enough. That leaves sliming Kerry. I'm sure you're all shocked to hear this, but I think that nice Mr. Bush will say some bad things about his opponent. Not personal smears, that has to be done by surrogates like Sinclair Broadcasting. He'll probably use scare tactics along the lines of "Kerry's health plan can only be paid for by ending all protections against terrorists." Even though this is supposed to be a domestic issues debate, Bush will bring foreign threats into the debate. He might work it into his buzz phrase for the night. Kerry wants to make us poorer and less safe.
Ultimately, I don't think Bush's handlers can realistically expect him to regain tonight the ground he lost at the first debate. They might be hoping for some continued damage control like the second debate, but these are too seasoned of professionals to be counting on a win. That leaves dirty tricks over the next 19 days. Sinclair is just one shot. The more I see of the registration and absentee ballot phoney baloney going on, the more I think they are planning to throw a couple states into chaos and fight the election in the courts again. The fact that such a course will pretty much end any credibility the our election system had in the eyes of America and the world doesn't matter to them. Winning in the short run is all they care about.
Remember, even though I won't be basking in the same unifying, warm glow of a cathode-ray tube with the rest of you, my heart will be watching the debate. I expect it will be shouting and throwing corn chips at the tube. I'll catch up later.