I can't figure out what to make of widespread speculation that Cheney will be replaced on the ticket. It seems incredibly unlikely to me, both that the Bush administration would even consider it or that they'd actually go through with it. Cheney may be a liability for Bush, but so much of Bush's campaign message is about who Bush is -- he's loyal, confident, and shoots from the hip -- that replacing his running mate could seriously damage his bid. This is the same problem Bush's had in Iraq all year -- the American people have lost patience with Iraq and want out, but there's no way that he can capitulate without tarnishing his public persona.
So, is the White House floating trial balloons? It seems unlikely to me.
ALSO: The New Republic links to this memo from a Republican polling firm with some strong insights into where undecided voters will end up. It's not a pretty picture for Bush, but I would caution that world events are a huge wild card that could rearrange voters' priorities pretty quickly...
Clearly, if these undecided voters were leaning any harder against the door of the Kerry camp, they would crash right through it.If these undecided voters are the exclusive target (as the memo indicates) then dumping Cheney might be a good idea. The problem is that Bush will lose some of his base in low turnout if he gives up Cheney... whether that would offset votes gained among undecideds from picking an economic specialist running mate I obviously couldn't say, but I suspect the point is moot: Bush won't dump Cheney, for the image-preserving reasons I state above, but also because to a great extent Bush's image is his actual persona.
The Bush campaign needs to focus on two goals with these crucial voters -- improve their perceptions about the jobs and economy AND more sharply and aggressively define John Kerry. Any advertising that does not either sharply define Kerry or get the truth out about the growing economy appears to be a waste of resources in this environment, an environment in which the President's image is polarized and generally fixed.
If the Bush team can improve these votersí perceptions of the jobs and the economy, it would improve the Presidentís job approval and image ratings. Couple that improvement with a worsening in their view of Kerry and the President can greatly improve his chances of capturing these voters.
Short of accomplishing these two goals or some other significant event, these voters appear poised to break heavily AGAINST President Bush in John Kerryís favor which would hand Kerry a lionís share of these states.