||Bill Press is co-host of CNN's Crossfire. He is providing exclusive analysis to CNN allpolitics.com during the election season.
Bill Press: Bush and Gore enter final stretch
Dear Reader: I realize that on November 8 this column will either make me
look positively brilliant or positively stupid. But, as an intrepid talking head, and with absolutely no money -- only my already-battered reputation -- on the line, thatís a risk Iím willing to take. So, here goes ...
How George Bush lost the election
Looking back, itís easy to see where George W. blew what once looked like a
After all, just a year ago, Dubya had everything going for him: a famous
name; a fawning press corps; a party desperate to win back the White House; an American public looking for new leadership; and a motley collection of primary opponents who, except for Arizona Sen. John McCain, couldnít campaign their way out of a wet paper bag.
And poor Al Gore had everything going against him: a campaign staff in
disarray; an Alpha Male clothing crisis; a tainted president who wouldnít shut up; a
primary opponent who outclassed him; and a speaking style that caused grass to wither and die.
The outcome was never in doubt. President Bush would get his revenge. The son
would inherit the throne.
What happened? How did the wheels come off? Therein lies the tale of four big
Bush's first mistake was making a giant tax cut the centerpiece of his
campaign. This guy painted himself as a new kind of Republican, yet the best he could do was beat the same old Reagan drum. It was an old plan that just didn't fit today's new economy.
As John McCain proved in the primaries, most Americans believe there are more noble purposes for spending the surplus than putting even more money in the pockets of the wealthiest people in the country. Bush spent the entire campaign trying to sell his tax cut, and never did.
His second, colossal mistake was letting Daddy name his vice presidential
Dick Cheney brought nothing but problems to the table. He looked old enough
to be Bush's uncle. He appealed solely to conservatives, whom Bush already had
locked up. He had a most uncompassionate voting record in Congress and zero campaign skills. He got all tangled up in his personal finances and he got crushed in the debates by Joe Lieberman.
By late September, Bush was wishing he could take a mulligan.
Mistake No. 3: getting side-tracked from the real issues. At first,
Bush tried to run on Bill Clintonís character. "I will restore dignity to the Oval Office," became his mantra.
But nobody cared about Monica Lewinsky anymore, and they certainly weren't
going to blame Al Gore for Clinton's mistakes. Then, remember all the time and paid
commercials Bush spent debating the debates? A total waste of time and money. The more he insisted on his own format -- with hand-picked moderators and smaller audiences -- the more childish and chicken he appeared.
By the time Bush got around to issues people care about -- prescription drugs,
education, environment, Social Security, Medicare, keeping the economy strong -- Al Gore owned the field. Bush was constantly playing catch-up. He could never hold his own against the better prepared and more experienced Gore.
Which, of course, triggered Bushís final and fatal mistake: going negative.
As in the primaries, once he fell behind in the polls, Bush went nasty. It started with
the ad accusing Gore of lying about the Buddhist Temple, and spiraled downhill from there.
But Bush should have known those personal attacks would backfire because heís the one who first argued, correctly, that people were eager for someone to change the tone of politics this year. He promised to, but he didn't. He was hoisted on his own petard.
Never did so much political promise crash so far, so fast. Bush started out
the clear favorite and expected winner. He blew it. He just wasn't ready for the major
leagues. Republicans would have been a lot smarter going with John McCain.
In the end, it was close. But Al Gore and Joe Lieberman carried the day and
George Bush limped back to Austin. The Bush dynasty will have to wait for another day.
Dear Reader: Save this column. If Iím wrong, Iíll eat it on "Crossfire" on