The Bush Bounce

The delegates, and those relatively few Americans who tuned in this week, leave Philadelphia with a much stronger impression of the man from Texas who would be president - but perhaps a less than concrete idea of what he'd do if elected.

The Republican convention, a superbly staged event, was much bigger on image and character than specific policy content. That was done on purpose (to use the convention's favorite word), and it could prove politically astute.

Many voters make up their minds on the personal impressions they form of politicians. George W. Bush already had high marks in the polls for likability, and the convention only bounced those ratings higher. But there's a long way to go.

The campaign ahead will flesh out such key issues as how the candidates propose to "save" Social Security and Medicare. Messrs. Bush and Cheney will be pressed to explain how they plan to boost military spending, sharply cut taxes, sustain federal investments in areas like education, and keep the economy humming, all at the same time.

And, of course, the Republican team will constantly be challenged to prove that the inclusive, socially aware, usually noncombative tone set by their convention was not just a week's euphoria. It won't be easy to stick to Dick Cheney's words: "They will make accusations. We will make proposals." But it might be worth a try.

The spotlight now shifts to Los Angeles. What will be the Democrats' response to the tone set in Philadelphia. So far, comments from the Gore camp (including, notably, Bill Clinton) have essentially been that the GOP show is all a big put-on. Check the record, they say - Cheney's congressional votes of 15 years ago and the sad state of the poor in Texas. (Do the poor have it good anywhere?)

Such negativity won't be enough. The Democrats will have to come up with their own positive thrust.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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