Is 2012 campaign Bush vs. Kerry all over again? If so, who is Bush? (+video)
The similarities between the two campaigns are striking, with partisans for President Obama and Mitt Romney saying their candidate is in a better position.
Throughout this election cycle, campaign 2012 has been compared most often to that of 2004.Skip to next paragraph
Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.
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The similarities are striking: Both years featured a controversial incumbent whose tenure was weighed down a by serious challenge (war, the economy). Both years also featured a richer-than-rich challenger from Massachusetts who struggled to connect with average voters and seemed to lack a clear ideological core, making him vulnerable to charges of political opportunism.
To some extent, the Obama and Romney campaigns even seem to be cribbing from the 2004 playbooks. The Obama campaign has been pursuing a microtargeting strategy, making narrow appeals to specific demographic groups, just as George W. Bush’s campaign did. The Romney campaign, like Sen. John Kerry’s, has been focusing its efforts more on the big issue of the day.
And just as today’s race seems headed for a photo finish, 2004 wound up being exceedingly close: President Bush managed to eke out a win in the crucial state of Ohio, which was just enough to send him back to the White House.
Of course, 2012 is not 2004 – the issues are different, and the electoral map has changed a bit, as have the demographics of many key states. And while the national polling looks remarkably similar (showing a very close race) there are also some key differences which, not surprisingly, partisans on both sides have been highlighting in ways that would seem to favor their guy.
Writing in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, former Bush strategist Karl Rove made a direct comparison between the two cycles, and concluded Mitt Romney is currently in a much better position than Senator Kerry was.
At this point in the race in 2004, he noted, the composite average of national polls showed Bush narrowly leading Kerry, 48.9 to 45.8. By contrast, today’s composite average shows Mr. Romney leading President Obama, 48.9 to 46.7. (The current Real Clear Politics average of polls shows less of a difference, with Mr. Obama and Romney currently tied at exactly 47.1, while in 2004, the RCP average had Bush at 48.8 and Kerry at 46.)