Q&A on the campaigns

September 03, 2004|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SPECIAL TO BALTIMORESUN.COM

Maria, Baltimore: Why didn't Bush have his convention in Houston? New York is heavily Democratic. How much money is the government giving to New York for all the security? New Yorkers are still hurting economically from [the] 9/11 [attacks] and their taxes will probably go up to cover those security expenses.

Greene: Hi, Maria. The GOP chose New York at a time when the president's popularity was high, and the Iraq war had not angered a large part of the country. I think the party thought having the event here could evoke memories of 9/11 in a sensitive way, harkening back to Bush's handling of the crisis. The party is clearly trying to evoke memories this week, but with Bush's poll numbers much lower and the nation polarized, the party is seeing the effect of being in a Democratic city -- large protests. Houston may have been a good choice, but the party (and Bush's father) just had their gala there in 1992. Thanks for your question!

Bob, Sudlersville: Why is Kerry so afraid to divulge his military record? How many horrible things and lies is he concealing?

Greene: Hello, Bob. Thanks for writing in. It is not clear why both Kerry and Bush have decided to withhold some details of their military record. Kerry has not fully disclosed his record in Vietnam. The president has not divulged the full story of his time in the National Guard. As reporters, we are trying to dig into the records as best we can. We believe our readers are best served, and voters can best make their decision, with a complete picture of the lives and records of the candidates. Thanks again, Bob.

Tom, Marion, Ill.: If Bush wins, will he bring back the draft? If so, we need to talk about it now!

Greene: Hi, Tom. The president and Pentagon oppose a draft, and the Selective Service System has said unequivocally that no draft is imminent. That said, the president is under pressure from Democrats, who say the military is overstretched and needs to be supplemented. Democrats have also accused the president of allowing a "back-door" draft by requiring some members of the military to extend their service if called to Iraq or Afghanistan. Republicans have said calling Bush's order a "back-door" draft is unfair. Thanks for writing.

Baltimoresun.com reader: I realize that all voters are equal -- albeit from the neck down -- but do you believe that the famous silent majority of Americans will stick with the incumbent?

Greene: Thanks for writing. I stay out of the business of prediction. Just look at the last few weeks. Kerry saw a surge in the polls and, as of a few weeks ago, pundits were calling him the front-runner. But right now, Bush is moving up in some polls in key swing states, and pundits have jumped on his bandwagon. The only predictions I'll make: There will be plenty more swings in both directions, and the election will be close. Thanks!

Jamie Kendrick, Baltimore: Why is the media so simplistic as to report mainly on national polls of the presidential race? For example, if Bush and Kerry were tied at 48 [percent], that could mean that Bush was winning 100 percent of the vote in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, etc., but be down in the battleground states. When will the media focus on this being 50 separate elections?

Greene: Hello, Jamie. Thanks for the good question. This is one of the challenges we face. We believe readers are interested in the horse race -- where the candidates stand against one another nationwide. And national polls have always proved a fairly reliable predictor of who wins the Electoral College. In other words, if a candidate is 10 points ahead in a national poll, the candidate is almost sure to win. If the candidates are tied, 48-48, chances are the race will be close in battleground states, and in the election.

But you raise a very good point. In a race as close as this one, one candidate could be three or four points ahead in a national poll, but if he is performing poorly in a handful of battleground states, he could lose in the Electoral College. That is why we are striving to give readers the full picture. And you should count on us all this fall to keep readers informed of where the battleground states are, and how Bush and Kerry are doing in each one. Thanks for raising a really good point.

David Guadagno, Syracuse, N.Y.: How many "girlie men" are in America? Because a lot of working people don't think the economy is good.

Greene: Hi, David. Arnold's "girlie men" line really brought the house down in a purely Republican crowd. But you are right -- it may not have sat well with some working people around the country, especially in manufacturing states, where the economy is seen as still lagging. How voters view the economy will go a long way in predicting the outcome of the election.

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