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Sat, Dec. 14

Bush taps into solid strategy as election years

With less than two weeks to go, President Bush and his campaign demonstrated once again that they are playing chess while Kerry is playing checkers.

In a feat of strategy worthy of the greatest admiration, they realized that the entire race would change complexion once the third debate kindled a focus on domestic disagreements in what had been, until then, a foreign-policy contest.

Knowing that Kerry – or any Democrat – has an advantage in a contest over domestic policy, they prepared for a parry during and after the third debate, which has given their candidate the lead once again.

As Kerry moved to domestic policy and extolled his "plan" for job creation, health care, Social Security and Medicare, Bush shifted his attack – much less calling Kerry a flip-flopper, much more accusing him of liberalism and tax-and-spend policies.

By declaring in the third debate that Kerry inhabits the far left bank of our politics, well away from the mainstream, Bush hit pay dirt.

Knowing that Kerry would seek to win the domestic issues by promising the moon, Bush, in great jujitsu style, used the Democrat's strength against him, coming around his right flank adding up the cost of the promises and underscoring his adversary's liberalism.

Attacking a Democratic opponent as a liberal is a tactic the Bushes have used with success in the past. In the closing weeks of the 1992 campaign, President Bush pulled even with Clinton-Gore by labeling the Arkansas governor as liberal.

And once again the attack seems to be working. Bush leads Kerry by 4 points in the Zogby tracking poll, 3 in the Rasmussen poll, 8 in the Gallup and 6 in Newsweek's.

The beauty of the Bush attack is that it draws fuel as much from Kerry's proposals as from Republican jabs. With every new speech, Kerry shows his liberalism and makes promises that dig him an ever deeper hole. Should he try to tack to the right to rebut the accusation, he will run into the old charge of flip-flopper and rekindle doubts about his ability to stick to a position.

E-mail Dick Morris at

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