Kerry tries on a strait-jacket.

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 12 2004 1:59 AM

Kausfiles, Island of Calm

Plus, Kerry tries on a strait-jacket.

Should Kerry take a dive in Colorado? Ron Brownstein notes that as Kerry becomes competitive in the state, Colorado Democrats are tempted to vote against the state initiative that would award Kerry a proportional share of Colorado's nine electoral votes even if he loses. After all, why should Dems settle for a proportional share if they can win all nine? But that's a risky calculation: If the initiative passes and is upheld, Kerry would almost certainly get four of the nine electoral votes even if he loses the state. If the initiative fails--in part because Dems think Kerry might win--and then Kerry loses the state by a hair, he winds up with zero. It could theoretically be smarter for him to settle for a sure 4 --losing to Bush in the state but winning the initiative--than to go for all 9. ... Of course, Kerry would have to factor in uncertainty about whether the initiative will be upheld in court. The "sure 4" wouldn't be all that sure. Prof. Hasen explains why here. ... 4:52 P.M.

Kerry puts on the strait-jacket: Kerry's no-tax-increase-for-people-making-less-than-$200,000 pledge on Friday was more significant, in terms of boxing Kerry in should he win, than has been reflected in the press coverage. USAT's Walter Shapiro points this out:

Now that the Democratic nominee is so locked in, every discussion of the budget deficit, tax reform, Social Security or Medicare in a Kerry White House will pivot around the pledge.

A prime example is that some projected reforms designed to assure the solvency of Social Security include significantly lifting the ceiling on earnings that are subject to the payroll tax, which is currently $87,900 and is only adjusted for inflation. That notion is now permanently off the table unless President Kerry wants to become the Democratic equivalent of George H.W. Bush, who violated his own "Read my lips: No new taxes" 1988 campaign promise.

If I weren't such an ardent Kerry supporter I might also note that Kerry's insta-pledge reflected a potentially disastrous instinctive willingness to pander now and waffle later. But it's getting too close to the election to say things like that. ... P.S.: How will Kerry get out of it? First, he could say he was only talking about income taxes (though the pledge was "I am not going to raise taxes" in response to a question about the entire "tax burden," not just income taxes). Then he could blame his staff! ... Update: Reader C.H. suggests President Kerry could lower some other under-$200,000 taxes to compensate for raising the payroll tax ceiling. I'm not sure that would work--it would be hard to offset the burden for every individual under-$200,000 taxpayer, as opposed to the "under $200,000" group as a whole. But it's a promising potential wriggle-hole. ...

Update: Only kf gives you Walter Shapiro's esprit de l'escalier today! Walter Shapiro emails with a key point:

What I didn't say (mostly because I was writing in a hotel room in
Florida worrying about catching planes, etc.) is that after this pledge, the real debate in a Kerry White House would be between abandoning any domestic spending agenda ... (the only way to make any progress on the defict given Kerry's tax strait-jacket) and abandoning [the] fig leaf of being better than the Republicans on fiscal sanity. [Emphasis added]

11:54 A.M.

Kausfiles, Island of Calm ... Andrew Sullivan's a friend of mine, but he's too excitable! He was too quick to urge the U.S. to go to war with Iraq and too quick to declare that the war he'd urged on us was heading for disaster. Now he's too quick ("Kerry's Momentum: Can Bush Stop It?")  to see a big Kerry win:

Presidential campaigns have issues; and they have candidates; and they have polls. But they also have something intangible called momentum. And that's what John Kerry has right now.

In the eight days since the first debate, you can feel the Democrat slowly gaining what the first president Bush called the "Big Mo."

I agree Kerry did well in both debates. I agree the Bremer admission on troop strength was damaging. I hope Kerry wins. I just don't see the supposed Big New Mo for Kerry showing up in actual polls. Take this one, for instance. It would seem to be going in the wrong direction. I fear Sullivan's British readers have been misinformed. 11:14 P.M.

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