FOREIGN vs. DOMESTIC….Here’s a funny thing: my guess is that Kerry is generally stronger than Bush when the debate questions focus on foreign policy, but more vulnerable when the subject is domestic policy.
I know this doesn’t jibe with the conventional wisdom, but after listening to two debates it strikes me that both men are strongest when they have a record to attack. In the case of the war, Kerry gets to bang on Bush’s record, and there’s a lot to bang on. In the case of domestic issues, Bush gets to bang on Kerry’s record, and it’s not hard to find specific votes or alleged flip-flops to attack in a 20-year Senate voting record.
As a sort of tiebreaker, though, my guess is that Kerry comes out ahead again on social issues. This is an area where it’s awfully hard to divorce your own views from your judgment of how the candidates did, but even so I think that Kerry has the better of it here. Generally speaking, I think a majority of Americans prefer a nuanced, tolerant approach to social issues and are turned off by Bush’s “simple answers.” What’s more, a majority of Americans probably agree with Kerry on the substance of most social issues.
What all this means is that debate #3 on domestic issues could turn out to be trouble for Kerry. Bush didn’t take advantage of Kerry’s record as much as he could have tonight, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he cranks it up a notch next week.