Polls show the president running even or slightly ahead of Senator John Kerry. But bad news is piling up like mounds of trash in a garbage strike, and that's never good for an incumbent.
The war in Iraq is a mind-numbing tragedy with no end in sight...Yesterday an American diplomat was killed in a mortar attack near the Baghdad airport...
American troops have fought valiantly, but cracks in their resolve are beginning to show. "This is Vietnam," said Daniel Planalp, a 21-year-old Marine corporal from San Diego who was quoted in yesterday's New York Times. "I don't even know why we're over here fighting."
Here at home the stock market has tanked, in part because of record-high oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average closed at its low for the year on Friday as world oil prices streaked ever higher. The cost of oil has jumped more than 75 percent in the past year. With the weather turning colder, the attention of homeowners - many of them voters - is being drawn to the price of home heating oil...
Republican campaign officials are worried about the dearth of good news. The flu vaccine shortage has led to price-gouging and long lines of sick and elderly patients, some of them on the verge of panic. Last week we learned that the index of leading economic indicators had moved lower in September, the fourth successive monthly decline, which could be an indication of a slowdown in economic growth.
"If you're asking me if there's a perfect storm of bad news occurring, the answer is no," said a G.O.P. campaign strategist, who asked not to be identified. "If you're asking if I'd like a little rosier scenario to be played out on the front pages and the nightly news, the answer of course would be yes."
Unable to counter the bad news with stories of major successes, the Bush campaign has turned almost exclusively to the so-called war against terror. The message in a nutshell: be very afraid.
And this is reflected in the polls, as Donkey Rising points out.
Although national polls have the race even, it's a blow-out for Kerry in battleground states.