Thursday, October 14, 2004
* Post Debate Roundup

We lost the post-debate spin for the third debate. Let's admit it. Mary Cheney has been the main story today.

Oh well. Let's put this in perspective. Kerry won all three debates outright. Not only that, he won the post-debate spin for the first two debates, not a small feat given the corporate media bias that generally favors Bush. You gotta give the Kerry campaign credit. You can't expect to win everything, and losing one post-debate spin cycle is far from the end of the world.

Even in perspective, though, losing today's news cycle was pretty bad. Based on his debate performance, Kerry had seemingly assured himself of headlines like "Kerry Prevails in Debates.". Instead, he's getting Kerry Lesbian Remark Angers Cheneys.

Was it worth it? Because let's also admit that it was not an accident. This was a strategic choice. In fact, it was so intentional that John Edwards even sent up a trial balloon up in the VP debate.
Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.
This remark won more points for Cheney than it did for Edwards. Although Cheney was polite and the Republicans didn't go into attack mode, Edwards did get some bad press, including, for example:
I got the heebie jeebies when he smarmily praised Cheney for having a gay daughter. Why was that Edwards' business (if he didn't have the guts to then accuse Cheney of abandoning his own child)?.
So the Kerry campaign knew that people were watching this closely. Moreover, they had to know that they couldn't go around continuously mentioning Mary Cheney's lesbianism without getting some sort of reaction from the Administration. So why did they risk the "outrage" attack from the Cheneys?

Here's my theory: the Kerry campaign is probably seeing some numbers that show damage from the gay marriage issue. There are surely a large number of fiscally conservative blue collar white men who are opposed to the Iraq war and Bush's misuse of 911, but can't quite bring themselves to vote for a candidate like Kerry who is ok with gay marriage. Kerry is losing these votes, but what can he do to win them back? He can't very well go around saying "vote for me anyway, lesbianism really isn't that big of a deal".

But wait. Kerry (and Edwards) have now forced the word "lesbian" into acceptable (and even mandatory) fodder for water cooler discussion. For the next day or two, people are going to be talking about Mary Cheney, Dick Cheney, John Kerry, and lesbianism. A big part of these discussions will concern whether Kerry was acting politically in tarnishing Mary Cheney. The right will push this hard. The main refrain is going to be Dick Cheney's line: "You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected".

Meanwhile, the discussions will go on and suddenly lesbianism isn't going to seem all that bad, is it. "Poor Mary Cheney" they'll say. "Dragged around for politics." "She doesn't deserve that." "Lesbians are people too." And suddenly John Kerry's position on gay marriage doesn't seem so bad, does it? "Fine" they'll say, "maybe Kerry shouldn't be playing so dirty, but Bush is even worse. Why are even thinking about voting for Bush anyway".

Anyway, hopefully this is the thinking out of the Kerry camp. Because if it was an accident, they threw away a key day of post debate spin and hurt themselves in the process.
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