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Election 2004 and the Republican convention

Maria, Baltimore: Why didn't Bush have his convention in Houston? New Yorkis heavily Democratic. How much money is the government giving to New York for all the security? New Yorkers are still hurting economically from [the] 9/11 [attacks] and their taxes will probably go up to cover those security expenses.

Greene: Hi, Maria. The GOP chose New York at a time when the president'spopularity was high, and the Iraq war had not angered a large part of thecountry. I think the party thought having the event here could evokememories of 9/11 in a sensitive way, harkening back to Bush's handling of thecrisis. The party is clearly trying to evoke memories this week, but withBush's poll numbers much lower and the nation polarized, the party isseeing the effect of being in a Democratic city -- large protests. Houstonmay have been a good choice, but the party (and Bush's father) just hadtheir gala there in 1992. Thanks for your question!

Bob, Sudlersville: Why is Kerry so afraid to divulge his military record? How many horrible things and lies is he concealing?

Greene: Hello, Bob. Thanks for writing in. It is not clear why both Kerryand Bush have decided to withhold some details of their military record.Kerry has not fully disclosed his record in Vietnam. The president has notdivulged the full story of his time in the National Guard. As reporters, weare trying to dig into the records as best we can. We believe our readersare best served, and voters can best make their decision, with a completepicture of the lives and records of the candidates. Thanks again, Bob.

Tom, Marion, Ill.: If Bush wins, will he bring back the draft? If so, we need to talk about it now!

Greene: Hi, Tom. The president and Pentagon oppose a draft, and theSelective Service System has said unequivocally that no draft is imminent.That said, the president is under pressure from Democrats, who say themilitary is overstretched and needs to be supplemented. Democrats have alsoaccused the president of allowing a "back-door" draft by requiring somemembers of the military to extend their service if called to Iraq orAfghanistan. Republicans have said calling Bush's order a "back-door" draftis unfair. Thanks for writing.

Baltimoresun.com reader: I realize that all voters are equal -- albeit from the neck down -- but do you believe that the famous silent majority of Americans will stickwith the incumbent?

Greene: Thanks for writing. I stay out of the business of prediction.Just look at the last few weeks. Kerry saw a surge in the polls and, as of afew weeks ago, pundits were calling him the front-runner. But right now,Bush is moving up in some polls in key swing states, and pundits havejumped on his bandwagon. The only predictions I'll make: There will be plentymore swings in both directions, and the election will be close. Thanks!

Jamie Kendrick, Baltimore: Why is the media so simplistic as to report mainly on national polls of the presidential race? For example, if Bush and Kerry were tied at 48 [percent], that could mean that Bush was winning 100 percent of the vote in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, etc., but be down in the battleground states. When will the media focus on this being 50 separate elections?

Greene: Hello, Jamie. Thanks for the good question. This is one of thechallenges we face. We believe readers are interested in the horse race --where the candidates stand against one another nationwide. And nationalpolls have always proved a fairly reliable predictor of who wins the Electoral College. In other words, if a candidate is 10 points ahead in anational poll, the candidate is almost sure to win. If the candidates aretied, 48-48, chances are the race will be close in battleground states, andin the election.

But you raise a very good point. In a race as close asthis one, one candidate could be three or four points ahead in a nationalpoll, but if he is performing poorly in a handful of battleground states,he could lose in the Electoral College. That is why we are striving to givereaders the full picture. And you should count on us all this fall to keepreaders informed of where the battleground states are, and how Bush andKerry are doing in each one. Thanks for raising a really good point.

David Guadagno, Syracuse, N.Y.: How many "girlie men" are in America? Because a lot of working people don't think the economy is good.

Greene: Hi, David. Arnold's "girlie men" line really brought the house down in a purely Republican crowd. But you are right -- it may not have sat well withsome working people around the country, especially in manufacturing states,where the economy is seen as still lagging. How voters view the economywill go a long way in predicting the outcome of the election.

In 1992, the economy was improving by the fall, but voters still perceived it asstruggling, and Bush's father lost to Bill Clinton. At the moment, pollsshow an increasing number of Americans are for the first time in monthssaying Bush is doing a better job than Kerry would on the economy. Butthere is a lot of time left before the election. And perceptions of theeconomy will be most important in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, wherethe manufacturing sector has struggled. Thanks for the question!

Andy Garte, Shady Side: Why does the Bush campaign keep bundling the war in Iraq with the war on terror, and why does the media so often follow along? [The] 9/11 attacks [were] orchestrated out of Afghanistan by Saudis, and Iraq had nothing to do with any of it.

Greene: Hi, Andy. Bush has long described Iraq as a central front in thewar on terror. A debate over whether that is a fair assessment is certainlyworth having. As for the media, we at The Sun have actually written aboutthe issue before -- how Bush co-mingles the two (fairly or unfairly), andhow many voters who listen to Bush believe Saddam Hussein was involved inSept. 11, even though there is no clear evidence of that. Thanks for a goodquestion.

Baltimoresun.com staff: There was a perception that John Kerry didn't receive much of the usual "bump" in poll ratings after the Democratic National Convention. Do you expect President Bush to fare better or worse after his speech Thursday night?

Greene: At the moment, Bush seems to be rising a bit in the polls evenbefore his speech Thursday. I would expect Bush, therefore, to get a bumpafter his Thursday speech. But convention bumps can be short-lived. It willbe interesting to see where the polls are a few weeks after Labor Day, andwhether the convention propels him into being the clear front-runner.Conventional wisdom is that won't happen, and the election will still beincredibly tight.

Matt Shane, Sarasota, Fla. I heard both Matt Lauer's interview [on NBC] and the live interview with Rush [Limbaugh]. Why do you select the word "backpedal" for your headline regarding the issue [over whether the United States and its allies can win the war on terrorism]?

Greene: Thanks for the question, Matt. I actually do not write ourheadlines. We have editors in Baltimore who do a very good job writing theheadlines for our stories. In this case, I think "backpedal" accuratelydescribed what Bush did [Tuesday]. After saying that he does not think thewar on terror can be won, he gave a speech in Nashville, Tenn., in which he saidseveral times that the war can be won.

In terms of his message about the war, Bush has been consistent. He has said all along that the war will be long, the enemy untraditional, and the conflict will not end with a treaty-signing or official truce. But in terms of his chosen words, Bushsaid himself that he should have been more articulate than he was in theLauer interview and should not have chosen that language. Coming back to bemore articulate and explain his message on the war seems to amount tobackpedaling from the words he chose in the interview broadcast the daybefore. Your question is very fair and very good, and its worth debating.Thanks for writing in.

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