September 15, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning


COLLINS: I’m great. And Cliff May, former RNC Communications Director now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy. Cliff, good morning to you as well.

CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Good morning, Heidi, good morning Vic.

COLLINS: You know we’ve been looking at these battleground states and the polls there very, very closely here on AMERICAN MORNING. Right now, we can say that Kerry is ahead in Michigan by six or seven points or so. And Bush is ahead in Wisconsin by about eight points.

Cliff, what do you make of these newest polls? Do you think they’re going to stick?

MAY: Well, what you have right now is a situation in which I think Senator Kerry has got the harder hand to play. He is behind in the polls, not by a huge amount, but by a significant amount more than the margin of error, generally speaking.

That means he needs to do one of two things. He needs to either change the debate, move it to a place where he benefits. Or when it comes to the actual debates, when they actually face each other, he needs to do it very well, probably needs a knockout punch.

The dynamics need to change for Kerry to get back ahead.

COLLINS: It’s true, Vic, isn’t it, that the margin of error at least in the other polls that we’ve seen all along has been — made things even closer? It’s just showing more of a gap now.

KAMBER: Well, I think what you’re going to see is in the 10, 12, 15 states that are considered pivotal and marginal they’re still going to fluctuate up and down and they are within the margin of error.

The — where the gain for Bush has been and I don’t mean to minimize it, has been in states like — his own states like Texas, Utah — where he’s gained tremendously — and in states — Kerry states like California and New York where the lead has shrunk.

So, where Kerry was 17 points up in New York he’s down to 12 or where he was 15 points up in California he’s down to nine still leading. So, the — why Bush’s margins are as high as they are at this point, six, seven points speaks much more to the national picture but on a state by state basis you’re going to get just what you got today.

One state for Kerry, one state for Bush, and until the debates, until this campaign is fully engaged, frankly, I think it’s going to be close right up to the end.

COLLINS: So, you don’t think it’s anything different about Wisconsin then, which was won by Gore back in 2000 by 1 percentage point?

KAMBER: No, that’s what I’m saying is I don’t disagree with the poll that Bush is ahead there. All I’m saying is that I think three weeks ago Kerry was ahead or equal. I’m not sure I believe that that number won’t change.

I think three weeks ago there — the Bush people were claiming that they could win Michigan. I think they were within one point either up or down. I think Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, West Virginia — all those what I call marginal states where the pivotal states you’re going to see the kind of fluctuations that we’re seeing. We’re not going to see them in California, New York, Texas, Utah. I think those states are won or lost for the candidate of your choice.

COLLINS: All right, let’s talk now a little bit more about the National Guard service, an issue that is still out there. There is in fact a video that the Democrats are running on the DNC Web site that talks about — at least insinuates that the president did get help and did have some strings pulled in order to get him in to the National Guard during the Vietnam War of course.

It also includes a sound bite now from “60 Minutes” — the whole discussion of the candidates Vietnam War record has been problematic for John Kerry then why are the Democrats, Vic, keeping it alive?

KAMBER: Well, I think — one I give the credit to the Republicans for over the years having learned to use alternative media to make a threshold. This use of the Web site, use of this one issue when you’re in a very close race you’re looking to move very small margins of people.

Probably more people will watch this show today than will ever switch on the Web site and see that exact video or that thing whatever is going to be playing. But for those who do if you take the partisans on both sides aside you may move a few hundred people, a few thousand people and frankly if you take six, eight, ten issues like this and move people you have won the election. There is a credibility question about George Bush and the Republicans — Democrats are trying to exploit it.

COLLINS: Why run it, then?

MAY: I think it is a big mistake. I really do. I think for the Democrats to continue to harp on what George Bush may or may not have done in the National Guard years ago, particularly with the whole scandal over whether CBS was using forged documents, even to keep the attention on Kerry’s Vietnam service is just a terrible mistake.

They need to move on from that and move to other issues on which Kerry needs to be very clear and try to convince voters and I really think the Democrats and I’m not sure Vic disagrees with me here — are making a big mistake by harping on this over and over again.

KAMBER: And I’ve said to Cliff that the big picture there’s no question — it’s jobs, it’s the economy, it’s terrorism. But I’m saying on the marginal issues you need to keep hitting away.

MAY: This is not a marginal issue. They’re making this a big issue.

COLLINS: We’re going to have to leave it there, gentlemen. Cliff May and Victor Kamber. Thanks so much as always.

KAMBER: Thank you, Heidi.

MAY: Thank you Heidi.