Want an idea of how this year's presidential election may play out? Look no further than 2004.
New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait says the parallels between this year's contest and the Bush vs. Kerry election of 8 years ago are eerily similar, but only in reverse. This time around the Republican is the flip-flopper while the Democrat is the incumbent with less-than-impressive approval ratings.
Other similarities, only in reverse?
Air Force One. At the moment, Republicans are raging at President Obama for having made a series of official speeches, at government expense, that also dovetail with his campaign themes. The Washington Free Beacon finds this so outrageous it actually quotes Solzhenitsyn — at length! — to denounce the “lies.” And certainly Obama has been engaging in some pretense here. Conservatives were distinctly less outraged in 2004, when USA Todayreported that Bush was “using Air Force One for re-election travel more heavily than any predecessor.”
Flip-flopping. How important a character flaw is flip-flopping? Just about the most important thing in the world, said everybody in the Republican Party in 2004. It was so vital, Bush insisted in 2004, it was better to vote for a candidate you don’t agree with than to vote for one who has changed his mind on something. (“Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand.”) Even Mitt Romney gave a speech ridiculing John Kerry as a flip-flopper. Now, it’s not such a bad quality, after all, to have the ability to admit when you’re wrong.
Negativity. The challenger thinks it’s a devastating admission of failure that the incumbent has to tear down his challenger rather than run a positive campaign. Amazingly, Karl Rove, who defined this tactic in 2004, now weeps bitter tears almost every week over Obama’s meanness.
Politicizing foreign policy. In 2004, Democrats were furious that Bush used the 9/11 attacks as a political asset. Now, Republicans are indignant that Obama is running on having killed Osama bin Laden. (Of course, the difference is that 9/11 was at best something Bush had no responsibility for and at worst a colossal blunder, while killing bin Laden is an actual accomplishment.)