Pundit Central

Conventional Wisdom

Issue 1 is the aftermath of the Republican National Convention. Issue 2 is Al Gore’s vice-presidential short-list.

The pundits agree that the GOP convention was politically ingenious and well executed. And George W. Bush’s acceptance speech earns hosannas for its seriousness and lack of invective. (“It was perfection”–Al Hunt, CNN’s Capital Gang “masterful”–Bob Novak, CG; “excellent”–Tucker Carlson, CNN’s Late Edition.) Paul Gigot (PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer) notes that Bush’s personal approval rating is now a whopping 67 percent, which puts him in “maybe even a dominant” electoral position. George F. Will (ABC’s This Week) says that proof of the convention’s success is Gore’s response–i.e., “Don’t believe what you see”–which indicates that America liked what it saw. Many pundits attribute the convention’s success to its multicultural imagery and lack of partisan edge. (Al Hunt notes that the word “impeachment” was never used.) Mark Shields (CG, NH) attributes much of the convention’s success to Bush’s strong support among conservatives, which allowed him to focus on courting independents. In a similar vein, George Stephanopoulos (TW) opines that Bush’s convention strategy was not Clintonian–dart to the center to appeal to independents–but Nixonian–use centrist imagery while winking at the hard-core conservatives. Some dissenters include Mort Kondracke ( Fox News Sunday) and Mara Liasson (Fox), who think that the Republicans avoided serious policy talk because they know the Democrats’ positions are more popular. (For an index of Slate’s convention coverage, click here.)

Democratic running-mate speculation runs rampant. (Gore is expected to announce his pick Tuesday.) The three finalists are reputed to be Sens. John Kerry, Mass.; John Edwards, N.C.; and Joseph Lieberman, Conn. Pundits are surprised at Gore’s consideration of Edwards, a talented freshman legislator who until two years ago was a tort lawyer. Most talking heads think Edwards would be a mistake–his inexperience would defuse similar Democratic charges against Bush, and his sudden prominence would attract a Dan Quayle-like media onslaught. The pundits split on Kerry. Many, like Steve Roberts (LE) and Brit Hume (Fox), think Kerry would remind voters of old-school Massachusetts liberalism à la Ted Kennedy and Michael Dukakis. Moreover, the Democrats would lose Kerry’s Senate seat. But several note that Kerry’s Vietnam War record and legislative experience would be assets. And Scott Reed (CG) notes that Kerry is very popular among women voters, whom Gore desperately needs to court. Most pundits–including Steve Roberts, Tucker Carlson, Mark Shields, and Paul Gigot–think Lieberman would be the smart pick. Pros: He’s religious, a moderate, and a critic of President Clinton’s adultery. Cons: He’s an Orthodox Jew, insufficiently liberal, and would remind voters of Clinton’s adultery. Other names bandied about: retiring Sen. Bob Kerrey, Neb.–like Edwards a charismatic man and a dark horse, like Lieberman a Clinton critic, and like Kerry a war hero. Also Rep. Dick Gephardt, Mo.–morally upright like Lieberman, but popular among the Democratic base and not Jewish.

In other VP news, Pat Buchanan admits on TW that his low poll ratings have made it hard for him to recruit running mates for his Reform Party ticket.

Last Word

TIM RUSSERT: Who would you rather have a beer with, George Bush or Al Gore?

GOV. JESSE VENTURA, I-MINN.: Both of them, so I could knock both their heads together. (NBC’s Meet the Press)