Civil unions, military record key in tight November race

Tony Venhuizen

Tony Venhuizen

Over the last couple of weeks, John F. Kerry, the junior senator from Massachusetts, has emerged as the likely Democratic nominee for president. With the primary season already drawing to a close, the focus of political junkies now shifts to November. The November election presents several interesting questions. How will President Bush fare against Senator Kerry? Will the Republicans maintain control of the Congress? What will be the key issues?

The last question is the easiest to answer. Gay marriage and civil unions will clearly be a defining issue of this campaign; it will displace abortion as the key “social wedge” issue. The issue is impossible to avoid. The City of San Francisco has openly defied California state law by issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples. The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that the state must marry gay and lesbian couples. The State of Ohio has passed a tough new anti-gay marriage law. The issue seems to favor Republicans; a strong majority of Americans still oppose gay marriage. The Democrats will have difficulty distancing themselves from the issue. Massachusetts is the center of activity in the current debate, and they will nominate a Massachusetts senator at their Boston convention. The challenge for Democrats will be to convince voters that civil unions are a reasonable compromise. The challenge for Bush and the Republicans will be to use the issue to rally their conservative base without alienating more moderate voters.

Senator Kerry will try to take advantage of Bush’s record of military service to establish himself as the national security candidate. Kerry’s campaign will spend plenty of time talking about the lack of WMD’s in Iraq and the troubles in the Iraqi occupation. Bush’s campaign will concentrate on the improved security in the United States and the capture of Saddam Hussein. National security has always been a Republican issue, and though Kerry’s distinguished war record will be an advantage, I do not think the Democrats will make major gains in this area.

Bush has also positioned himself well in health care and education. Though the Medicare reform bill and No Child Left Behind are controversial, Bush can honestly say that he did something about both issues, which is more than most presidents can say.

The Democrats will try to use the economy as an issue, but with an improving economic situation, I do not think they will find great success.

How will the elections turn out? It’s way too early to know. The United States is truly a “50/50” nation, and I am sure the Bush-Kerry contest will be extremely close. The Republicans are poised to maintain and perhaps expand their control of Congress, however. The number of competitive races just seem to favor the GOP, and barring a massive collapse by the Bush campaign, I believe that the next president, be it Bush or Kerry, will be dealing with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

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