RNC coverage: Polling expert advocates RNC focus on security and economy, not Kerry

NEW YORK: The RNC messaging should focus on homeland security and economy, avoiding attacks on the challenger, according to a political polling and research expert.

NEW YORK: The RNC messaging should focus on homeland security and economy, avoiding attacks on the challenger, according to a political polling and research expert.

Steve Lombardo, CEO and president of Lombardo Consulting Group, said President George W. Bush could make some crucial gains during the convention. Lombardo, who has provided polling and communications research for political candidates, is in New York City for meetings.

The firm, focused mostly on corporate-image public opinion and research, has been sending out an election monitor to clients and the media since March that analyzes public polls to find strengths and weaknesses for both candidates.

In this most recent monitor, the firm encapsulated the four major boons for Bush:

  • the Swift Boat challenges

  • Democratic candidate John Kerry's inability to create a post DNC-bounce

  • Bush's focus on cable ads targeting his strong base (and eschewing paid national media in the realization that he will get plenty of earned media throughout the campaign)

  • the fact that Bush's Iraq approval rating has risen.

    Bush still has some work cut out for him, as a recent National Annenberg Election Survey found half of respondents thought President Bush was behind the Swift Boat ads.

    Lombardo said that the newest of the Swift Boat ads, attacking Kerry for his post-Vietnam testimony, could have the hardest impact on the Democratic challenger.

    "The media is giving it a fair amount of credence and there's video [of the testimony]; that's harder for Kerry to explain," Lombardo said.

    With third parties carrying the anti-Kerry message and the Democrats defending their candidate, Bush and his team can focus on delivering a positive message highlighting his plans, Lombardo said.

    Lombardo expects that Bush and the Republican speakers will focus on security and the economy.

    "The public is only able to absorb two or three messages," Lombardo said. "People [need] to talk away with a sense that this president has a specific agenda to get back on track."

    The Democrats' focus on Kerry's service, biography, and his ability to be a strong leader in times of war was misplaced with a poor economy, Lombardo said. "It's amazing that the Democrats didn't seize more on the economy issue."

    It is possible, if Bush highlights how he can get the country's economy back on track, he could remind people that he was in office when it went off-track.

    Lombardo doesn't see this as problem, as the public already accepts the country's economy is poor. A recent Pew report found that only 34% of swing-state voters said they thought the economy was excellent or good.

    The media has pointed out that the speakers lined up for the convention have some stances contrary to the administration ideals. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is often cited for his pro-choice, pro-gay rights ideals. Current mayor Michael Bloomberg has been critical of the financial support the Bush administration has given the city for homeland security. But both will be speaking during the convention.

    "Talking heads have made note that some of the speakers aren't aligned with the president, but that's overridden by the fact that most people [in the public] pay little attention to the party platform," Lombardo said.

    In snippets of Giuliani's speech made available to the public, the focus is on anti-terrorism measures.

    "George W. Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is and he will remain consistent to the purpose of defeating it while working to make us ever safer at home," Giuliani is expected to say.

    "[Their inclusion] tells me that he wants different kinds of people speaking at this convention," Lombardo said. "At the beginning of this convention, all of the stars are aligning [for Bush]."

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