The president was an embarrassment in his major/minor speech, for which the administration totally botched the PR. The first rule here is "Don't hype a same-old speech as a big deal." Second rule: "Never try to un-hype it when you figure out that you screwed up." The third rule is debatable, but I'd go for "Make sure the president can pronounce the name of the prison where soldiers were beating the POWs"; Helps to make him look, you know, up to speed.
My wife, who is leaning Kerry at this point, and I talked the other day about the election (in our standard 5 weekly minutes of adult conversation) and I gave her the "why Bush?" list: social security reform, vouchers, taxes. But I realize that the first two remain a pipe dream when all of his political capital is spent on the sands between the Tigris and Euphrates; the third is his big strength, but he's already cut taxes. Where does he go from here? Naturally, to tax reform: a flat tax, burning the tax code, consumption tax . . . something. But a big plan, again, requires big political capital.
On the war, being even more hawkish than the neo-cons, I find Bush and Kerry roughly equal. True, Kerry's position is one he pretty much backed into, but the political will won't be there for him to change direction quickly.
Like a lot of fiscal conservatives, I held out for a long time believing that, although I disagree with the GOP on social issues, it was the more vital party for libertarians: it was less splintered and corrupted by competing special interests; it was now the party of Reagan, not Nixon; it had become, ironically, the party of free speech. No more.
Bush is a liberal, like his father was, like Nixon became. Reagan, I think, never gave a crap what the NYT editorial board thought of him. Bush does, and has embraced the politics of gesture for that reason. Bush wants to win votes by making himself palatable to 51% of the voting demographic. Reagan, instead, led, and the country followed. I didn't entirely agree with Reagan, either, but he was the most radical president of the second half of the 20th century. Not long ago, there was talk that the Dems might go the road of the Whigs. At the time I admitted the possibility, though I was careful to note that it wasn't necessarily a boon for the GOP. But now I think we may have rhetorically prepared the casket for the wrong party.