Vanderbilt political experts 2004 presidential race to be intensely negative

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Vanderbilt University political scientist who is writing a book about political attack ads predicts the 2004 presidential campaign will be the nastiest in 45 years. John Geer has been analyzing television ads in all the presidential races from 1960 through 2000. "I would expect to see a lot of blood on the floor in the 2004 presidential contest," said Geer, who writes and teaches about campaigns, public opinion and the presidency. "The political parties are increasingly polarized; Democrats know that if they are going to recapture the White House, they will have to raise doubts about President Bush’s actions in Iraq and also the economy." Geer said that Howard Dean’s early attack ads against President Bush has put the incumbent in a more difficult position than President Clinton experienced when he ran for re-election. "In 1995, Clinton had the luxury of running a series of positive ads touting his record on crime, health care and other issues long before the nomination process even began," Geer said. "The Bush people have not been able to do this, and if they respond to attack ads during the primary process, it makes an incumbent president seem unable to stay out of the political fray." Geer has reviewed and analyzed most of the television campaign ads from the 2000 general election for president. "Both sides had solid issue ads – nothing especially memorable – but ads that communicated the candidates’ key messages." Geer expects a sharp increase in attack ads in 2004, no matter who is the Democratic presidential nominee, as both parties are changing their voter turnout strategy from the middle to the party’s base or core constituency. Editor’s note: Geer, who is teaching a course on the American presidency, can be reached at (615) 343-5746 or by email: Media Contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, (615) 322-NEWS

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