Conservatives have increasing difficulty backing Bush

President George W. Bush appears to be losing support from those who would traditionally vote Republican in the Nov. 2 election. Challenger Sen. John Kerry hopes he can scrape up enough leftovers to put him in the Oval Office.

Sunday, the largely conservative Tampa Tribune published an editorial with the headline, “Why We Cannot Endorse President Bush for Re-Election.” With the same ink, editorial writers quickly said they can not endorse Kerry either, citing his “undistinguished Senate record.”

Every Republican presidential candidate since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 has won the Tribune’s support, with the exception of the 1964 election when the paper chose not to recommend a candidate. Now, 40 years later, the conservative voices in this two-newspaper town would find themselves unable to sleep at night if they told their readers to vote for either Bush or Kerry. What is this election coming to when it has the power to break tradition?

Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that former Michigan governor William Milliken, “a moderate Republican,” also doesn’t think Bush deserves another four years. Milliken, however, did throw his support behind Kerry, according to the Post.

With only days left until the showdown at the polls, Florida newspapers have begun to weigh in on their opinions about who they think should be the next commander in chief. the St. Petersburg Times: Kerry; the Miami Herald: Kerry; the Palm Beach Post: Kerry; the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Kerry. Nationally, two of the biggest newspaper voices — the New York Times and the Boston Globe — also spoke up. What did they say? Kerry and, yes, Kerry.

That’s not to say that all of mainstream newspaper media is liberal. The president has gotten endorsements from the Indianapolis Star, the Arizona Republic and the Dallas Morning News, according to a recent assessment by the St. Petersburg Times.

Luckily for the president, no one ever said that endorsements win elections. Getting the votes wins the election. Or recounting votes, as was the case in 2000.

Take a look at numbers from some recent national polls of likely voters, as reported by the Associated Press. In the race for president, Gallup found both Bush and Kerry had 49 percent of the support from respondents. The Zogby poll showed Bush with 46 percent to Kerry’s 45 percent. A CBS-New York Times poll showed Bush ahead 48 percent to 47 percent.

Not even a margin of error could give either candidate pause to think he can lighten up on campaign efforts in any part of the nation. Any way you slice it and any poll you trust, this election is a dead heat. No doubt Florida’s 27 electoral votes are considered a golden ticket to the January inauguration.

So, what do you do if you really want to be president? If you’re Bush, you keep coming to Florida and promising seniors that you’ll make sure they get their flu shot this year. You encourage your wife, Laura, to keep making appearances on shows like Live with Regis and Kelly to talk about what a great marriage you have.

And if you’re Kerry, well, you’ve got a to-do list also. Attend a black church every Sunday morning and pray that the black congregation will make voting a priority next month. To make sure you cover enough ground, split up the list of black pulpits with running mate Sen. John Edwards. And speak French in public more, Sen. Kerry. You need to give the Haitians living in Florida a reason to love you.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief and works for the St. Petersburg Times as a reporter.