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The Candidates:
• George W. Bush
• John Kerry
• Ralph Nader
• Third Parties
Showdown States:
The Conventions:

How would you rate the Bush team on convention preps?
CNN analysts offer their assessments.

Speakers Evening themes Logistics OVERALL

Paul Begala
Political analyst
F D I* D

Tucker Carlson
Political analyst

Bill Schneider
Senior Political Analyst
B+ B D B

Carlos Watson
Political analyst
A-/B+ B A- B+
NOTE: *Incomplete

Paul Begala
They're trying to put a moderate face on an ultra-right-wing party. If the Republicans were honest, they'd have Jerry Falwell and Ken Lay speak, because their party is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the kook right and corporate crooks. Instead we're getting McCain and Giuliani and Schwarzenegger -- all of whom are more liberal than Bush. It's the greatest example of right-wing cross-dressing since J. Edgar Hoover hung up his brassiere.

The evening themes are a bit Orwellian. But for a party led by George W. "No-Show" Bush and Dick "Five Deferments" Cheney to have themes about "the courage of a nation" takes a lot of chutzpah.

Overall, they've got to do better than trash Kerry and pretend they're moderates. How about an agenda for the next four years? A plan to balance the budget? A plan to control health care costs? A plan to make America energy independent? A plan to win in Iraq?

Tucker Carlson
The speakers do not represent the mainstream of the Republican Party which is not secular, not coastal and pretty conservative. Same with the themes. The Republicans will have a disciplined convention. Both parties do. There’s not much chaos left in political conventions, and that’s a shame. The Republicans are going to make the point that they’re not scary, that they’re in control of the country. They’re going to keep the evangelicals under wraps; I guess it’s effective. It offends me. I think they ought to say what they really think. I think both parties should.

Bill Schneider
It was a nutty idea to have this thing in New York in the first place, it being a Democratic city, not to mention the security ... The Republicans are trying to do what the Democrats did in building a false front ... in their case, as a conservative party with a line-up of moderates in prime time. That's shrewd politically, if a little strange.

Carlos Watson
The president is a much better speaker than he is given credit for. Laura Bush's speech should be worth noting. Giuliani, Pataki and McCain may not only be helping the president but giving speeches that support their own future presidential aspiration.

The themes are pretty straightforward. Of course, terrorism and national security are important issues -- two of the three most important according to voters. Things seem well prepared. But the logistics rating may get damaged if protests get out of control.

The president has done well in the weeks leading up to the convention, preventing John Kerry from getting a big bounce post-convention and inching up slightly in some polls. Still, recent incumbent presidents who won in the fall have been up by 10 points or more in late August (e.g. Nixon, Reagan, Clinton) and currently the president is essentially tied with Kerry. So the convention is an important opportunity for the president to gain some clear momentum -- by weakening perceptions of Kerry on terrorism, strengthening perceptions of himself on the economy and Iraq, and offering a compelling agenda for a second term.

• September 2: How would you rate President Bush's speech?
• September 1: How would you rate Vice President Dick Cheney's speech?
• August 31: After the first two days, how would you rate the tone and themes of the convention?
• August 30: How would you rate New York as a venue?
• August 27: How would you rate the Bush team on convention preps?
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