Columns » Bob McCord

Bush targets churches


"100,000 swarm/ streets of NYC/ denounce Bush" said the front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in big type Monday morning. That sort of confirms what the pundits and the Wall Street Journal have been saying about the president's new strategy to win a second term. His handlers have convinced him to concentrate on evangelicals because while his opposition to gay marriages irritates many people, it pleases many conservative church people. Bush's aides say that there were at least 5 million white, conservative church-goers who didn't bother to vote in 2000, and they are the ones they are going after. The concentration is on churches in large surburban areas, which are being asked for membership lists. Some of these churches have agreed to have voter registration tables in the buildings every Sunday. Findings of the Bush campaign are very interesting. For example, you would think that older voters would support the president because of his Medicare prescription law that is supposed to reduce the cost of medicine. But the polls show that more than half of the elderly are confused by the law and don't like it. Most Hispanic voters are Democrats, and their numbers have increased in the last four years. Blacks and other nonwhite voters are sure to vote for Democrat John Kerry just as they voted for Al Gore in 2000. We forget that Gore actually got 500,000 more votes than Bush, and Bush's advisers have told him that he will lose this time if he doesn't attract new voters. Young people were the greatest supporters of the Iraqi war in the beginning, but polls show that their attitude has changed drastically. Republicans always have a hard time approaching young people, and, of course, they are the most likely citizens not to bother to vote. Fifty-four percent of married women voted for Bush in 2000 while 60 percent of the unmarried women voted for Gore. The reason? Married women – especially those with children – seem to approve of Bush's fight against terrorism, according to USA Today. Unmarried women are younger and have far less income than married women and , therefore, are more concerned about the government helping their bread and butter. Now the Journal says that Bush's aides believe that if the voters go the same way this November as they did in 2000, Kerry would beat Bush by 3 million votes. So the standard strategy of just focusing on undecided swing voters simply won't work. Therefore, the Bush campaign is to persuade every conservative churchgoer to vote for him.. And why shouldn't they? In July, the President told a group of 60 Amish people in Pennsylvania, "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job." + + + Last week reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that 8,000 jobs in Arkansas disappeared between March 2001 and June 2004. Of course, this didn't look really bad compared to 219,000 lost in Ohio and 213,000 in Michigan. The better off states are Florida that got 260,000 new jobs, Nevada 74,000, Arizona 64,000, etc. The Census Bureau says 16 percent of the people in Arkansas live in poverty. Only nine other states have more people in poverty, including four neighbors -- Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma . Median household income in the nation in 2003 was $43,318. In Arkansas it was $34,246, lower than any states except Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia. Why? Well, the recession has something to do with it. Also, more work can be done with fewer people in this electronic age, and then there's the fact that many ordinary products are being made in other countries for much less money. Today, employers have to be looking for brighter employees. That means our schools have to be better. This year Arkansas high school seniors scored 20.3 out of a possible 36 in the ACT college-entrance test. It's only one-tenth higher than last year, which is the same increase of the national average, although that score went from 20.8 to 20.9 in a year. Anyway, our kids did score one-tenth better than what Texas kids could do. At long last the judges, our governor and legislators have realized that Arkansans need to be better educated. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the public school system was so bad it was unconstitutional. Governor Huckabee was then able to consolidate some of the smaller, isolated small schools, giving more kids better courses and teachers. The legislature then passed laws that will give the state a $2.7 billion public school system, something that no one would have expected for the state of Arkansas. One of these changes is the Arkansas Better Chance for School Success, a preschool system approved and financed with $40 million by the legislature. So 80 percent of Arkansas public schools will soon have 3- and 4 year-olds going to school. Experts say that preschool teaching will give youngsters, no matter what kind of home they live in, a chance and an appreciation for learning. That's the one thing that will eventually improve Arkansas and all its people.

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