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Inside Politics

Feel lucky? Google IPO could be boon for Bush
A successful Google IPO could give Bush a boost in California and the polls.
Watch Carlos Watson Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CNN's Paula Zahn Now and on Fridays at 5 p.m. ET on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports.
John F. Kerry
George W. Bush
Arlen Specter
Carlos Watson

This week in "The Inside Edge," how the Google IPO may be just the economic break Bush has been searching for; how Dick Cheney is helping Ralph Nader and why Sen. Arlen Specter's close call this week should scare moderate Republicans.

I also explain why John Kerry is tangled in ribbons and how a former Republican could cut him loose.

Google's ripple effect

It may sound strange, but a company in the bluest of blue states may play a big role in helping to return President Bush to office this fall.

Google, the highly successful Internet company in California, is planning an initial public offering (IPO) of its shares on the stock market soon. If successful, Google is expected to raise billions of dollars and make its founders, officers and investors Internet-boom rich.

From a political perspective, a successful Google IPO is likely to signal the return to prosperity for the Silicon Valley after four hard years of recession.

And the revival of the Silicon Valley would likely lead to a resurgence in the California economy as a whole.

For President Bush, greater job growth and consumer confidence in the nation's most populous state (where the unemployment numbers have been worse than national averages) could transform national employment rates and form an optimistic consensus around his argument that the economy is strong and growing.

So while much attention is being focused on the April job growth report, this spring keep your political eye on Google's IPO.

Cheney's case

Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in reviewing Vice President Cheney's secret energy task force, the result may be the re-energized presidential candidacy of Ralph Nader. Win or lose, the secret energy task force is likely to provide a ripe target for Nader to raise one of his most effective issues -- corporate corruption of the political system.

On the one hand, if the court forces Cheney to reveal whom he met with to decide energy policy, Nader may have evidence of a conspiracy so notorious (Enron, Halliburton, etc), that it makes even the most ardent defenders of the Bush administration blush.

If the court does not force Cheney to reveal who was involved and whether their involvement helped drive up gas prices and lead to electricity blackouts, then Nader may sound an even louder drumbeat of coverup.

In either case, Nader's political ads and speeches are likely to find great fodder this spring and the issue may be just what he needs to get more voters to pay him close attention.

Toomey's specter

While Rep. Pat Toomey was not able to unseat the more moderate Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania's senatorial primary race, his campaign was a boost for the the anti-tax Club for Growth, who helped fund his campaign, and for President Bush, who supported Specter in the race.

With Toomey's near win (he lost by only two percentage points) the Club for Growth has fired a powerful shot across the bow of all moderate Republicans from Maine's Olympia Snowe to Ohio's George Voinovich and the organization is now poised to become perhaps the most powerful conservative interest group in the country, rivaling the status that the Christian Coalition once held in the earlier '90s.

Although they backed Specter, the president's team is likely to be secretly happy that the moderate Republican got such a scare. Indeed, as the president pushes for permanent tax cuts and other more conservative policies, he is likely to get less opposition from moderate Republicans who may now fear not just the president, but future conservative primary challenges as well.

If President Bush is re-elected this fall and the Senate is again closely divided (currently it is essentially 51-49 Republican-Democrat), a Specter-inspired increase in Republican presidential loyalty, may lead to trillions of dollars in new tax cuts. And people may one day rightfully say that Specter's primary win on behalf of moderate Republicanism was a hollow victory at best.

Kerry's ribbons

The current controversy over John Kerry's ribbons is a perfect example of his struggles and opportunities as a communicator. On the one hand, Kerry's war hero biography -- Yale graduate who goes on to win three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star -- is a political consultant's dream. As I wrote last week, the recent dust-up over his political medals should have come as political manna from heaven for Kerry, especially in a race against someone who did not even serve in Vietnam.

But instead of using the medal controversy to warmly recount compelling stories of his heroism -- like how he helped save a dying fellow soldier as a young, wounded officer -- Kerry has somehow managed to get lost in an argument over details, important details, but details nevertheless.

Kerry's inability to better sell himself and his story is only part of the problem. His choice of media is a bit off as well. In 1992, when Bill Clinton wanted to send a personal message to voters and provide them with a sense that he was different than his competitor, he went on the late night show Arsenio Hall and played the sax. The appearance helped cement an image of him as young and personable --- as a real person.

Likewise, instead of answering questions from ABC's Charlie Gibson on increasingly hard-charging morning shows or NBC's Tim Russert on cable news political programs, Kerry (and his wife) should be sharing his story with popular hosts like Regis and Kelly, Oprah, Ellen and Jay.

Besides the fact that they often have a bigger audience than the cable news shows, these shows are more personal and designed to get to know an interviewee instead of having a political argument.

Last fall, Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrated in his unusual and successful campaign for governor that these popular talk shows are the perfect forums for bypassing detail arguments and allowing your audience to see a warmer picture of you.

Perhaps Kerry will learn from the Terminator and President Clinton, or perhaps not. Either way, the next time you watch Kerry handling a question, ask not only whether he's saying the right thing in the right way, but whether he's saying it to the right person on the right show. The second question may be more important to his electoral chances than the first .

Former first lady not first choice

It is ironic that perhaps no potential vice-presidential nominee would electrify the Democratic Party's base -- or the entire race for that matter -- as much as the selection of a former Republican and former Goldwater girl, Hillary Rodham Clinton. For all the criticism that she has received over the years, the junior senator from New York still has a rock star quality within Democratic circles that is only surpassed by her husband.

For John Kerry, the Shakespearean question would be: "To have or to have not?" Indeed, while she could electrify the base and bring enormous political and policy acumen, conventional wisdom says that Sen. Clinton would also rile up Republicans. Or so I thought until a recent "American Pulse" conversation with voters in Miami in which Republicans as well as Democrats named her a political favorite. Like a lot of conventional wisdom, the belief that she is a polarizing figure sure to sink the Democrats may be right, and it may be wrong.

Even if Republicans would vote for Clinton, the reality is that John Kerry would have to be comfortable with her as his number two. She would likely be the bigger draw, naturally outshining him without even trying. Like Bob Dole in 1996 who swallowed his pride and chose the more charismatic Jack Kemp only out of desperation, Kerry will likely only reach out to Clinton if by July he is down by 10-15 points and sinking, and detailed polling says she could help him increase Democratic turnout and win crossover Republican female votes.

Significantly, even if Kerry does ask her, there is no guarantee that she will accept. She has already said she is not interested. And while such early answers can sometimes be changed, a shrewd Sen. Clinton may decide that in such a situation, stepping onto such a "sinking ship" may not only not lead to the vice presidency in 2004, but may taint her own presidential chances in 2008.

So do I expect Clinton to be on the ticket? No, but she is the Hail Mary, or shall I say Hail Hillary, option.

Next week, I'll tell you about a former entrepreneur who is quickly becoming a leading candidate.

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