White House correspondent David Sanger speaks about campaign politics

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(Host) The presidential election may hinge on how well Senator John Kerry can explain his position on the war in Iraq in the next eighty days.

That’s according to New York Times White House Correspondent David Sanger. Sanger fielded questions at the Weston playhouse last night.

Sanger said the reasons behind Kerry’s recent affirmation of his vote on the invasion were bound to get lost at this late stage of the race.

( Sanger) “And the president immediately the next day said, “See? My opponent has just explained that he too would have gone into Iraq as I did!” – which is a little bit different from the authorization issue. But we’re in that awful moment in campaigns where if you can’t fit it into a fairly short sound bite, it’s very easy to make two positions either sound diametrically opposed or exactly the same. The Kerry campaign hasn’t quite figured this out yet.”

(Host)But Sanger said Kerry’s nuanced response may also reflect a schism in his own party. He said Kerry needs the energy and activism of antiwar Democrats brought out by the Dean campaign.

But he also needs to show the mainstream that he can be a tough-minded leader.

(Sanger) “That in other words, electing a Democrat – not considered the party of national security – in very tense times when you have troops overseas, when you have these terror threats, does not put the country in jeopardy. And it’s their calculation that the swing voters -those folks are right on the edge – they’re not quite sure, they know that they are nervous about switching horses. And so to take a very anti-war viewpoint might alienate them and kill off the election. And I think this argument plays out as the subtext every day in the Kerry campaign.”

(Host) Sanger says the polls show public opinion about the war has varied dramatically with events at any given moment.

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