Conservative Urges Bush to 'Get the Ball Moving'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - One of America's leading conservatives Friday summed up George W. Bush's current prospects after slipping sharply in the polls: "We were 10-12 twelve points up, we're now three points down, it's the end of the third quarter, you gotta get back on offense," said William Bennett.

Bennett, while not criticizing the Bush campaign, admitted it has coasted - sat on its lead in the polls -- after what Bennett called a "brilliant lead-up" to the Republican National Convention.

"I still believe George Bush is going to win," Bennett said Friday in an interview on NBC's Today show. "He's a better man - a far better man. He's got a better and bolder plan. But, they have to step up, I think, on the issues -- draw the differences in a sharp way."

Bennett said there have been great opportunities for Bush in the last month, and as an example, the former U.S. Education Secretary pointed to something about which he knows a great deal - education.

"Had great opportunities here in the last month with these studies pointing out how school choice has helped children, particularly children from low-income environments. Bush's plan is a lot bolder. Gore cannot separate himself from the strings of the teachers' unions...the people who got us into this mess."

There are important differences to point out on prescription drugs as well, said Bennett. He said the Gore plan will lead to "Hillarycare" - big government, big spending, and price controls. "There are very good arguments to be made for the Bush proposal, but we've got to make them."

Bennett admitted the debate-over-the-debates gambit hasn't worked well for Bush, because people don't believe that Al Gore is unwilling to debate Bush.

That's something Bush seemed to concede Thursday afternoon, when he indicated he'll be more flexibile on the topic. "I am confident there will be debates," Bush said. "As to what they look like and where they are, it will be worked out in due course."

Bennett suggested that Bush go ahead and do the three ninety-minute debates organized by a presidential debate commission. But he said Bush should insist on a changed format, since "he's better in some formats than others." He said it's no surprise that Bush is unwilling to agree to a formal, traditional setting that favors Al Gore.

Bennett said he thinks Bush will impress and surprise people by his performance in the debates. "Gore can be very tedious and very slow. There's a tedious and slow man inside this new personality, and I think Bush will bring it out."

Bennett said the winner in November will be the guy who "carries a sustained offense, shows a plan that is better and bolder, and describes the differences in a real way."

"Get the ball moving," he said.