Byline: The Register-Guard
President Bush formally launched the 2004 presidential campaign last Friday by filing re-election papers with the Federal Elections Commission. That, plus the active campaigning already under way by a bevy of Democratic White House hopefuls, means the campaign is in full swing.
The most obvious question is: Can Bush be beaten?
For a variety of reasons, the answer could be "no." Sky-high poll ratings are one - voters value strong leadership, and Bush currently rates high with the public on that all-important score. The lightning fast victory in Iraq is another. The likelihood of Bush's supporters raising a record $150 million or more for his re-election bid is yet another.
But the president's stroll to a second term may be bumpier than now believed. While he's viewed as a solid wartime leader, chaos remains the order of the day in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the end is not in sight. Public assessments of Bush's leadership could sour if the U.S. finds itself involved in prolonged or messy occupations - or if trouble erupts on another front, such as the ever-roiling conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The overriding unknown for the president, of course, is the economy. Almost every state is reeling from out-of-balance budgets. Millions are out of work. Bush's tax cut of 2001, and the new tax cut the president is pushing …