Tuesday, September 21 2004
BATTLEGROUND UPDATE: It's been less than a week since I wrote about John Kerry's slide in the state polls. Since then, the trend has continued. Yesterday we had a wave of state polls confirming the move away from Kerry in key battleground states. Based on the latest polls, here is where our RCP Battleground Averages stand:
Kerry is maintaining a solid grip on Michigan and Washington, but everything else is in play. With the exception of New Hampshire, every single state we have listed as a toss up in our RCP Electoral Count (IA, MN, NM, OR, PA) is a state that went for Gore in 2000.
The picture is even more bleak for the Kerry campaign when you look at how Kerry is faring in blue states (i.e. states that Al Gore won in 2000) versus how Bush is faring in red states. Kerry is running worse than Gore did in 2000 in eight out of ten battleground states, Bush has lost ground versus his performance four years ago in only two:
Colorado and New Jersey seem to be aberrations. However, not only could the massive move in New Jersey be attributable to a "9/11 effect" and the McGreevey scandal, we are now seeing other polls coming out of Democratic strongholds like Maryland and New York suggesting that Kerry is experiencing a serious deterioration of support there as well.
On the other hand, there is no evidence to corroborate a big swing against Bush in Colorado. It's hard to believe that the President is leading in nearly every national poll and is running better than he did in 2000 all across the country - including the Mountain West states of Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona - but is running seven and half points worse in Colorado this year.
IS THE COUNTRY REJECTING JOHN KERRY?: Now that the conventions are over and people are beginning to focus intently on the race, it's almost as if the public is taking a good hard look at John Kerry and saying "no thanks." There is still a lot of race left and plenty of time (including three debates) for Kerry to convince people to change their minds, but the trend lines are certainly not favorable for him.
So how can we explain what's going on? There are lots of possible reasons: Kerry is a bad candidate, he's running a disorganized campaign, his message is all over the place, the Swift Boat Veterans hit him where it hurt, etc. All of these things are true to a certain degree and they've no doubt contributed at least in part to his decline in the polls. But I think there is something much, much bigger.
The most inexplicable aspect of this race right now is that the President continues to rise in the polls despite the fact that the violence and chaos in Iraq is getting worse. Iraq has always been the defining issue in this campaign and despite John Kerry's best attempts over the last few months to turn it against Bush by attacking from every imaginable angle, it hasn't worked. Maybe that will change as the violence continues into October and Kerry sharpens his critique, but I wouldn't count on it.
The reason, I think, is very simple: America hates losers. I don't mean that John Kerry is a "loser" in the stylistic sense - though he does come off a bit that way when we see pictures of his gangly frame in spandex bike shorts, windsurfing or throwing a baseball.
What I mean is that when it comes to the biggest issue in this campaign, Iraq, John Kerry doesn't leave the impression with voters that he really wants to win the war. Everything we see, feel and know about John Kerry says his heart is not in this war, nor has it really been in any war.
So even when he tries to articulate, as he did yesterday in New York, a strategy to fight a more effective war than President Bush, it comes across more like a laundry list of gripes from a man who thinks the cause is already lost: "Iraq is a mistake and mess, and we need to do X, Y, and Z so we can get out as soon as possible."
On the other hand, President Bush is, for better or worse, a fighter. It's not so much that the public thinks President Bush is a winner per se, only that they know very clearly that Bush wants to win this war, and that he's doing everything within his power to try to win and it.
And even though mistakes have been made and a good number of Americans are uneasy about the War in Iraq and the direction of the country in general, when given a choice between a leader who is committed to fighting and optimistic about winning or a leader who exudes the attitude that because the going is tough we ought to get going, Americans almost always prefer the former.
In 1972 nearly 60 percent of the country was against the war in Vietnam, a war which at that point America had been fighting for almost a decade at a cost of tens of thousands of lives. Yet the country still thoroughly rejected McGovern's defeatist "peace at any price" platform in favor of Nixon's call for "peace with honor" even as Nixon escalated the war effort in the spring and summer of the election year.
But even the 1972 analogy strikes me as inadequate, because I still think the country is approaching this election less through the prism of Iraq as Vietnam (despite all the focus on the candidates' experiences during the Vietnam era) and more with the feeling that 9/11, Iraq and the War on Terror are akin to Pearl Harbor and World War II.
With the beheading of hostages and the slaughter of children now standard viewing on our nightly news, it is going to be extremely difficult for John Kerry to convince America over the next 40 days that Iraq is separate from the overall War on Terror. Even further, it will be a remarkable feat if Kerry can argue that Iraq is a mistake not worth the fight and simultaneously convince the public he is as committed as Bush to waging an aggressive War on Terror. - T. Bevan 7:55 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend
Monday, September 20 2004
WHAT'S UP WITH THE RACE?: The simple answer is Senator Kerry is losing. After months of a presidential race that was more or less a tie, President Bush has broken out to a 5-7 point lead nationally. With so many polls being released these days the best way to filter out much of the noise is to follow our RCP Poll Average.
Kerry began to fade at the beginning of August and Bush very effectively used the convention in New York to break out of the Bush +2/Kerry +2 race that had existed for months. This can be seen very clearly in the historical graph of the RCP Poll Average.
Some of the polls at the end of last week created quite a stir as two (Pew Research and Harris) showed the race tied, while Gallup's poll had President Bush ahead by 13-14 points. Over the weekend the CBS/NY Times poll came out showing Bush ahead 9, while Zogby had Kerry only trailing by three points.
Some like to quibble with Gallup's "likely-voter" model and suggest that registered voters are a much better way to look at the race at this time, but Gallup's registered voters results still show the President ahead by eight points, the same amount Bush is ahead among registered voters in the CBS/NY Times poll. All of the chatter about registered voters vs. likely voters, and weighting for party ID vs not weighting for party ID is missing the central point. The bottom line is that Senator Kerry is trailing by significant margins, in significant polls, in mid-September. That is not good news for Democrats.
Other evidence points to Bush indeed having moved out to a real lead. The polls in the battleground states where this election was always going to be decided have moved significantly toward the President in the last three weeks. The battleground has shifted under the Democrats' feet and the Kerry campaign's hope to be fighting on GOP ground in Arizona, Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas and Virginia has all but disappeared. Instead Kerry is fighting for his life in the Democratic-leaning states of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and most importantly Pennsylvania.
Gore carried Pennsylvania in 2000 by 4.2%. Right now Kerry leads in only one of the last seven polls and he trails President Bush by 1.7% in our RCP Pennsylvania Average. Using the average of those seven polls taken the first couple of weeks in September, Kerry is running around six points behind where Gore was in 2000 which seems to confirm the idea that Bush is ahead 5-7 points nationally.
In the critical states of Ohio, Missouri, and Wisconsin Bush is running 4-5 points better than his pace in 2000. Michigan, Colorado and West Virginia are the only states where there are positive polls for Kerry. And unlike PA, WI, OH and MO where there are multiple polls confirming Bush's breakout, we only have one non-partisan poll in MI, CO, and WV helping Kerry. As more polls come out in these three states those remaining positive areas could move against Kerry as well.
Because of all the hurricanes in Florida there has been only one poll recently, but that one has Bush up 6 and provides more confirmation of where his lead sits nationally.
Finally, you have states like New Jersey that should be a solid Kerry state where the three latest polls show a tight race. Needless to say, all of this state polling news is not good news for Democrats. While the Kerry camp can cherry pick one state poll here or there, it appears pretty clear that the balance of the state polling evidence confirms a Bush lead of at least 4-7 points as opposed to a "dead-heat" race.
On top of all the polling evidence just looking at which side is changing advisors, direction, message, etc.... is all you need to know about which campaign is ahead and comfortable with the existing dynamics of the race.
One problem (among many) for the Kerry campaign is that a 5-7 point hole in a country that is as polarized as today's is more like a 10-12 point deficit 15-25 years ago. Kerry wasted his opportunities to break out to a lead of his own with his non-helpful VP selection and say-nothing convention. And with all the pounding Bush has taken for the last eight months Kerry isn't left with many attractive options on how to get the needed 270 Electoral Votes.
Senator Kerry needs to get this race back to within 3-4 points in our RCP Poll Average by the first debate in ten days, or these poll numbers will start to harden and he will need a debate meltdown by the President to have a chance. J. McIntyre 8:42 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend
Thursday, September 16 2004
MEMO TO DAN: FAKE BUT ACCURATE ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH: It's pretty remarkable to watch one of the icons of the news business try to single handedly lower the bar of the journalistic profession to save his own hide. Last night Dan Rather looked America in the eye and told us that "fake but accurate" is good enough - at least for him and his pals at CBS News. It's not. And the manner with which Rather has conducted himself in this and in other incidents makes you wonder just how mobile the bar of professionalism might have been for him throughout the years.
There are two great ironies to be gleaned from Rather's fantastic act of self-immolation this past week. The first is that Rather has now confirmed that the "pajama people" have higher ethical and journalistic standards than he does.
Just days ago Rather was deriding the Internet and the blogosphere as "the professional rumor mill." That statement shows a fundamental misunderstanding of who bloggers are and what they do. The blogosphere is indeed a living, swirling mass of opinion and commentary but, thanks to the wonder of hyperlinking and search technology like Google, it's also a very transparent, self-correcting environment ultimately based on facts. Hoaxes can be spread via the Internet, but they can't exist there for very long in today's environment without being challenged and debunked. The mainstream media is just beginning to understand the velocity and the ferocity with which the blogosphere processes, analyzes and scrutinizes information.
The second irony of this episode is that Dan Rather threw his entire career and reputation away on a story that didn't matter. More than anything else this shows just how out of touch Rather, the Democrats, and the rest of the mainstream media are - especially when it comes to this election.
Rather was so convinced this story was a game-breaker for Bush that he threw journalistic caution to the wind to get it on air. But even had all of the allegations in the story been true (as opposed to a collection of forgeries and hearsay) it wouldn't have made any difference with the public. The National Guard story is old news and no amount of rehashing is going to make it new again.
The bottom line is that Dan Rather and Andrew Heyward should go. Not next year or in 2006 but now. I don't know if it will happen or not - I'm inclined to think they will both stick around - but the longer Rather and Heyward continue on as the controlling forces at CBS News the further the credibility of their organization will sink.
THE OTHER SOROS: Earlier in the week Drudge linked to this story about my alma mater which reported that John Kerry has racked up $40,950 in donations from Princeton University employees while President Bush has only received one single donation of $250.
The lopsidedness of financial support at Princeton and elsewhere is depressing because it reflects the continuing, near-universal death grip of liberal orthodoxy throughout academia, which only a fool would argue doesn't make its way into the classroom every day.
What caught my attention, however, was this blurb at the end of the article about Peter Lewis:
Lewis and close friend George Soros have each pledged $10 million to America Coming Together, a 527 dedicated to defeating Bush through get-out-the-vote efforts in swing states such as Lewis' native Ohio.
Lewis, the former chairman of Progressive, Inc., has already donated more than $11 million to other anti-Bush groups, according to the Center for Public Integrity. His current total is $14.3 million, making him the single largest donor for any election cycle.
Soros has gotten all of the press, but most people don't know that Lewis is just as influential and has actually contributed nearly $2 million more than Soros thus far. He's helping to fund just about every anti-Bush group under the sun, including a $50,000 donation to PunkVoter Inc. which is trying to mobilize the influential punk rock community to vote against Bush with a series of concerts across the country and with high-minded messages like this one on their web site.
Look at this list of the top individual donors to 527's. So far, twenty-five individuals have contributed $58,218,283 to these groups. Of that total, 97% has gone to liberal and/or anti-Bush organizations and Soros and Lewis are responsible for nearly half of that money ($26,830,000) just between the two of them.
Those are astonishing sums of money being spent to try and influence this year's election. Even more astonishing is that the money comes from people like Soros, who from 1997 to 2001 spent $4.7 million bankrolling the effort to enact campaign finance reform to get money out of politics. The word "hypocrisy" doesn't begin do justice here. - T. Bevan 9:55 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend
Wednesday, September 15 2004
KERRY STATE SLIDE CONTINUES: There's been a flood of state polls out over the last forty-eight hours, most of it showing a continuing deterioration in John Kerry's position in the Electoral College.
First, the bright spots. A new Gallup poll shows Kerry maintaining a 6-point lead in Michigan and a Minnesota Star-Tribune poll released today shows him with a conspicuously large 9-point lead over Bush.
The big news, however, is in Wisconsin where three new polls by Gallup, Rasmussen, and Strategic Vision show Bush moving ahead of Kerry by 10, 2 and 8 points, respectively. (Note to future candidates: Wisconsin voters do not think highly of people who think the Packers home stadium is called "Lambert Field.").
Because of the shift in Bush's direction, we've moved Wisconsin in our RCP Electoral Count from "toss up" to "leaning Bush." As a result, Bush now leads Kerry 279-228.
We still have three states listed as toss ups: NV, NM, and PA. In Pennsylvania - a state Kerry must win to have any hope - the race remains a dead tie. In Nevada and New Mexico, the most recent polls out of each of those states that aren't Zogby online polls have Bush ahead, though narrowly.
In other potentially ominous news for the Kerry camp, the polling out of New Jersey shows that it's getting awfully close to becoming a "toss up" state as well. And two new polls out of New York today also show significant movement in Bush's direction, though the bottom would have to fall out of the Kerry campaign for him to lose the state.
Ironically for the Democrats, the bad news in the polls for their presidential nominee is juxtaposed with some pretty good news for their hopes in the Senate. In Florida, a new poll shows Betty Castor narrowly leading Mel Martinez and in Oklahoma Brad Carson has inched ahead of Tom Coburn. (Incidentally, we've put together a new page rounding up all the latest polls in the competitive Senate races this year.) There's a lot of race left, of course, but holding Florida and stealing Oklahoma would be huge for the Democrats. - T. Bevan 11:42 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend
Monday, September 13 2004
JOHN EDWARDS AND THE SHRINKING BATTLEGROUND: On Friday last week John Kerry was in Missouri thanking "his good friend" Dick Gephardt in glowing language. Unfortunately, I don't have a transcript of his remarks, but it went something like: "this is a man I've known for over twenty years who is the most decent, most honorable.... a man who fights for the average guy, a man who cares deeply about the country..........." The emotion from Kerry seemed genuine and heartfelt, and I got the feeling he really believed it. I also got the feeling Kerry wished he had chosen Dick Gephardt as his running mate.
This made me think about Kerry's actual running mate, John Edwards. At the time of Edwards announcement I wrote:
While this pick may play well in the next three weeks I don't know how well it is going to work after Labor Day when the real contest begins....The Edwards pick is a poll-driven mistake...This is a very serious election, and the Bush-Cheney campaign will make that abundantly clear. Kerry would have been better off with the safe, solid choice of Dick Gephardt who at least would have helped potentially win Missouri.
Senator Edwards did give Kerry a little bounce, which can be seen in a our historical chart of the RCP Poll Average. A week before Kerry's VP announcement Bush was up about two points and a week after Edwards was chosen the Kerry/Edwards ticket had moved to roughly a three point lead. So Edwards delivered about a five point bounce that subsequently faded during the rest of July as Kerry headed into his convention in Boston.
But now we are in the middle of September, and you have to wonder just what John Edwards is bringing to the table. The contrast with Dick Cheney that all the pundits were atwitter about in early July suddenly doesn't look so great from the Kerry perspective.
Yesterday the Washington Post ran a front page story from Dan Balz on how 'Kerry's battlefield is shrinking':
As the number of truly competitive states has shrunk, Kerry is faced with the reality that he must pick off one of two big battlegrounds Bush won four years ago -- Florida or Ohio -- or capture virtually every other state still available.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone with a calculator and a 2004 electoral map, especially the professional operatives in the Kerry campaign. Balz continues:
The Massachusetts senator spent much of the summer trying to expand the number of battleground states with television advertising and campaign trips to places such as Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana and Virginia.
Arizona, Colorado Louisiana and Virginia? It's not complicated to figure out that if these states are close Bush is finished. So what was their strategy in spending time and money in states that they were only going to carry if they didn't need them to win the election? Maybe they bought in to the conventional wisdom over the summer that Bush was in big, big trouble. Whatever the strategic rationale, it was a major mistake and a misallocation of resources.
With the wasted money and time in states they don't have a prayer of carrying and a VP nominee that can't make a difference in any state that will matter, the Kerry folks have boxed themselves into an electoral corner. So now they are not only staring at how they get this race back to even in the national polls but also how they are going to piece together the necessary 270 Electoral Votes.
Because of the unwise choice of Edwards as a running mate, even if Kerry pulls back to even in the national polls his route to 270 electoral votes is a big problem - and almost impossible if he can't win either Florida or Ohio. Had he chosen Gephardt and put Missouri into play, the Kerry campaign's electoral math would look considerably kinder. Flipping Missouri alone would get Kerry over 270 EV's, and flipping Missouri and New Hampshire would allow for the loss of New Mexico. Wining Missouri, New Hampshire and Nevada would have allowed Kerry to lose Wisconsin and still win the election.
Of course, it is not a sure thing that Gephardt would have been able to deliver Missouri. Given Gallup's latest poll showing Bush ahead by fourteen, maybe even Dick Gephardt wouldn't have been able to deliver his home state. But unlike North Carolina, Missouri is a much more competitive state for Democrats, and in a close election where Kerry had a chance to win, one would think Missouri with Dick Gephardt on the ticket would have been very much in play.
This electoral logic also applied to either Senators Nelson and Graham in Florida. And with 27 Electoral Votes compared to Missouri's 11, the damage to the Bush reelection hopes of flipping Florida would have been decisive.
Instead, Kerry is stuck with a running mate who brings nothing except a pretty smile. The Kerry campaign had run a pretty darn good campaign through June, but starting with the Edwards choice, a wasted convention, an insane comment at the Grand Canyon and no answer to his Vietnam and antiwar past, Kerry has dug himself what may be an insurmountable hole. - J. McIntyre 9:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend
Sunday, September 12, 2004
MIDDLE EAST REALITY?: David Broder attacks the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East and suggests John Kerry isn't much better in his Washington Post column today. He points to Michael Kraig of the Muscatine, Iowa-based Stanley Foundation as a person to look to for a better perspective. But I have to question the wisdom of this man's perspective when later on in the article he says:
In this context," Kraig wrote, "a serious question was raised: Why is so much international and global pressure exerted on Iran . . . while Israel, with its own alleged WMD arsenal, is forgotten?"
Maybe because Israel is a democracy. Maybe because Israel doesn't support and fund terrorism. Maybe because Israel didn't kidnap 54 Americans and hold them for 444 days. Maybe because Israel isn't run by theocratic fascists who just might be willing to nuke a city or two while chanting "Allah is Great."
I don't know how much "perspective" on Middle East policy I would want to get from a guy or group that doesn't understand why the world is concerned about the mullahs in Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and not Israel who has had nukes for over 30 years. J. McIntyre 1:41 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend
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