October 19 2004
STILL BUSH'S TO LOSE: With two weeks until
Election Day, we're in the final stretch. There is enough
evidence for partisans on both sides to point to why their
respective candidate will win on November 2. Bottom line:
Bush is ahead and continues to hold the superior hand, but
Kerry cannot be counted out.
to much of the punditry you may have seen or heard this
has always been George W. Bush's race to lose - and it remains
that way today. It has always been my belief that 9/11 and
the War on Terror changed the national political landscape
to give the Republicans and President Bush a structural
advantage, particularly in the first Presidential election
early signs of trouble for Senator Kerry began to appear
in the summer (ironically when many
were beginning to write Bush off) when Kerry could not
move out to a bigger lead than 2-3 points. Throughout this
entire campaign Kerry has never been able to get ahead by
more than three
points in the RCP Average, and he has only had a lead
over 2.5% three times: in mid-May at the height of the media
frenzy over Abu Ghraib, right after the Edwards pick in
early July, and right after his convention in early August.
None of these leads lasted more than a few days. Senator
Kerry should have been registering leads between 5-10 points
after his convention and VP pick, not 2 1/2 points.
nearly an entire year (starting back at the beginning of
the Dem primary race) Bush's opponents and the left-wing
527's had been pounding the President furiously, on top
of the daily media drumbeat of the "disaster"
in Iraq. All of this negativity directed at the President
succeeded in driving down Bush's Job Approval rating and
the right/direction wrong direction numbers, but it didn't
succeed in turning this President into Jimmy Carter. As
I've said before, despite this ferocious onslaught, Bush's
Job Approval bottoming out in the mid-40's was actually
a positive for the President and a sign of his underlying
strength with the electorate, not a weakness.
Bush's Job Approval finding a floor in the mid-40's and
Kerry unable to ever move ahead by more than 2-3 points,
the Democratic ticket was extremely vulnerable to counterattack.
So in August, when Republican 527-money turned their guns
on Senator Kerry, specifically with the swift boat/post-Vietnam
protest stories, Kerry began to absorb some serious body
were extremely successful in driving up Kerry's unfavorables
during the month of August, and this led right into the
Republican convention where the spotlight was put squarely
on 9/11 and the War on Terror. The end result was that as
September rolled around President Bush opened up a 5-7 point
lead in the RCP Poll Average, a margin he held for 28 consecutive
with being completely knocked out of the race, Kerry was
able to get back in the game with a win in the first debate
on September 30. In four days days after that debate Kerry
was able to pull within 1-2
points of Bush in the RCP Average. That 1-2 point Bush
lead basically held steady through the final debate in Arizona
last week. Since last Wednesday's debate, Bush has tacked
on a few points and this morning leads by 3-4 points in
both of the RCP Poll Averages.
where does that leave us? The President's
Job Approval appears to have stabilized around 50%,
with the latest from Gallup, (the most important as far
as job approval) indicating 51% approval. While the press
makes a big deal about Bush being below 50%, it is probably
the Kerry campaign that should be more concerned with that
50% number. Bush can win with a Job Approval at 47% or 48
%, but Kerry doesn't have a chance if the President's Job
Approval is at 52% or 53%.
in April I wrote:
a crude measuring stick for the state of the presidential
race, an over 50% job approval for the President should
translate into a Bush victory. A 45% - 49% job approval
will mean a close race, but I would give President Bush
these parameters roughly still hold true. At 49.5% in the
RCP Average Bush is right on the cusp of where he needs
to be to put this race away. However, on the cusp of victory
is not quite the same thing as winning, and at this stage
I would ratchet up the 45-49 leaning Bush range to 47-49.
If the President's Job Approval were to fall to 45 or 46,
as measured by the RCP Average, I think we would be looking
at a dead heat race, with the momentum clearly favoring
the challenger Kerry.
things stand today, Kerry can't tolerate any more movement
towards Bush in the national horse-race numbers or the President
Job Approval. Trailing 3-4 points nationally and a Bush
JA at 49.5% is absolutely the most Kerry can trail by and
still hope to have a chance on Election Day.
the reason Kerry still can win with these type of numbers
is because Bush is having a difficult time getting over
50% in most of the polls. The
risk to the President is the undecideds come out to vote,
and vote disproportionately for a change with Senator Kerry.
Sabato suggested last week he was "tempted to argue
that Bush actually needed his full 5 to 6 percent September
lead to insure a narrow victory."
disagree with that and suggest that unless there is strong
momentum towards Kerry at the very end I think Bush will
not underperform his RCP Poll Spread in the final results.
What I mean by that is if the President leads by 2-3 points
in the final RCP Poll average, I think he will win by at
least 2-3 points. In other words I don't think the President
needs a poll cushion going in to Election Day. Again, that
is assuming there is not a strong final break towards Kerry,
like the Bush DUI and the late break for Gore in 2000. For
example if Bush is ahead 4-6 points with a week to go, but
in the last three days that closes to only 1-2 points, that
1-2 point lead very well might not hold up.
reason I think Bush will meet or exceed the final poll spread
I wonder whether there is a little bit of the Howard Dean
phenomena with all the "energy" and young voters,
and all the "new" people who are supposedly going
to come out and put John Kerry in office. We heard this
type of talk with Howard Dean earlier this year and when
it came time to deliver, it was just that, a lot of talk.
I don't think the Black vote is going to come out in the
type of numbers Senator Kerry is going to need. African-Americans
certainly don't like President Bush, but they are unenthusiastic
about Kerry and that will hurt the Democrats on the margins.
The GOP learned a hard lesson in 2000 when the Democrat's
GOTV effort just crushed the Republicans. The GOP adapted
and instituted their 72 hour plan which was extremely effective
in 2002, and I suspect that will provide a powerful assist
to the President, and could be worth as much as 1-2 points
on Election Day.
three of these issues are about turnout, and at this stage
this is what the race is going to come down to in the end.
Will the President's base simply overpower Kerry's and render
the small number of undecideds a non-factor or will Kerry
get the undecideds to break his way, and more importantly
will he get enough of them to the polls on Election Day
to offset the President's lead in the polls and Bush's more
the President's position, but Bush supporters should be
wary. Kerry has kept within striking distance in the critical
battleground states and any late movement for Kerry is all
this race will need to be a dead heat going in to Election
Day. J. McIntyre 11:48 am Link
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