Friday, October 8 2004
Before the first debate President Bush had settled into a 5-6 six point lead in the race as measured by the RCP Poll Average. Since the debate, the national polls have tightened considerably and heading into the second debate tonight the RCP Average shows President Bush holding a small 1-2 point lead.

It is only logical that we are now seeing Kerry's movement in the national polls carrying over into the first post-debate polls at the state level. This tightening of the race prompted us on Tuesday to move Iowa from Leaning Bush to a Toss Up, and on Wednesday to move Ohio from Leaning Bush to a Toss Up and Pennsylvania from Toss Up to Leaning Kerry.

There is no question that the situation for Senator Kerry has improved dramatically in the last week. From an Electoral Vote standpoint, however, he is still facing an uphill battle.

Our earlier analysis suggesting that the race basically boils down to Florida and Ohio stands. However, it looks as if the aftermath of the hurricanes may have given President Bush a decisive edge there, so in reality it is now all about Ohio. If Kerry doesn't win Ohio he will not be President.

On balance, President Bush still holds the better Electoral hand because the evidence is massing that he has successfully moved Wisconsin into his column. Because of the very real potential to win Wisconsin, Bush can now lose Ohio and still have a reasonable chance for victory.

The Ohio/Wisconsin swap garners Kerry 10 Electoral Votes and, using the 2000 results as a template taking into account reapportionment, that would leave Kerry the winner, 270-268. Because the U.S House of Representatives splits all ties in the Electoral College, Bush likely only needs 269 votes to be reelected.

Geography more than anything else gives Kerry the slight advantage in New Hampshire which moves the Electoral tally to Kerry 274 - Bush 264. So if Bush does lose Ohio, but brings in Wisconsin, he will have to swing FIVE Electoral Votes to win.

President Bush has four different scenarios through which he could gain these votes. The best bet right now looks to be Iowa's 7 Electoral Votes where two post-debate polls show Kerry ahead by one, and a Democratic post-debate poll shows Bush up 3. (Minnesota is also a possibility, but the truth is if Minnesota goes for Bush, Iowa will already be in the President's column.)

Scenario number two is to win New Mexico's 5 Electoral Votes. Right now, the post-debate polls there show a dead heat, Gallup shows Bush up 3 while the Albuquerque Journal has Kerry ahead by 3.

The next target is New Hampshire's 4 Electoral Votes and the 1 Electoral Vote available if the President can carry Maine's 2nd Congressional district. Post-debate NH polls show Kerry ahead slightly and a post-debate poll in Maine shows Kerry would win the state, but if the election were held today Bush would probably pick up 1 Electoral Vote by winning CD2.

The last shot for the President to grab those needed 5 EV's comes from Oregon, though in all likelihood if President Bush ends up in a position where he needs Oregon's Electoral Votes to get reelected, it probably won't happen.

All of these different options depend on the President holding on to the rest of his 2000 states, which in this type of election scenario seems likely, though Nevada could be the one state where Kerry could steal back those 5 Electoral Votes. The one post-debate poll there shows Bush leading by 4.

Bottom line: Kerry has effectively used the first debate to get himself back in the game, but he continues to remain at a structural disadvantage in the Electoral College. The quartet of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico could be where this election is decided. If Bush does have a hold on Wisconsin, then even if Senator Kerry wins Ohio, he will also have to win both Iowa and New Mexico to deny Bush four more years.

(Pennsylvania and Florida are must wins for Kerry and Bush respectively, a Bush loss in Florida or a Kerry loss in Pennsylvania means the election is over.) J. McIntyre 10:11 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend | Comments

Thursday, October 7 2004
A heads up to those who haven't noticed: we've added two new pages to the site. The first is a summary page of all the polls we post to RCP every day. We always highlight the most recent national and battleground state polls at the top of the front page, but there are a lot of other polls coming off the wires all day long and the number is growing daily. For example, here's a list of the polls we've posted so far just this morning:

OH: ARG - Kerry 48, Bush 47
PA: ARG - Kerry 48, Bush 46
National: Marist - Bush 49, Kerry 46, Nader 1
National: Reuters/Zogby Tracking - Bush 46, Kerry 44, Nader 2
FL: Quinnipiac - Bush 51, Kerry 44
FL: Bay News9/PMR I4 Corridor Poll - Bush 48, Kerry 41
UT Gov: Salt Lake Tribune - Huntsman (R) 49, Matheson (D) 33
ME-1: Strategic Marketing Services - Allen (D) 58, Summers (R) 22
ME-2: Strategic Marketing Services - Michaud (D) 51, Hamel (R) 21
NH Gov: UNH/WMUR Granite Poll - Benson (R) 43, Lynch (D) 43
IL: Rasmussen - Kerry 52, Bush 41
IL: Research 2000 - Kerry 55, Bush 38
IL Senate: Research 2000 - Obama (D) 69, Keyes (R) 24

It's a comprehensive (if not somewhat overwhelming) look at all the polls around and an important addition to our 2004 election coverage.

Our second new page is a map of the RCP Electoral Count. The count currently stands at Bush 264-Kerry 220 thanks to a couple of changes yesterday: Ohio moved from leaning Bush to toss up, Pennsylvania moved from toss-up to leaning Kerry, and we split out the one electoral vote at stake in Maine's 2nd Congressional District into the toss-up category. John is going to discuss these changes in a bit more detail later.

EMAIL ON CHENEY: Thanks for all the email on my posts regarding Dick Cheney yesterday. For the record, I've been assured by those on the right that I'm being hysterical and making way too much of Cheney's "I've Never Met You" remark. Likewise, those on the left have assured me that I will burn in hell for being such a shameless GOP shill and an apologist for the evil incarnate that is Dick Cheney. - T. Bevan 10:45 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, October 6 2004
So Cheney and Edwards have met before. Now we have two possible interpretations of Cheney's statement last night. The first is that Cheney honestly didn't remember his brief encounters with John Edwards at the Annual Prayer breakfast 42 months ago or the alleged handshake in the Meet the Press greenroom and that he was thinking specficially about having met Edwards at work in the Senate. The second interpretation is that Cheney flat out lied about never having met Edwards before to do the most possible damage to him in last night's debate.

I know many on the left are inclined to believe the latter scenario because it fits nicely with their partisan image of Dick Cheney as an evil, manipulative person and a compulsive liar.

But if, like the vast majority of the country, you don't believe Dick Cheney is a compulsive liar, then the first interpretation is the only one that makes any sense.

Consider first that Cheney didn't need the remark at all. He was already beating up on Edwards pretty good at that point in the debate and he certainly didn't HAVE to say it. Furthermore Cheney's point about Edwards' attendance in the Senate would have been more than effective enough without it. The most reasonable explanation is that Cheney said it because he thought it was true.

Second, Cheney would have had to have been suicidal to knowingly assert a falsehood in such a widely televised event that was so easily verified. It took the Kerry campaign all of about six hours to dig up video of Cheney and Edwards shaking hands.

Again, believing Cheney was acting with malice and deceit only makes sense if you already think he is either a brazen, compulsive liar or a complete moron. Otherwise, it is logical to assume that what we saw Cheney do last night was to make an honest mistake.

All of that being said, it was a remarkably bad gaffe with potentially serious consequences. The Vice President needs to step up immediately and defuse the situation.

Obviously, credibility is one of the fundamental cornerstones of any candidate's electability. It is certainly critical to the reelection of the current administration.

For over a year now the Democrats have been doing everything withing their power to paint President Bush and Dick Cheney as purposefully misleading the country with respect to a whole host of issues, but most importantly Iraq.

Cheney's gaffe last night, though made over a seemingly trivial issue, gave the Democrats ammunition for their case and a chance to exploit it for maximum possible gain - which they've already done quite effectively with this ad.

John Edwards spent the better part of 90 minutes last night trying to convince the country that Dick Cheney hasn't "been straight with the American people." In my opinion it wasn't a very convincing argument, but it certainly doesn't help things that today we're discussing a misstatement by the Vice President that's been flatly contradicted.

Cheney needs to get out if front of this now, admit he honestly didn't recall meeting John Edwards and/or clarify that he was speaking specifically about meeting Edwards at work in the Senate chamber. The quicker Cheney does this, the quicker the whole thing will go away. - T. Bevan 2:29 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

THE CHENEY-EDWARDS DEBATE: Bottom line: Cheney dominated. Actually, I thought John Edwards acquitted himself pretty well last night - and he still got killed. Cheney was in total command during the first half of the debate - which was really the only part that mattered - and he pounded on John Kerry's record from every possible angle.

Cheney got in what I thought were a number of sharp blows that left Edwards looking frustrated and helpless. The first was when Cheney derided John Kerry's "global test" remark from Thursday night and then said:

"A little tough talk in the midst of a campaign or as part of a presidential debate cannot obscure a record of 30 years of being on the wrong side of defense issues."

Two questions later Dick Cheney eviscerated John Kerry's record on defense issues and finished with a devastating critique of both John Kerry and John Edwards' decision to vote against the $87 billion to support the troops:

"I couldn't figure out why that [the vote] happened initially. And then I looked and figured out that what was happening was Howard Dean was making major progress in the Democratic primaries, running away with the primaries based on an anti-war record. So they, in effect, decided they would cast an anti-war vote and they voted against the troops.

Now if they couldn't stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to Al Qaida?"

Just a few minutes after that, in an extremely deft move that capitalized on Cheney's previous point that John Kerry was unfit to lead the War in Iraq because of his willingness to disparage and demean our allies, Cheney took Edwards' rebuttal and knocked him all but senseless. If this were a prize fight the ref would have had to step in and give Edwards a standing eight count. Here's the full exchange:

EDWARDS: The vice president suggests that we have the same number of countries involved now that we had in the first Gulf War. The first Gulf War cost the American people $5 billion.

And regardless of what the vice president says, we're at $200 billion and counting. Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President, the coalition casualties, are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

CHENEY: Classic example. He won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of Iraqi allies. It's their country. They're in the fight. They're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job. And for you to demean their sacrifices strikes me as...

EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not...

CHENEY: ... as beyond...

EDWARDS: I'm not demeaning...

CHENEY: It is indeed. You suggested...

EDWARDS: No, sir, I did not...

CHENEY: ... somehow they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future.

We'll win when they take on responsibility for governance, which they're doing, and when the take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.

Lastly, Cheney took some tough, pointed shots at Edwards' record as well:

And Senator, frankly, you have a record in the Senate that's not very distinguished. You've missed 33 out of 36 meetings in the Judiciary Committee, almost 70 percent of the meetings of the Intelligence Committee.

You've missed a lot of key votes: on tax policy, on energy, on Medicare reform.

Your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you "Senator Gone." You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate.

Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.

The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.

I see this morning that the Kerry campaign is holding up this picture as proof that Cheney's final sentence was a lie. I don't think so, especially if you acknowledge the universally accepted notion that "meeting" someone involves face-to-face contact and the exchange of some form of expression like a handshake and/or a "hello." This pictures shows the two men in close proximity to each other but in no way disproves Cheney's statement last night. If it turns out the two have met at some point in the past then "yes", you'd have to say Cheney wasn't telling the truth.

All in all I thought it was a good old fashioned drubbing. I'm not sure this debate is going to matter one iota in the final analysis, but given the president's performance last Thursday combined with the favorable spin for Kerry and post-debate bump in the polls, for reasons of momentum and enthusiasm Dick Cheney needed to win the debate last night decisively. That's exactly what he did. - T. Bevan 6:29 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, October 5 2004
We now have nine post-debate polls and the results are very intriguing. Heading into the debate last Thursday the President was leading by around 5 1/2 points in the 3-Way RCP Poll Average, which as of this afternoon shows President Bush leading Senator Kerry by 1.6%. So in the 3-way RCP Poll Average it looks like Kerry received about a 4-point post-debate bump. The Head-to-Head Poll Average shows a similar boost, as Kerry has moved from trailing by a little over four points to only 0.3% today.

However, what is interesting about Kerry's post-debate "bump" is that over half of the post-debate polls actually show very little to no bump for Senator Kerry.

Little or No Post-Debate Bounce
Bush +3
Bush +2.5
Kerry + 0.5
Bush +6
Bush +5
Kerry + 1
Bush +3
Bush +2
Kerry + 1
Bush +4
Bush +4
Bush +1
Kerry + 1
Significant Post-Debate Bounce
Bush +8
Kerry + 8
Bush +9
Bush +0.5
Kerry + 8.5
Bush +5.5
Kerry +2.5
Kerry +8
Average Post-Debate Bounce
Bush +8
Bush +5
Kerry +3
*Polling firms with 3-Way and Head-to-Head poll results have been averaged, so as to produce, one "horserace number" number.

I suspect the Kerry camp would have rather seen seven or eight out of nine of these polls showing movement towards Kerry of less magnitude, rather than three out of the nine polls showing a big swing with the other two-thirds relatively unchanged. In my mind this makes it a little more likely that this might be a temporary bump for Kerry as opposed to a more permanent change in the race. J. McIntyre 5:43 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, October 4 2004
This is fascinating. Look at the responses from 727 people who watched the debate surveyed in the just-released Pew Research poll:

Please tell me what one word best describes your impression of George Bush/John Kerry in the debate.
Bush Kerry
33 Honest
23 Strong/Strength
14 Sincere
14 Confident
13 Defensive
11 Determined
11 Good
11 Steady/Steadfast
11 Adequate
11 Liar
11 Nervous
10 Tired/Fatigued/Exhausted
9 Leader/Leadership
9 Repetitive
8 Angry
8 Confused
8 Resolute
8 Frustrated
8 Uncertain
7 Stubborn
7 Flustered
7 Unprepared
7 Consistent
7 Integrity
47 Confident
25 Prepared
19 Intelligent
17 Presidential
16 Strong/Strength
14 Good
12 Knowledgeable
11 Arrogant
11 Wishy-washy
11 Articulate
10 Indecisive
9 Flip-flop
8 Politician
7 Untrustworthy
7 Polished
7 Thoughtful

There's a lot of good and bad in there for both candidates, but if you boil it down to the top three impressions generated for each candidate you're left with the following nut: Bush = honest, strong, and sincere, Kerry = confident, prepared, and intelligent. If this is truly indicative of how the country feels about what they saw last Thursday night, then President Bush may have indeed come out much better than expected and remains in a pretty strong position. - T. Bevan 4:29 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

IS THE KERRY COMEBACK ON TRACK?: Last week's debate was a crucial point in this race. After a dismal eight-week stretch through August and September, Democrats across the country were demoralized and beginning to lose hope. Their candidate was well behind in almost every major poll and teetering on the edge of becoming a national joke and an electoral embarrassment for the party.

Things look a bit different now. For the moment at least, Kerry seems to be back in this race. Of the three polls taken after the debate so far, two show significant movement toward Kerry (Newsweek & Gallup) while one (Rasmussen) shows little change. We should be seeing more polls in the coming twenty four hours that will help us get a better feel for the overall size and strength of the move toward Kerry following Thursday night.

The other important question is whether Kerry can sustain whatever bounce he may receive from the debate. If recent history is any guide, Kerry's bump may be short lived.

Take the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, for instance. Back at the beginning of July, Kerry received a six point net bump in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll upon naming John Edwards as his Vice Presidential pick.

Gallup Poll (3-Way, LV)
Bush +1
7/6 - Kerry Picks Edwards As VP
Kerry +5
Kerry +1
7/25-7/29 - Democratic Nat'l Convention
Bush +6

In the very next poll (whose sample started only eight days after the previous poll ended) Kerry's lead over Bush slipped back to only one point.

And as you can see from the chart on the right, in the next CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken right after the DNC, Kerry lost another 7 points (net) to President Bush. In other words, during the most positive six week run the Kerry campaign has had thus far (long before the Swift Boat Veterans and the RNC) Kerry was unable to make his bump stick.

So will he be able to do it this time? I'll give you two reason for and two reasons against:

Reason #1 Kerry's Bump WILL Last: For the first time in this race John Kerry looked presidential. That is an important test to pass with many moderate and independent voters who may have been ambivalent toward him or leaning somewhat uncomfortably toward Bush.

Reason #2 Kerry's Bump WILL Last: If you've ever handicapped horses at the track you know to always look closely at past performance. Whatever you might think of John Kerry as a person, as a politician he is a "closer." He did it against William Weld in 1996 and he did it again last year after being left for dead in the Dem primary. Even at the high water mark of his campaign in July, Kerry was a lackluster, unfocused candidate. After last Thursday night there is every reason to believe this is a different John Kerry: more focused, more hungry, and someone who is going to be a formidable challenger for President Bush over the next 28 days.

Reason #1 Kerry's Bump WON'T Last: Because despite the image presented to the public for 90 minutes last Thursday night, John Kerry is still an aloof, Northeastern elitist and a generally unlikable character. And just as his favorability ratings sank in every single poll after the Democratic National Convention, he won't be able to maintain enough of an aura of "likability" to be an electable alternative to President Bush.

Reason #2 Kerry's Bump WON'T Last: Kerry remains an extremely vulnerable candidate on the issues of national security and the War on Terror. Last Thursday Kerry made a number of gaffes and exposed an internationalist world view that a majority of Americans fundamentally disagree with. So far those mistakes have flown more or less under the radar, but they'll be exploited in the coming days (probably starting tomorrow night with Dick Cheney) and erode whatever gains Kerry made with voters in the most recent polls.

With three debates and a month left to go, the only thing that's certain about this race is that nothing is certain. There are undoubtedly plenty of twists and turns left. - T. Bevan 10:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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