Monday, October 4 2004
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)
Spread
6/21-6/23
Bush +1
7/6 - Kerry Picks Edwards As VP
7/8-7/11
Kerry +5
7/19-7/21
Kerry +1
7/25-7/29 - Democratic Nat'l Convention
7/30-8/1
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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