Monday, July 12 2004
EDWARDS BOUNCE SLIGHTLY BETTER THAN A DEAD CAT: You've probably heard the saying, "Even a dead cat will bounce if dropped from high enough." Well, John Edwards is giving the Kerry campaign a bounce, but it sure isn't that big. I suspect both the Dems and the GOP were expecting something a bit larger.

In the six polls taken since Kerry announced his VP choice on Tuesday, Kerry/Edwards has moved ahead of Bush/Cheney by 5.4% in the head-to-head race. Compared to the average of the last 6 polls conducted prior to Kerry's announcement, that represents a net gain of 4.3%.

It's about the same in the three way race. In the five surveys last week that included Nader/Camejo in the mix, Kerry/Edwards is averaging a 2.2% lead over Bush/Cheney. Compare this to the last five polls leading up to Kerry's announcement and you see a net gain of only 3.6%.

Matthew Dowd made news last week by predicting that John Kerry could possibly have a fifteen-point lead by the end of the month, after basking in the glow of positive press coverage of his VP choice and the Democratic National Convention.

Clearly Dowd was highballing for the sake of the expectation game, and Kerry strategist Tad Devine did his best yesterday to try and curb any excessive expectations and put as happy a face as possible on the numbers.

Right now the numbers suggest John Edwards is a mediocre pick. One argument in his favor is that the lack of bounce from Edwards is less of a reflection on him or the Dem ticket than it is another reminder of just how polarized the electorate is this year between those who support Bush no matter what, those who support Kerry no matter what, and those who don't know and still aren't paying attention. In other words, there just isn't the traditional amount of room in the electorate to generate the sort of bounce we're used to seeing.

But Kerry's recent flirtation with McCain - and the polling we saw as a result - puts the lie to that argument. Kerry did have an opportunity to do more for himself with his VP pick, though he certainly could have done worse. Just as a point of reference, not only for the Edwards pick but for how far left the Democrats have moved as a whole in the last four years: Joe Lieberman gave Gore more of a bounce in 2000 than Edwards did this year.

The question of the moment is whether the meager lift Edwards has given the Kerry campaign will hold through the Democratic convention. Gallup has an article this morning that takes a look at historical convention bounces and determines that they're basically equal. It's interesting reading for political junkies but really meaningless when viewed in isolation of the polls. So what if Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Barry Goldwater got bigger convention bounces than their opponents?

What matters is who is ahead in the polls after Labor Day. History says that the candidate who is leading the race after Labor Day almost always goes on to win in November. There have only been three exceptions to this rule since 1936: in 1948, when Truman trailed Dewey in September, in 1960, when Nixon was still ahead of Kennedy after Labor Day, and most notably in 2000, when Al Gore carried a small lead out of the Democratic National Convention into September only to surrender the lead to Bush during the final weeks of the campaign after a series of disastrous debates.

As with so many other things this year, however, conventional wisdom could be terribly wrong. The debates could once again prove decisive. Events such as a terrorist attack either at home and abroad could dramatically shift the dynamic of the race in the final weeks or even days. One of the ironies of having such a closely divided electorate is that the race is just as likely to be an electoral wipe out as it is to being a cliffhanger - a shift of just a couple of points toward either candidate at the close of the race could swing a majority of the battleground states their way.

MARSHALL'S PLAN: This must be some scoop. About a month ago Josh Marshall proudly announced:

I and several colleagues have been working on a story that, if and when it comes to fruition --- and I’m confident it shall --- should shuffle the tectonic plates under that capital city where I normally hang my hat. So that’s something to look forward to in the not too distant future.

Now, I could be wrong, but it's becoming more and more clear that Josh's big story is about the Niger uranium brouhaha. I must say it's been a bit of comedy watching him try to put his fingers in the dyke and protect his big scoop, lashing out at anything or anyone who might lessen the impact of the impending "tectonic" shuffle.

First, there was The Financial Times article from June 28 that reported some rather eye-popping news:

The FT has now learnt that three European intelligence services were aware of possible illicit trade in uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.

Josh immediately jumped to discredit the article, suggesting as a "hypothetical" that the story was a plant from the Bush administration and that the FT - a well-respected paper that generally opposes Bush's invasion of Iraq - published the story out of incompetence, naivete, or worse.

Then the other day Josh attacked Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post for writing an article raising questions about Joe Wilson's credibility based on information contained in the recently released Senate Intelligence Committee's report. Josh derisively compared Schmidt to "Mikey", the boy in the Life cereal commercials, and suggested that she's nothing more than a shill for beltway Republicans.

So be warned. If you're planning to write or report anything on Niger that gets in the way of Marhsall's big story, prepare to be attacked. As I said, it must be some big scoop. - T. Bevan 12:01 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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