July 23 2004
THE VANISHING BOUNCE: Big poll day yesterday, with
some really disturbing news for John Kerry. As you can see
from the table below, of the four new polls released yesterday
afternoon/evening Kerry lost ground to Bush in three of
them and is now back to dead even in the three-way race:
vs. Last Poll
line: on the eve of the Democratic convention the bounce
from the Edwards pick two and a half weeks ago has come
and gone. The fact Kerry couldn't maintain a even a small
lead heading into the DNC has to have his staff (and Bush-haters
everywhere) reaching for the Pepto.
other important number, Bush's overall job approval, is
rising slightly as well:
RCP average, which includes all
of these current polls along with Rasmussen, shows Bush
ticking up to an even 49% approval. Again, not good news
for Kerry heading into the convention.
favoring John Kerry seem to be taking heart at some of the
internals in these polls. Check out the reaction over at
Kos and Donkey
funny, if not a little bit pathetic, that the poll analysis
we get from Ron
Brownstein in the LA Times this morning differs little
from the spin at those partisan web sites. And let's not
forget to mention this laugher from the AP earlier in the
Poll Smiles on Kerry
Despite Tie, Momentum is With Democrat
The Associated Press
Updated: 7:13 p.m. ET July 21, 2004
Mass. - John Kerry is heading to his party’s national
convention with Democrats faring better with the public
on both domestic and international issues, according to
a poll released Wednesday. But Kerry remains locked in
a tie in the presidential race.
addition to being eerily prescient, John's
post from yesterday was dead on. The press is almost
openly rooting for Kerry and the Democrats, after getting
a boost from the primary process coupled with the continued
struggle in Iraq and a small bounce from the Edwards pick,
are finally believing for the first time they have a chance
continue to interpret the deadlocked race in the best possible
way for John Kerry and ignore any evidence indicating there
is another side to the coin: the deadlock may actually display
an underlying strength for Bush.
the vaunted veep bounce having already evaporated into the
ether, the pressure on Kerry to deliver a big convention
this week just increased dramatically. He and his fellow
Dems need to hit it out of the park.
they will find themselves in the unenviable position of
trying to come from behind after Labor Day. Most likely,
this means Kerry will need either 1) a knock out in the
debates (something that rarely happens, even despite Gore's
implosion in 2000) or 2) some unpredictable event like a
terrorist attack (which is more likely to cause a rally
for Bush) or 3) Iraq to descend into complete and utter
chaos or 4) an October Surprise of some kind involving Bush
and/or prominent members of his administration.
FOR 8?: Frank Foer writes up a lengthy,
but very worthwhile profile of Bob Shrum attempting
to answer the question political junkies have been pondering
for years: why is anyone still willing to hire this guy?
absolute favorite, however, is the description of the tight
bond that has developed between Kerry and his populist consigliere:
relationship now transcends politics. "They talk
about food, wine, European travel, and ideas," says
one Democratic operative.
one of the "two Americas" do you think these guys
belong to? - T. Bevan 11:45 am Link
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July 22 2004
SOMEONE IS GOING TO BE WRONG: There seems to be
a lot of confidence out there among Democrats that John
Kerry's campaign is in good shape. Why I'm really not so
sure. It's part of politics for one side to play up their
chances, but their enthusiasm that President Bush is in
real trouble appears to me to be truly heartfelt.
I've found is most Democrats are optimistic about Kerry's
chances, many Republicans in Washington are nervous and
scared to death, while most Republicans outside of Washington
are confident Bush will win.
public is roughly split 45-45 with 10 percent in the middle
either undecided or just not paying attention at this stage
of the race. The Democrats main arguing point seems to be
that since President Bush is the incumbent who can't get
above 45% and whose job approval ratings are also in the
40's, he is therefore in big trouble because the undecided
10% is going to break against the incumbent (as is usually
the pattern) and Kerry will win.
is the gist of the Democratic argument which Charlie Cook
reiterated this week:
week in this space, I discounted the widely held view
that the knotted polling numbers between Bush and Kerry
meant that the race itself was even. I argued that given
the fact that well-known incumbents with a defined record
rarely get many undecided voters -- a quarter to a third
at an absolute maximum -- an incumbent in a very stable
race essentially tied at 45 percent was actually anything
but in an even-money situation. "What you see is what
you get" is an old expression for an incumbent's trial
heat figures, meaning very few undecided voters fall that
is certainly not to predict that Bush is going to lose,
that this race is over or that other events and developments
will not have an enormous impact on this race. The point
is that this race has settled into a place that is not
at all good for an incumbent, is remarkably stable, and
one that is terrifying many Republican lawmakers, operatives
and activists. But in a typically Republican fashion,
they are too polite and disciplined to talk about it much
In a funny way, if this race were bouncing around, it
would probably be a better sign for President Bush. It
would suggest that there was some volatility to the race
and that public attitudes had not yet hardened, and were
thus still an eminently fixable situation. The dynamics
of a presidential race usually do not change much between
July and Election Day. This year, however, the race is
much more stable than usual, which is ominous for an incumbent
under these circumstances. The bottom line is that this
presidential race is not over, but the outlook is not
so great for the players in the red jerseys.
is right that many Republican lawmakers, operatives and
activists are terrified. But they are terrified not because
they think that President Bush is going to lose, but rather
because over the last six months they have realized that
it is now possible that President Bush might
lose. That is a big difference.
is a similar dynamic on the Democratic side. Much of the
euphoria among the party activists stems from the belief
that now they have a real chance to win. This is something
they may have dreamt about in late 2003 but didn't really
believe would happen. Ironically, this will make their likely
loss in November that much harder to deal with. Pittsburgh
Pirate fans aren't upset when their team doesn't make the
playoffs, Yankee fans are. It's not a perfect analogy, but
you get my point.
Teixeira has jumped on Cook's latest article to chime
Cook's latest column on the National Journal website crisply
summarizes why the seeming deadlock in the horse race
is actually very bad news for Bush.....And loose talk
of a Kerry landslide makes me extremely nervous. Still,
it can't be denied that, as we head into the convention,
Kerry is in a pretty good position and his opponent appears
to have the short end of the stick.
Marshall suggests that it is "cornered, wounded
animal time" and the Bush campaign is "desperate."
I'm being naive, but I don't see the desperation. As far
as "loose talk of a Kerry landslide," it's pretty
hard to win a landslide when you have almost no chance of
carrying any southern states - and that includes Florida.
John Zogby announced in May that this was Kerry's race
to lose, Charlie Cook thinks the outlook is not so great
for Bush, and you see a gleefulness among the press who
hate Bush keeping their fingers crossed that Kerry might
just be headed to victory.
maybe these people are looking at something different than
what I'm looking at, but I just don't see all of this positive
news for John Kerry. I see a President that has had a hostile,
partisan press beating up on him relentlessly for months
now hoping they can drive his job approval into Jimmy Carter
territory still standing strong in the high 40's.
a Kerry/Edwards campaign that should be ahead today by at
least 5 points nationally tied in the polls. I see a lack
of appreciation among Democrats and the press for just how
unappealing a candidate they are about to nominate.
of Kerry's current support in the polls is coming form the
Anybody But Bush mindset. The dynamic of this race is going
to change dramatically after both conventions and we are
past September 11 when the public starts focusing on the
choice between President Bush and Senator Kerry.
while many see this 45%-45% tie as bad news for Bush, I
see it as just the opposite. Kerry is going to need a cushion
to protect himself from the slippage that will occur post-Labor
Day when many are going go decide that while they might
not love President Bush they can't vote for Senator Kerry.
poll like Pew comes out with Kerry ahead only a measly
two points and even Stan
Greenberg and James Carville's Democracy Corp has Kerry
up only three (smack in the middle of what is supposed to
the big bounce phase of the VP pick/Dem convention) it seems
to me it is the Kerry campaign that needs to be worried,
not Karl Rove. Perhaps the bounce is late in developing
and Kerry will leave Boston with a 7-10 point lead, but
right now they have to be disappointed.
we get into September the most important poll numbers continue
to be the President's job approval and I'll
stick to my analysis months ago that over 50% Bush wins
easy, 45%-49% it's close but Bush has the edge, 40%-44%
is a dead heat, and below 40% Kerry has the advantage.
current RCP Average has the President
with a 47.8% job approval rating and, at the end of
the day, Kerry is going to need the President's job approval
lower if he is going to win.
is ammunition for pundits on all sides to handicap this
race a number of different ways. And Cook is right that
history and precedent would not favor a President polling
in the 40's with a job approval in the 40's. But history
and precedent didn't predict what happened in the 2002 election.
And the 24/7 news cycle world of Internet and cable TV coupled
with the permanent campaign atmosphere of today's politics
mitigates to a degree the usefulness of historical polls
done in the 1970's and even the '80's.
the biggest mistake in handicapping and analyzing this election
is underestimating the impact of 9/11. So it's great to
reference all these other elections where incumbents with
poll numbers like Bush lost, but I don't know how useful
they will be in 2004.
is the first presidential election since the attack in 2001,
we have troops overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan prosecuting
the War on Terror. Al Qaeda is actively trying to attack
us with a strike of the same magnitude as 9/11 or bigger.
That will be the backdrop of the election this fall - and
that backdrop works decidedly against John Kerry and the
of this is to suggest Senator Kerry can't win, only that
from where things stand today I think President Bush is
in much better shape than many Democrats think considering
all that has transpired these last four months.
I said, it's easy to get excited when your candidate is
in the middle of his pre-convention run. But let's wait
and see how things look after the conventions and the anniversary
of September 11. It's quite possible all this mid-Summer
optimism about a Kerry victory might look very different
in mid-October. J. McIntyre 10:10 am Link
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July 19 2004
THE BAD, THE GOOD AND THE DAWN OVER BAGHDAD: There's
been a spate of violence in Iraq recently. The headlines
this morning tell of more bad news. But
there's also been a host of good news in Iraq as well, and
once again Arthur
Chrenkoff ably rounds it all up for our viewing pleasure.
difference between the two, of course, is emphasis. Bad
news is pumped out of Iraq the moment it occurs via wire
services and television crews. It almost always makes front
pages across the country (in many cases with a color photo
of the carnage) and it's played in a virtual loop on cable
news channels trying to fill an entire day's schedule with
"breaking news" stories.
good news, on the other hand, comes in dribs and drabs -
a story here and a story there. These stories are usually
treated more like "vignettes" rather than "hard"
news since they are, by definition, stories that make you
"feel good". As a result, you're just as likely
to find them in the middle or the back of the paper as you
are the front - if you can find them at all, that is.
Chrenkoff says, trying to find good news on Iraq is a maddening
exercise, not because it isn't out there but because it
gets so little emphasis and attention in the mainstream
know why this is so. More than anything else, there is an
institutional bias in the media for bad news. Watch any
local five o'clock news broadcast in America and you know
what I mean. Carnage and chaos sell newspapers and generate
ratings. Ribbon cutting ceremonies at new schools or new
government buildings don't. And the American public is as
much to blame for this as anyone.
there's an ideological bias in the press as well. Many reporters
in Baghdad and their editors back in the states lean to
the left and don't want to be seen as "cheerleading"
for a President (and most likely a war) they don't like
or agree with. The news we get is invariably filtered (either
consciously or unconsciously, or both) through a group of
people who generally feel the war was a mistake and the
reconstruction a quagmire. It's no surprise the coverage
reflects those feelings.
reporting good news is hard work. It takes time and effort.
You actually have to generate ideas, do the leg work of
interviewing people, and then be able to sit down and construct
a compelling story. It's not an easy thing to do - and it's
certainly a lot harder than sitting around waiting for the
next bomb to go off and then running out to scribble down
the details of the scene. Unfortunately, not enough journalists
have the time or devote the effort to reporting some of
the better news happening in Iraq.
journalist who did do the leg work is Karl
Zinsmeister. Karl is the editor of The
American Enterprise Magazine and author of two books
about the Iraq war. Boots
on the Ground is Zinsmeister's account of his experience
imbedded with the 82nd Airborne during the invasion of Iraq
this year, Zinsmeister returned to Iraq for a number of
weeks to get a close up look at how our troops are simultaneously
battling the insurgency and managing the reconstruction
result is Zinsmeister's new book (and our featured book
of the month): "Dawn
Over Baghdad: How the U.S. Military is Using Bullets and
Ballots to Remake Iraq." If you're looking for
a first hand account of what's going on in Iraq, I suggest
you buy this book and read it immediately.
week I had the privilege of interviewing Zinsmeister about
the book and in the coming days we'll be publishing the
two part interview. But I can tell you right now the most
striking thing about both the book and the interview is
just how different a picture Zinsmeister paints of Iraq
than what we're all used to seeing from the mainstream press.
is optimistic - though by no means a Pollyanna - about our
progress in Iraq. His experience day in and day out with
our troops suggest that despite the ongoing violence they
are making great strides in Iraq, and with sustained effort
and perseverance we have a decent shot at accomplishing
the task of helping Iraq become a functioning, stable democracy
in the heart of the Middle East.
is not all roses. Those who support the war can't wish away
the continued violence and struggle there. But it's important
to remember there's another side to the coin in Iraq, one
we rarely get to see and one that is almost never viewed
with any historical perspective.
articles and Zinsmeister's book help give the sort of balance
that Americans need, in fact that we deserve, to make informed
judgments about our policy in Iraq. It's a balance the mainstream
press doesn't seem either able or willing to provide. -
T. Bevan 8:45 am Link
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