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
to a Friend