Friday, August 6 2004
BAD JOB NEWS FOR BUSH:
Today's jobs report release for July is bad news for the Bush campaign because it calls in to question the sustainability of the economic recovery.

Employment growth in the U.S. stalled dramatically last month, according to the Labor Department, with the economy adding just 32,000 nonfarm jobs, well short of economists' estimates. The weak reading, which followed June's anemic 112,000-job gain, sent stock futures reeling and bond prices rallying.

A single month of disappointing job numbers can be written off as a statistical aberration, however a second consecutive month of very disappointing job growth, coupled with job revisions downward for May and June, certainly calls into question the underlying strength of the economy.

Saving graces for the White House are that the report at least showed job growth and not job losses, and the unemployment rate dipped to 5.5%. These two factors coupled with the very strong job growth in the household survey will give the Bush campaign some PR ammunition to blunt the underlying negative news in this job report.

With only two more reports to be released before the election, next month's jobs report now takes on a much higher level of importance. And if the August report, released the day after Bush's acceptance speech in NYC, underperforms to the same extent as this report or actually shows job losses, the Bush campaign is going to have a very difficult time suggesting that everything is all roses with the economy.

On the other hand, if next month's number comes in with decent growth or surpasses expectations it should neutralize the potential for the Democrats to make headway in attacking the President on job growth. The U.S. economy is like the largest supertanker you can possibly imagine, and even if the economy is truly weakening, the perception that it is weakening will probably not become apparent to the public until well after the election.

Next month's report has huge significance in that regard because a good report will allow for credible arguments that the June and July numbers were simply blips in a steadily improving job market. However, a third consecutive subpar job number will give the Democrats, the Kerry campaign and the press plenty of ammunition with which to attack the President. J. McIntyre 9:03 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Thursday, August 5 2004
THE POWER OF TRUTH:
In August, 1997, Florida followed Mississippi as the second state in America to win a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. As part of the record $11.3 billion settlement, $200 million was earmarked specifically for an anti-tobacco advertising campaign directed in large part at Florida teens. A small Miami-based agency named Crispin Porter & Bogusky (CPB) won the contract to design and produce the ads.

Until that time, there had been numerous anti-smoking public service announcement (PSA) campaigns , none of which ever had any demonstrable impact on reducing teen smoking.

To the contrary, teen smoking remained as popular as ever and companies like Philip Morris, RJR Reynolds and Brown & Williamson continued to spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually cultivating a cool, teen-friendly image with brands like Marlboro, Kool, and Camel.

Indeed, over the course of their research CPB learned that tobacco marketers had achieved an incredibly powerful influence over teen behavior. They had done this by shrewdly ingratiating their product and brands with the teen audience by playing on teens' sense of invulnerability/immortality and their innate desire to rebel against authority.

With decades worth of adveristing - coupled with the relentless glamorization of cigarettes in movies, magazines and among teen idols - tobacco companies had crafted a product image that was a near-perfect symbol of "coolness" and anti-authoritarianism.

Because of this, teen smoking had become more or less impervious to traditional PSA's. If anything, the preachy "smoking is bad for you" message of public health ads only reinforced the imagery and the emotions tobacco companies were already leveraging to sell their brands to kids.

But Crispin Porter + Bogusky made another critical revelation during their research. They found one thing that cut through all the emotion and psychology of teen consumers. One thing that mattered more than being "cool," that wielded more influence than peer pressure, and that teens disliked even more than being preached to by their parents. The thing teens hated above all was the idea that they were being manipulated and lied to.

CPB took this insight and made it the center of their anti-tobacco advertising campaign which they branded, rather appropriately, TRUTH. Thus CPB changed the paradigm of the anti-smoking message from a preachy public service that most teens could care less about (i.e. "smoking is bad for your health") to a personal affront to the teens themselves (i.e "big tobacco companies are lying to you").

(By the way, If you want to see just how powerful advertising can be when a smart message is married to a brilliant execution, watch this TRUTH spot that aired in movie theatres all across Florida.)

The new CPB ads began undoing decades worth of programming by tobacco companies. When teens eventually bought into the idea that big tobacco was orchestrating a conspiracy to manipulate them into using products that would eventually kill them, their behavior changed rapidly.

The results speak for themselves. So does the reaction of the tobacco companies - all of whom lost a significant amount of control and influence over the single most important demographic capable of ensuring long-term profitability. The campaign was so successful CPB was tapped by The American Legacy Foundation to launch the strategy nationwide.

So what does any of this have to do with politics, you ask? I submit that it has everything to do with politics.

First, this strategy is similar to the ones Democrats are currently using against George W. Bush. Our failure to find large stockpiles of weapons has given the Democrats just enough wiggle room to make the case to the public that Bush lied. Through simple discipline and repetition, the Dems have been making the charge stick - even without a single shred of supporting evidence.

According to a Gallup poll taken July 19-21, over the last 13 months the percentage of people who think Bush misled America on the WMD issue has risen to 45% from 31%. It just goes to show the power of the emotional reaction people have when someone tells them they've been lied to.

Second - and this is the real genesis of this post - I think CPB's experience working to understand and unravel big tobacco's influence on teen behavior is a fitting analogy to the decades-long influence of the Democratic party over African-American voters.

Furthermore I submit that if Republicans are smart, they should employ the same strategy CPB used with the TRUTH campaign to break through the four decades' worth of liberal programming that continues to motivate African-American to blindly vote en masse for Democrats.

The reason I mention all this is because President Bush made a pass at this strategy last week in his speech before the Urban League. Here is what he said:

I'm going to ask African American voters to consider some questions.

Does the Democrat party take African American voters for granted? (Applause.) It's a fair question. I know plenty of politicians assume they have your vote. But do they earn it and do they deserve it? (Applause.) Is it a good thing for the African American community to be represented mainly by one political party? That's a legitimate question. (Applause.) How is it possible to gain political leverage if the party is never forced to compete? (Applause.) Have the traditional solutions of the Democrat party truly served the African American community?

And just like a big tobacco CEO recognizing the potentially devastating effect of questions that - if respectfully asked and honestly answered - could lead to the disintegration of behavior patterns he's spent decades crafting, Al Sharpton took to the stage at the DNC days later to deliver a blistering response.

Sharpton didn't want Bush's questions to go unanswered, nor did he want to run the risk of having African-Americans answer those questions honestly for themselves. So Sharpton did it, in his own divisive way, and claimed it was on behalf of the entire African-American community.

Here is the truth: from tax cuts to small business incentives to social security reform to school choice down through social issues like gay marriage and the belief in faith-based charitable organizations, the values and ideology of the Republican party have a lot to offer African-Americans.

But if Republican outreach to African-Americans is going to be limited to the President asking a few direct questions before black audiences, nothing will change. Against the likes of Kweisi Mfume, Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, that's the equivalent of bringing a pocketknife to a gun fight.

Republicans need to pound this message home - not once every two or four years in the 90 days before an election but every day and everywhere. They should establish a 527 to start communicating to African-Americans and explaining how Republican ideas and policies match their personal interest.

But again, that won't be enough. A thousand positive ads can be nullified by a single Mfume slur appealing to black insecurity and distrust. Republicans need to hit people like Mfume in the mouth - figuratively speaking, of course - and expose them for what they are: divisive hate mongers who serve themselves before the interests of the African-American community.

More importantly - getting back to the Crispin Porter & Bogusky example - Republicans need to shift the political paradigm under which African-Americans operate. They can do this by pointing out, backed by a substantial body of evidence, that the Democratic party has been lying to African-Americans for years.

However well-intentioned the the Democratic party's policies may have been over the last 40 years, as a practical matter the results of those policies have been, for the most part, disastrous for black culture and black families.

And however much good-will the Democratic party may have earned with African-Americans during the Civil Rights movement, the party now uses fear and distrust over racial issues as a primary motivator and a tool to obscure the fact that they're largely a party of failed ideas with nothing new to offer the black community.

With a smart, creative, and no-holds barred communication strategy, Republicans can make a very persuasive argument that many of the Democrats' policies over the last 20-40 years haven't empowered African-Americans but enslaved them again. And not only do Democrats today take African-Americans for granted, but party leaders meet any dissent from liberal orthodoxy with the ruthlessness of fascist dictators - or even, one might go so far as to say, of slave masters. - T. Bevan 10:45 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, August 3 2004
THE DANGER WE FACE:
"One essential lesson of the last century is this: There are times when the international community must take a side - not merely stand between the sides. For when good and evil collide, even-handedness can be an ally of evil."

I can hear liberals across the country beating their breasts and wailing, "there goes our stupid, Bible-thumping President again with his dangerously simplistic rhetoric about good and evil."

Except these aren't the words of George W. Bush. They're from the speech President Bill Clinton delivered to the much-heralded UN Millennium Summit on September 6, 2000.

Here's the rest of the passage:

"We faced such a test and met it when Slobodan Milosevic, tried to close the century with a final chapter of ethnic slaughter. We have faced such a test for 10 years in Iraq. The UN has approved a fair blueprint spelling out what Iraq must do. It must be enforced for the credibility of the UN is at stake."

A couple of points worth noting. First, it seems a bit odd that President Clinton would choose to cite Kosovo in a speech before the United Nations as an example of the international community "meeting the test" given that the bombing campaign was undertaken without the support of the UN.

Second, Clinton said that for 10 years we had faced a test in Iraq - but he didn't say we had "met" the test. Indeed, by his own preceding example of the challenge being "met" in Kosovo with the use of military force to prevent genocide, Clinton implies that with our inaction on Iraq we had failed to meet the test, thereby putting the credibility of the UN "at stake." Needless to say, eight of those ten years occurred under Clinton's watch.

Be that as it may, despite Clinton's flowery rhetoric about good and evil, the most telling thing about his address was what he didn't say. The theme of Clinton's speech, delivered to the largest-ever gathering of leaders from around the globe, was "the making and keeping of peace." Yet there was not a single mention of the growing threat of terrorism or the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism.

Despite the litany of attacks of which we're all now painfully familiar, dating back to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 all the way through the foiled "Millennium Plot" in December, 1999 (now touted as one of the Clinton administration's major successes in the war on terror), Clinton stood on the world stage in the fall of 2000 and made no mention of al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.

Instead, Clinton focused attention on the numerous examples of heart-wrenching civil strife and conflict around the globe ("from Burundi to the Middle East to the Congo to South Asia") that international leaders like to wring their hands over and that liberals like to sit down and draft up humanitarian interventions for:

"We must also work with just as much passion and persistence to prevent conflict, recognizing the iron link between deprivation and war. In too many places, it is easier for children to find guns than textbooks So we must build on our initiative to provide free meals for 9 million children around the world, encouraging families to send their sons and their daughters to school. Too many countries are crippled by debt, so we must further our efforts with the G-7 and other creditors to reduce the debts of developing countries that invest the savings in basic needs. Too many nations face a tidal wave of infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, which cause one quarter of all deaths in the world. So we must intensify our work together to promote prevention and to stimulate the development of drugs and vaccines."

Don't get me wrong: poverty, third-world debt and AIDS are important issues that deserve a great deal of our time and energy. But for the President of the United States to stand before the entire world in late 2000 ostensibly speaking about "the making and keeping of peace" and to not mention the threat of terrorism is beyond negligent and mind-numbingly misguided.

Clinton defenders might say the Millennium Summit wasn't the right forum to discuss the threat of terrorism - to which every American should reply, "No, you're wrong. It was exactly the right place, the right time, and the right audience to speak out about the gravest threat facing America and the rest of the civilized world."

The type of do-gooder gobbledygook in Clinton's speech to the UN would be comical if it weren't so tragic. Five weeks after Clinton gave his address, 17 U.S. sailors died when al-Qaeda operatives attacked the USS Cole.

Unfortunately, this was nothing more than history repeating itself. In March of 1996, the Clinton Administration organized a much publicized anti-terrorism conference in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt dubbed the "Summit of Peacemakers."

Many meeting were held. Much was discussed. Lots of attention was devoted to trying to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There were lots of photo-ops with smiley faces and handshakes.

In the end, the group issued a final statement where all parties agreed to:

"promote coordination of efforts to stop acts of terror on bilateral, regional and international levels; ensuring instigators of such acts are brought to justice; supporting efforts by all parties to prevent their territories from being used for terrorist purposes; and preventing terrorist organizations from engaging in recruitment, supplying arms, or fund raising."

Sounds good. Except a short three months later al-Qaeda operatives did this:

Nineteen U.S. servicemen died and hundreds more were wounded in the Khobar Towers bombing.

Part of the problem, of course, is that throughout the 1990's and up until September 11, 2001, neither Bill Clinton, nor George W. Bush, nor the American public had come to realize or accept that we were at war with terrorists. Perhaps more accurately, we hadn't realized that terrorists had declared war on us.

One of the gravest dangers we now face as a country is forgetting this fact or to start believing the struggle we're in is something less than a war. It would be far too easy for us to return to the days of summits, speeches and photo-ops, where much was said about fighting terror but little was accomplished. The days when everyone got along but nothing got done.

My fear is that given everything I've heard John Kerry say about the war on terror and looking at the people who would fill a Kerry administration, that's exactly where we'll end up should he win this election. If he does go on to win, for the sake of the country I hope he proves me wrong. - T. Bevan 7:45 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, August 2 2004
LIKELY VOTERS, REGISTERED VOTERS & ADULTS:
There seems to be some confusion over which poll numbers we use in our RCP Polling Averages. Today's Gallup results are a perfect example. As soon as the results were posted yesterday, we started to receive dissatisfied emails wanting to know why we were posting only the Likely Voters results as opposed to the Registered Voters numbers.

There is a lot of emotion among partisans on both sides in the outcome of this election and naturally each side wants to see the most favorable poll results pushed for their respective candidate. Kerry supporters obviously would prefer the press focus on the Registered Voters result which has Kerry tied 47% - 47% (or even better the National Adult sample that has Kerry ahead 48% - 45%) instead of the Likely Voters result we posted that shows Kerry trailing Bush 50% - 46% in the three way race.

Two weeks ago, we had Republican partisans emailing us that we had the wrong FOX News poll numbers posted when, in fact, we had the correct Likely Voters results. These people were incorrectly looking at the Registered Voters result which (in a rarity) had President Bush doing better among Registered Voters than among Likely Voters.

The first thing we try to do is to be consistent in regards to polling data. We will always use Likely Voters numbers over Registered Voters, and Registered Voters numbers over National Adults. The reason is clear and simple. Likely Voters results are a better predictor of how an election actually turns out. In other words, they are more accurate.

People on both sides of the aisle usually recognize this fact without much argument, though you will occasionally hear complaining from Democrats that this usually tilts the polling results toward the GOP. But Democratic complaints really shouldn't be with pollsters who release Likely Voters results, but rather with the Registered Voters and Adults who respond in the surveys but don't bother to vote. Again, when a polling firm releases LV numbers and RV numbers we will always post the Likely Voters result.

Another source of confusion is whether we should highlight the three-way numbers with Nader or just the Bush-Kerry head-to-head results. Unlike the issue over LVs vs. RVs, this is more debatable and reasonable people can disagree over which series will be more accurate. We post both sets of results here at RealClearPolitics, but when just quoting one number from a poll we will use the three-way with Nader.

Again, Democrats sometimes will balk at this because usually it works to Bush's advantage. Now if Nader doesn't end up on the ballot in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri and Michigan then perhaps at some point we'll switch to using the head-to-head number as the one to quote. But given the results of the 2000 election it seems foolish to ignore the presence of Nader in the race.

To summarize: when we get a poll like the just released CNN/USA Today/Gallup with six different horse race numbers in the same poll. (3-way LV, 3-way RV, 3-way NA, head-to-head LV, head-to-head RV, head-to-head NA), we will always post the Likely Voters result in our RCP Poll Averages and we will highlight the three way with Nader as long as Nader remains in the race and on the ballot in critical states.

BUSH 50%, KERRY 46%, NADER 2%: It's hard to know what to make of the Gallup poll showing a negative 'bounce' for the Kerry/Edwards ticket. My first reaction is that everyone should take a deep breath before drawing huge conclusions from this one poll.

However, the results from the other post-convention poll from Newsweek doesn't provide much solace for the Kerry campaign when you read this: "Kerry’s four-point “bounce” is the smallest in the history of the NEWSWEEK poll."

Rasmussen's daily tracking poll shows a similar 2-4 point bounce and Zogby's poll taken July 26-29 during the Democratic Convention gives the Kerry/Edwards ticket a three point bump from their previous poll.

All told, the early evidence seems to indicate that Kerry will not receive much of a bounce, if any, from his convention in Boston. That in and of itself isn't a killer, because it is easily possible that given the polarization of the electorate neither candidate will receive much of a bounce from their convention. But the negative bounce in the Gallup poll, will be a serious concern for the Democrats if the other major polls confirm the same trend.

But even if the other polls are more similar to Newsweek and Rasmussen showing only a small bounce for the Kerry/Edwards ticket, that isn't necessarily good news for the Democrats. For while it is possible that people's opinions are so set there will not be any big bounces from either convention, it is also entirely possible Kerry gets a meager bump while Bush still gets the normal big boost from his convention.

So while these early polls aren't the end of the world for Kerry - or even necessarily conclusive evidence as to what kind of bounce Kerry may ultimately have gotten from his convention - there is no way the Kerry campaign can spin them as good news for their candidate. J. McIntyre 8:56 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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