Monday, August 30 2004
CONVENTION COLOR
: About three blocks away from Madison Square Garden you can start to feel the security for the convention. The first thing you notice is an inordinate amount of police. Standing on the corner of Broadway and 34th street this morning at 7:45 am I counted more than 30 uniformed officers.

All the streets around the Garden are barricaded and foot traffic on the sidewalks is tightly controlled. About a block from the convention I had to pass through a checkpoint and show my driver's license before continuing.

Entering the convention is even more daunting. Our group had to pass through three or four different checkpoints where police officers and Secret Service agents eyeballed our credentials.

Then came the metal detectors. It was like airport security on steroids. All electronic devices had to be presented to a TSA officer and turned on. Any items posing even the most remote threat - including many items that seemingly pose not threat at all - were confiscated and thrown in the trash.

Besty, the woman who is "managing" our group of bloggers at the RNC, went through the metal detector and x-ray machine just ahead of me. She was promptly divorced from a tiny bottle of nail polish in her possession because it was made of glass. A television reporter told me he had his can of hair spray confiscated.

Inside, the convention hall is a blur of activity. We're parked in a place called "Blogger's Corner" - which isn't much of a corner at all - and we're adjacent to "Radio Row" - which, you can probably guess, isn't much of a row, either.

As you might expect, various GOP luminaries have been holding forth on radio shows and in the hallway right in front of us - most notably Alan Keyes. The media loves Keyes, and he clearly reciprocates.

Earlier I spent some time listening to the opening of Al Franken's show (The O'Franken Factor) which is being broadcast from a booth just around the corner. It's interesting to see Franken working his schtick deep in enemy territory, but I have to say he's doing a good job. He's a heck of a funnier in person.

As I write, Sean Hannity is gearing up to broadcast his show from a table about 10 feet directly behind me. Sean has the aura of a rock star: even though there have been other people broadcasting at the table all day, the place has been more or less dead silent. Now it's humming: at least twenty people are surrounding the area listening, watching, waiting for Hannity to begin.

CONVENTION MEAT: Enough color, let's get to some meat and potatoes. This morning we had a Q&A with Matthew Dowd, President Bush's chief strategist. Dowd talked about many things but here are some interesting tidbits:

Undecided voters: The Bush campaign estimates the undecided vote at about 7%. Dowd says the number of "true" undecideds is probably half that, about 3 or 4 percent. Based on the polling data they've aggregated on undecideds in battleground states, the Bush team has compiled the following profile on undecideds: they are overwhelmingly white, tend to be older, go to church often and describe themselves as moderate to conservative. Dowd says they can't find any self-described liberals who remain undecided.

Conventional wisdom says that undecideds will usually break in favor of the challenger. Dowd says that based on the research they've done they feel they have a good chance of at least splitting the undecided vote and perhaps doing even better. Maybe this won't be the case in the end, but that's what they're thinking at the moment.

It's also clear that while the Bush team is trying to win undecideds, they're much more focused on getting out the base and targeting voters who may potentially vote for Bush. The trick is finding them and contacting them personally, which Dowd said makes people 4 times more likely to vote for a candidate.

A couple final notes regarding battleground states. According to Dowd the good news is that two critical states, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Bush is tracking three to four points better than in 2000. The bad news is that Ohio is doing the opposite: tracking two or three below where Bush was in 2000.

Remember, in the weeks leading up to the 2000 election, Gore basically abandoned Ohio and still only lost the state by 4 points. This year, Democrats are not making the same mistake. Campaign spokesman Terry Holt told me that the liberal interest group America Coming Together has spent months pouring money and effort into their ground game in Ohio and that, along with Kerry taking advantage of a struggling economy, is making the state one of the toughest for the President to hold. T. Bevan 3:25 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend


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