September 21 2004
BATTLEGROUND UPDATE: It's been less than a week
since I wrote about John
Kerry's slide in the state polls. Since then, the trend
has continued. Yesterday we had a wave of state polls confirming
the move away from Kerry in key battleground states. Based
on the latest polls, here is where our RCP Battleground
is maintaining a solid grip on Michigan and Washington,
but everything else is in play. With the exception of New
Hampshire, every single state we have listed as a toss up
in our RCP
Electoral Count (IA, MN, NM, OR, PA) is a state that
went for Gore in 2000.
picture is even more bleak for the Kerry campaign when you
look at how Kerry is faring in blue states (i.e. states
that Al Gore won in 2000) versus how Bush is faring in red
states. Kerry is running worse than Gore did in 2000 in
eight out of ten battleground states, Bush has lost ground
versus his performance four years ago in only two:
and New Jersey seem to be aberrations. However, not only
could the massive move in New Jersey be attributable to
a "9/11 effect" and the McGreevey scandal, we
are now seeing other polls coming out of Democratic strongholds
and New York
suggesting that Kerry is experiencing a serious deterioration
of support there as well.
the other hand, there is no evidence to corroborate a big
swing against Bush in Colorado. It's hard to believe that
the President is leading in nearly every national poll and
is running better than he did in 2000 all across the country
- including the Mountain West states of Nevada, New Mexico,
and Arizona - but is running seven and half points worse
in Colorado this year.
THE COUNTRY REJECTING JOHN KERRY?: Now that the
conventions are over and people are beginning to focus intently
on the race, it's almost as if the public is taking a good
hard look at John Kerry and saying "no thanks."
There is still a lot of race left and plenty of time (including
three debates) for Kerry to convince people to change their
minds, but the trend lines are certainly not favorable for
how can we explain what's going on? There are lots of possible
reasons: Kerry is a bad candidate, he's running a disorganized
campaign, his message is all over the place, the Swift Boat
Veterans hit him where it hurt, etc. All of these things
are true to a certain degree and they've no doubt contributed
at least in part to his decline in the polls. But I think
there is something much, much bigger.
most inexplicable aspect of this race right now is that
the President continues to rise in the polls despite the
fact that the violence and chaos in Iraq is getting worse.
Iraq has always been the defining issue in this campaign
and despite John Kerry's best attempts over the last few
months to turn it against Bush by attacking from every imaginable
angle, it hasn't worked. Maybe that will change as the violence
continues into October and Kerry sharpens his critique,
but I wouldn't count on it.
reason, I think, is very simple: America hates losers. I
don't mean that John Kerry is a "loser" in the
stylistic sense - though he does come off a bit that way
when we see pictures of his gangly frame in spandex bike
shorts, windsurfing or throwing a baseball.
I mean is that when it comes to the biggest issue in this
campaign, Iraq, John Kerry doesn't leave the impression
with voters that he really wants to win the war. Everything
we see, feel and know about John Kerry says his heart is
not in this war, nor has it really been in any war.
even when he tries to articulate, as
he did yesterday in New York, a strategy to fight a
more effective war than President Bush, it comes across
more like a laundry list of gripes from a man who thinks
the cause is already lost: "Iraq is a mistake and
mess, and we need to do X, Y, and Z so we can get out as
soon as possible."
the other hand, President Bush is, for better or worse,
a fighter. It's not so much that the public thinks President
Bush is a winner per se, only that they know very clearly
that Bush wants to win this war, and that he's doing everything
within his power to try to win and it.
even though mistakes have been made and a good number of
Americans are uneasy about the War in Iraq and the direction
of the country in general, when given a choice between a
leader who is committed to fighting and optimistic about
winning or a leader who exudes the attitude that because
the going is tough we ought to get going, Americans almost
always prefer the former.
1972 nearly 60 percent of the country was against the war
in Vietnam, a war which at that point America had been fighting
for almost a decade at a cost of tens of thousands of lives.
Yet the country still thoroughly rejected McGovern's defeatist
"peace at any price" platform in favor of Nixon's
call for "peace with honor" even as Nixon escalated
the war effort in the spring and summer of the election
even the 1972 analogy strikes me as inadequate, because
I still think the country is approaching this election less
through the prism of Iraq as Vietnam (despite all the focus
on the candidates' experiences during the Vietnam era) and
more with the feeling that 9/11, Iraq and the War on Terror
are akin to Pearl Harbor and World War II.
of hostages and the slaughter
of children now standard viewing on our nightly news,
it is going to be extremely difficult for John Kerry to
convince America over the next 40 days that Iraq is separate
from the overall War on Terror. Even further, it will be
a remarkable feat if Kerry can argue that Iraq is a mistake
not worth the fight and simultaneously convince the public
he is as committed as Bush to waging an aggressive War on
Terror. - T. Bevan 7:55 am Link
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