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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 25, 2004 3:59 AM. The previous post in this blog was Sticker shock. The next post in this blog is Ding dong, the boondoggle's dead. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Win early, lose late

This is where the Democratic Party and the left wing need to pay very, very close attention.

The President looks desperate at the moment. His speech gave the country nothing new, and his glimpse into the future (138,000 or more troops in Iraq, indefinitely) will serve only to exacerbate the fears and doubts that the vast middle of the spectrum is feeling right now.

And it's become more obvious than ever that he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. We'll build another prison and knock down the one where we tortured and abused the prisoners. That solves that, eh?

It's very easy to think that Kerry has got the election sewn up. But that would be dangerously wrong thinking.

There are still more than five months to go until the election. Public opinion can swing wildly in just a few weeks, much less months. Moreover, as dense as W. is, he's also lucky. And he's got a huge, quiet following out there that is throwing money at him as hard and as fast as it can.

Not to mention the no-tax crowd. You can bet that as November approaches, every other word out of the Bush camp's mouth is going to be "taxes." And the public is greedy and stupid when it comes to that particular topic. If you don't promise to cut their taxes, many, many voters will vote for your opponent, no other questions asked. Bush has another tax cut to promise. Kerry's too honest and conscientious to serve one up. For better or worse, that's going to sway a lot of folks.

Plus, don't think there isn't an October surprise or two in the works. If he can nab OBL in Yemen or wherever, Bush will win, no matter what's going down in Iraq. And even if he can't, don't count him out. To beat him is going to take more work, and smart work, and a lot of it.

Comments (24)

The Economist had a great article a few months ago on how the U.S. is now a 50-50 nation. A trained donkey would win 49% of the vote and a trained elephant would win 49% of the vote. The classic "voter in the middle" argument is gone now - a party wins a national election by energizing its base and going away from the middle.

I predict another cliff-hanger.

I think you're right Jack. It would be a mistake to let up. There's a long way to go.

As for the 50-50 nation: Personally, I think it's more like 40-40 at the start. Maybe 45-45.
Bush's favorable ratings are hovering in the low to mid forties right now.

Of course, there is a slight bias in Bush's favor because of the electoral college. Each state gets two to start, irrespective of population. The best forecasting would take this into account. This is a solid site:

http://www.electionprojection.com/elections2004.html

You've been maintaining for months that Kerry can't win, though. Even a curmudgeon like you has to admit things are looking better for the Kerry camp than ever. Based on historical trends, Bush couldn't be looking worse now. I don't think anyone's going to call a Kerry administration in the bag, but I am willing to say that barring an October surprise, Bush looks like he's in very big trouble.

(The WSJ has Kerry beating Bush in 10 of 14 battleground states right now.)

It's May. Rope-a-Dope Season. They haven't even really begun to exploit Kerry's negatives. And there will be multiple surprises.

Professor Bogdanski's Election 2004 graphic reflects my frustration with our current two party system producing little or no choice.

We need to start with Instant Runoff Voting where voters rank their candidates in order of preference. The Center for Voting and Democracy provides hope for those disaffected by the current state of democracy in the United States. Instant Runoff Voting is a mainstream idea that can be embraced by people of all political affiliations. Here is a link to their site explaining various reforms to US democracy: http://www.fairvote.org/index.html.

Some of our leaders profess a goal of bringing democracy to the middle east. I dream of a democracy of substance in the United States.

I don't think "curmudgeon Jack" has been saying Kerry can't win. He's been saying that other potential Democratic candidates such as John Edwards would have a greater chance of winning, and of course he's right. Either Edwards or Joe Lieberman would be solid favorites right now, and Kerry is at best even money.

But in a two-party system, you don't get much of a choice. Grady points out that there are alternative voting systems available, which we don't use in this country. It would be interesting to start at the bottom (so to speak) and develop a proportional representation or instant runoff system for the Oregon Legislature.

That Zogby "poll" showing Kerry ahead in battleground states was an online poll, and is so thinly sourced that you can't even find the number of participants. All the other polls show Bush with a lead. Given the electoral-vote changes that favor Bush, and given the strengthening economy, I don't know how Bush loses. Especially against Kerry. I'll put a beer or two on Bush against anyone who wants.

I would have agreed with Jack a couple months ago about an OBL capture helping Bush. Now I'm not so sure. I think he gets a bump for maybe 3 days and then people will start to wonder why it took so long, which can be exploited by reminding people that the Iraq war was a major distraction from the war on terrorism. With Zinni's comments adding significant weight to the "Bush is incompetent" argument, I don't see how Bush recovers without a major change in the political climate - which could happen of course.

I particularly enjoyed reading this headline today: "Bush can't win this election now. Kerry can only lose it" from the Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1223855,00.html And yes, Kerry is certainly capable of losing it, but I'd rather Kerry be in this position than behind.

There are a lot of people, some in my family, who don't really know anything about what Bush has done. They just know that their pastor speaks of Bush as a good Christian so they should vote for him. Sad.

Current polls are operating under a false basis- most of the population has home phones. A growing number of younger voters, that have a high tendancy to vote towards the Democrats, don't have home phones; they are mobile phone only households. By not factoring in this soon to be very large segment of the population (non landline users), which just happen to mostly live on the left hand of the dial, pollers are engaging in bad planning and bad data accumulation and thus creating heavily skewing statistics.

Interesting thought, about mobile phone households. If so , we could have a repeat of 1948, where one reason the pollsters were so wrong about Truman/Dewey was that they did phone polling, and lower income (Democrat) households tended not to have home phones yet.

> A growing number of younger voters, that have a high tendancy to vote towards the Democrats, don't have home phones

I think you're kidding yourself if you think that young people are monolithically liberal. Of course they are here, in the People's Republic, where support for Bush or the war is anathema. But I've seen a lot of evidence that Gen Y is not especially liberal, and that the generation that is really driving the left is the Baby Boomer generation.

Given all the cutthroat press that Bush has gotten lately, over Abu Ghraib, Iraq planning incompetence, and everything else, you'd think that Kerry would have some momentum. Doesn't seem that way at all. I think almost everyone who votes in this election will do so holding their nose - but to me, Kerry stinks more. If only they had nominated Lieberman.. somehow I don't think my one write-in vote will help.

No one has taken me up on that beer yet. Come on, people, put your liver where your mouth is.

Make it a mocha and you're on.

A few responses to make here:

It's May. Rope-a-Dope Season. They haven't even really begun to exploit Kerry's negatives. And there will be multiple surprises.

Of course. But it's hard to see how those negatives can match Bush's. And "haven't even really begun" isn't quite right, either. Bush has spent $100 million doing that very thing. As long as things look this bad, Kerry's negatives are going to pale in comparison. The question is: how will they make Kerry look worse? Until you can answer that question, I don't see the logic.

Either Edwards or Joe Lieberman would be solid favorites right now, and Kerry is at best even money.

You gotta be kiddin' me. Lieberman would be a more-compromised candidate than Dukakis (for, obviously, very different reasons). As for Doc Jack--I can't find it, but I seem to recall him saying only Edwards could beat Bush. I may be wrong (I'm fairly used to it by now).

That Zogby "poll" showing Kerry ahead in battleground states was an online poll, and is so thinly sourced that you can't even find the number of participants.

False. Here's the methodology: "This poll was conducted by Zogby Interactive, a division of Zogby International, which has been doing online polls since 1998. The poll reflects results from respondents who agreed to take part. Likely voters from each state followed instructions sent by e-mail that led them to the survey located on Zogby's secure servers in Utica, N.Y. Slight weightings were applied to ensure that the selection of participants accurately reflects characteristics of the voting population, including region, party, age, race, religion and gender. This survey was conducted May 18-23. The margin of error varies from state to state depending upon the number of participants in each state. It ranges between +/- 3.0 and +/- 4.6 percentage points. Click on the states to see the margin of error for each.

Number of survey respondents: Arkansas, 497; Florida, 857; Iowa, 588; Michigan, 612; Minnesota, 928; Missouri, 520; Nevada, 532; New Hampshire, 521; New Mexico, 454; Ohio, 579; Oregon, 933; Pennsylvania, 655; Tennessee, 1,057; Washington, 527; West Virginia, 504; Wisconsin, 841."

A beer? I'd love one. Consider it a wager.

The question is: how will they make Kerry look worse? Until you can answer that question, I don't see the logic.

Logic? In a U.S. Presidential election? Bwa to the ha to the ha-ha-ha.

I don't know -- you tell me. They always save the best dirt until the end.

You're right, my bad. But there's this:

> Slight weightings were applied to ensure that the selection of participants accurately reflects characteristics of the voting population, including region, party, age, race, religion and gender.

Slight weightings, huh? Not that I don't trust Zogby, a partisan Democrat known mostly for the inaccuracy of his polls, but.. OK, I don't trust him.

Just for comparison purposes, let's check the last time a personality-challenged Massachusetts liberal ran against a sort-of incumbent - that's right, it's "My people were little people. Little, hairy people" Dukakis. How was he doing at this time in 1988?

Looks like he was up 54-38:

http://www.gallup.com/content/?ci=1252

Not that there are any paralells to be drawn from history, or anything. Because that election turned out well for the Ds.

I'll take a Bridgeport IPA, thanks.

Weighting is a common practice in sampling. The notion of sampling depends on finding a group that accurately represents the larger population. If you're polling in a region with a 50-50 split of Dems and Republicans, and you get a 60-40 split of respondents, you make an adjustment.

Zogby, incidentally, has historically had results more favorable to conservatives--and as a result, has been more accurate.

I'll take a Bridgeport IPA, thanks.

See, why don't we all just talk about beer. Anyone who likes BridgePort IPA is all right in my book.

Make mine a Cinder Cone Red, Brett.

I agree, weighting is common and necessary, but it's also a perfect opportunity to mess with the results, if one is so inclined. Also, I'm not sure the D/R affiliation means much any more. Above we have someone (in another thread) who voted for Bush but now thinks he is the worst President ever. I voted for Gore but won't be voting for Kerry. I think there are a substantial number of people for whom 9/11 and the subsequent events skewed their perceptions about the two parties. I hope there are lots like me who saw 9/11 as a declaration of war and don't trust the Democratic root-causes rhetoric. But who knows.

> See, why don't we all just talk about beer. Anyone who likes BridgePort IPA is all right in my book.

Word. I hope that we are including microbreweries among the facilities we are rebuilding in Iraq. I know, Muslims don't drink, but it would do some people some good.

Matt - You're on, though if we're going Deschutes, I'll take a Black Butte.

Brett--I'll say upfront that the most likely scenario I'm finding from a very close reading of current individual state polling, is a Kerry blowout. Something on the order of a 70-100 point bulge in EV. And I'll put my money where my mouth is. Not one beer, but up to FIVE well-drawn pints at the Portland microhouse of your choice.

You are a bit behind the times regarding the status of polling. RealClearPolitics is an excellent clearinghouse; so is Polling Report. Here's the skinny from RCP:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/bush_vs_kerry_hth.html

Note that Bush was marginally ahead at the beginning of April, but by the end of May you'll notice that Kerry has begun to assume leads beyond the MoE. Of the 10 most recent polls, Bush is "ahead" in exactly one of them--by a single point.

Electoral conditions post-census do indeed give Bush 7 more EV based on 2000 vote totals. However, he has to actually earn those states again, and at the moment it's not looking good. I can point you to two other EV predictors; neither has Bush in a good position at all. Kerry is fairly well ahead in both OH and PA, while holding his own in all Gore states. The two are completely deadlocked in FL. Whoever wins two of those three races, wins the election.

As for the economy's improvement, Bush has serious trouble there. Ratings for the economy are tracking with ratings for Iraq; geopolitical realities are harming consumer confidence. That, and gas hikes. A predominant reason for pessimism despite recent job gains, is retail inflation. If gas stays at or above where it is now through the summer, that will be the predominant impression of the economy. Even if you have a job, you can tell that more of your money is going out to pay for things, and that leads to bad ratings.

On Zogby: to say it's an "online poll" isn't quite accurate, in the sense that web sites have online polls you click on. This is the phone model transported to email, where the sending of the email is equivalent to dialing the phone. The nature of the response (ie, clicking on the link in the mail and answering the survey, vs saying yes to the interviewer and responding) is much cloudier, and I'd say that's the largest unknown in Zogby's methods. But to say they are less proven externally, is not to make a firm statement on their accuracy. Zogby is a polling maverick to be sure, but during the primaries his numbers were spot-on. He's earned a little wiggle room, IMO.

On young people: check out MSNBC's GENNEXT polling series. They are tracking young folks at levels a couple points worse than the public at large, relative to support for Bush. They are not monolithic to be sure, but they do represent a favorable sub-electorate for Kerry.

Finally, on 1988 and incumbency. Being VP just isn't the same as being the current President. In the former, both are considered challengers in the minds of the public. One may have a leg up in terms of experience or "presidentiality," but the point of incumbency is that there is a record to analzye for the President. In these situations, the first stage of the election season is always a referendum on the incumbent. That's where we are now, and the results of the referendum are dismal to disastrous for Bush. No incumbent has ever been re-elected with favorability and job ratings like these. Similarly, no challenger has ever fared as well as Kerry at this stage.

If you need more documentation in any of these areas, I'd be happy to provide links. And I'm serious about the beer; write down my contact info. I'd give Bush about a 30% chance of winning at the moment.

So since you think it's a blowout, you'd be willing to give me some points, or odds?

Wouldn't you agree that given all the negatives you reference, and given all the negative press that Bush has gotten, Kerry should be polling a lot stronger?

And do you really agree that being a VP is the same as being a newcomer to the scene? In that case, why did Clinton matter to Gore in 2000 at all?

I think a fivefold raising of the stakes is enough of a statement of confidence. :)

No, I don't agree Kerry should be polling a lot stronger. As I said, this part of the election is all about the incumbent. Furthermore, Kerry appears to be intentionally staying low key.

Finally, the relationship between VP and newcomer isn't really relevant, and it's not what I was talking about. I rejected the comparison to 1988 because the VP is not at all the same as an incumbent president. A VP may not be the same as a pure challenger, but given that both have no experience or record as President of the United States, I'd say they share more in common than a VP and a sitting President. 1988 is a poor choice of reference point, especially given than 1992 and 1980 are so much more natural choices.


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