Friday, September 10


CJR Campaign Desk brings us this welcome election analysis by National Journal:

"President Bush is less popular at this point in his term than were recent presidents who went on to win re-election, but ... more popular than those who eventually lost. ..."

Despite that,

"... today's unprecedented level of partisan polarization -- which cleaves the nation almost exactly in half -- means that there [are] few Democrats left for Kerry to pick up. Virtually everyone in his party [has] already "come home" . ... Kerry isn't likely to gain many Republican defectors. Rather, whatever gains Kerry makes are likely to come from the ranks of independents. ...

Well-known, defined incumbents wind up getting at most only one-quarter to one-third of the undecided vote. ...

Voters who now consider themselves "undecided" have [by definition] already made a tentative decision not to support the incumbent. What's left for them to decide is whether to vote for the main challenger. ..."

Cook writes that Clinton White House political director Doug Sosnick has determined that in the four most recent presidential re-election campaigns (Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton) the incumbent's job-approval ratings were showing clear and unambiguous by June, at which point the public had its mind made up about whether to re-elect the incumbent. If that theory holds up ... President Bush's 48 percent approval rating (the number has not wavered since March) will not be enough to win re-election in a two-way race and may not be enough to win even in a three-way race.

"Polls suggest that Americans have come to see the war with Iraq and U.S. policies in the Mideast as inadvertently increasing the threat of terrorism in the United States. ...

[Democrats] will gain little by attacking Bush's character. Among swing voters, there is a real openness to attacks on Bush's decisions and priorities. Attacks on Bush's character, however, can backfire and shift undecided voters to his side .... Bush's re-election is in extreme dangers because of the decisions, priorities and actions of his administration, not because of strategic or tacticial missteps made at the Bush-Cheney '04 headquarters in Arlington, Va. ..."

Offsetting that,

"Some observers think that if Kerry had as much personality as most ashtrays, he would have been ahead by 10 points even before picking Edwards or holding his national convention. Although that assessment is probably a bit harsh, Kerry has had trouble connecting with voters on a personal and emotional level. ...

[A] simple test tells us a lot about how this race may unfold in the coming months. Ask yourself how many people you know who voted for Gore in 2000 but who are planning to vote for Bush this year. Then ask yourself how many Bush 2000 voters are planning to vote for Kerry. Outside of the pro-Israel community, there are very, very few Gore voters who appear likely to defect to Bush. But most people can name Bush voters who appear ready to switch their allegiance to Kerry. ..."


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