Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Funny thing - after the DNC Kerry got a zero bounce. At least one poll showed him down. The explanation was that there were no swing voters any longer. Going into the RNC, predictions were that Bush would also have a zero bounce.

Now Bush got a big bounce. Even more specific polls of likely voters give him a seven point lead. Mickey Kaus has some thoughts about the quality of the polls.

Regardless, something different happened after the RNC than happened after the DNC. Bush got swing voters. The Kerry campaign is trying to spin it as meaningless. After all, it is called a "bounce" because it goes back down.

Sometimes this is true, sometimes it isn't. Often the challenger comes out of his convention (which is normally held first) with a lead over the incumbent. The incumbent gets a bounce of his own and things tighten up from there. Often, whoever is ahead on Labor Day stays ahead.

To confuse things even more, the incumbent's convention is usually held a little earlier and his bounce has usually died down by Labor Day.

Either way, the earlier you take a poll the less accurate it is. May and June polls show some really wild outcomes. In 1980, John Anderson looked at poll numbers that showed that 70% of the populous wanted a better candidate than Carter or Reagan. Figuring that he, as a liberal Republican, qualified, he entered the race. Ross Perot did the same thing in 1992.

In both cases, voters were looking for a "better" candidate and took an initial liking to the new face on the ticket. The problem with trying to be a "better" candidate is that it means different things to different people. I might want a candidate who is more fiscally conservative. You might want one who promises full English-style socialized medicine. One or both of us will be disappointed and settle for one of the regular candidates.

I think that this is what has happened with Kerry. He was chosen by people who don't like Bush but many of them now realize that they don't like Kerry, either. In fact, they prefer Bush.

As the election approaches, voters will be taking a close look at Kerry and deciding if they can live with him as president or not.

Kerry is hampered because he still hasn't come up with a reason for people to vite for him. He is still running as "not Bush". The Kerry Rapid Response site currently has this posted as the first listing:

“George W. Bush wishes he and I had the same position on Iraq but wishing
doesn’t make it so. I have said repeatedly that when it comes to Iraq, I
wouldn’t have done just one thing differently, I would have done almost
everything differently. George Bush’s wrongheaded, go-it-alone Iraq policy has
created a quagmire, costing us $200 billion and counting. As a result, George
Bush is shortchanging America on everything from education to health care to job
creation – making it more difficult to meet our needs here at home.”

Translation - I would have done everything just the same except better, trust me on this. The official campaign blog is just the same - Bush is bad, vote for me. This is not how to win an election. Bill Clinton ran on his record telling how he improved Arkansas and how he would do the same for the entire country. Reagan ran on tax cuts and getting the government off your back. Neither one ran negative campaign they ran on a vision for the future.

Bush, as the incumbent gets the luxury of being able to attack his opponent and run on a vision at the same time - vote for me, I'll keep you safe.

Kerry is at a loss on what to do about the SwiftVet ads. He should have ignored them. The SwiftVets are underfunded. Hardly anyone saw the ads. I didn't and I live in a swing state and was looking for them. I had to look them up on the Internet. This is self-selection. Just as the people who went to Fahrenheit 911, the people who look up the SwiftVets are ones who already are likely Bush voters. The only press that they got was very negative.

I suspect that they got under Kerry's skin. They scored a few hits. His campaign had to admit that he was not in Cambodia on Christmas and that he might have been hit by his own grenade. Even that never reached the mainstream news. Only likely Bush supporters knew it.

Then Kerry came out swinging. Suddenly it was a valid story. Most of it was still being suppressed by the mainsteam press but some got out. Kerry blames his staff but they were right. If Kerry has started swinging two weeks earlier then the story would have been even bigger.

Kerry's staff was also right about the press protecting them. Every story includes some line about "people who did not serve with Kerry." If the press was as unbiased as they represent themselves then 60 Minutes would have done an expose on Fahrenheit 911.

Kerry seems to be doing a lot of swinging. I'm not sure if he's hitting anything. Here is what he said a few minutes after the end of Bush's speech on Thursday night:

"I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who
refused to serve when they could have and who misled America into Iraq," Kerry
said at a late-night rally in Springfield, Ohio.

"The vice president even called me unfit for office last night," Kerry said. "I'll leave it up to the voters whether five deferments makes someone more qualified to defend this nation than two tours of combat duty."

So, after months of letting surrogates attack Bush's and Cheney's record for him, Kerry is now doing it directly. This is probably a bad move. Most men served during WWII. Most have not served since then. Even if Kerry limits himself to the Viet Nam era, everyone from then either avoided service or knows someone who did. It was a dirty war. Kerry said so himself. Who can blame men for not wanting to go? If Kerry attacks Bush or Cheney too hard on this he will end up alienating a lot of voters.

Besides, does Cheney limited himself to talking about Kerry's time in the Senate. Bush and Cheney have been very careful to praise Kerry's war record. Is Kerry now claiming that no one but Viet Nam veterans are fit to question his term in the Senate?

Eric Alterman thinks that God must hate Florida, either because they let Bush with the election or because they voted for Jeb. Here I thought that God was Republican.

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