Monday, August 30, 2004

Full Panic Mode

In the electoral college poll that we post here at PolySigh, Kerry is now below 270. Before the Republican convention has even started. This is BAD NEWS. Here are other reasons for pessimism:

a) Hard as it is to believe, the Republicans haven't even started their negative attacks on Kerry. The Swift-Boat thing was gift from the gods--it wasn't even in their long-term plans. Because of the weeks of coverage this has gotten (primed by Kerry's convention emphasis and exacerbated by Kerry's decision to whine about it and ask Bush for an apology, which swallowed up all the media time he could have gotten on other issues), the Republicans have been able to hold their fire on the other stuff in their arsenal, mainly on Kerry's record in the Senate. So they get to spend November will all new attacks.

b) Kerry blew his shot to define the campaign. By trying to triangulate security, he ended up playing on the Republicans' turf--the most he can do with security is to neutralize it, especially since the Democrats weren't willing to go negative and really hammer the Bush administration for their record. Just pointing out that Kerry is a safe pair of hands isn't enough to push that issue over into the Democrats' side. So we've got a campaign still centered on security, and NO ONE has any idea what Kerry stands for on the domestic side or what issues he would emphasize. He should have picked a couple of issues to really hammer on that Bush couldn't triangulate, especially broadening health care coverage by reversing the high-income tax cuts. His shot to inject a big domestic issue into the campaign is over. As a result, this is a campaign that will be fought with the Republicans setting the agenda. And who sets the agenda is usually the ballgame.

c) Erosion in key states. Look at Pennsylvania. Kerry has been ahead, often quite far ahead, for months now. It is now a dead heat. And again, this is before the convention. There are currently 90 electoral votes on the electoral-vote counter that are within the margin of error or tied. It's hard to imagine that ALL of these won't switch into the Republican column after the convention. That gives Bush at least 322 electoral votes at the end of the convention, and maybe more if there is a reasonably large swing.

d) The war. For months the news from Iraq has been a drag on Bush's numbers. My sense is that Iraq is becoming the "new normal" and the impact of the news from there is losing its sting.

?) Turn-out. Even with all of the bad news above, it's still likely to be very close. Some of the polls are hard to evaluate, because (esp. the Zogby polls) are of likely voters. But with all the money being spent on the ground game, it's hard to tell who is actually going to show up on election day. The Republicans are spending serious time and effort trying to get the evangelical vote above where it was in 2000, and the odds are they'll be successful. The Democrats also have a fierce ground game up and running. In the end, it's probably still the 1%-2% that's moved by this work that'll decide the election. Only question--did the Democrats' anti-Bush fervor peak earlier in the summer? Will it really be able to carry into November, and lead to a big turnout?

?) Nader. Good news from Pennsylvania, with Nader apparently kept off the ballot there. But Nader continues to poll 2% in FL, NV, WA and OR. My guess is this number will not erode significantly--if folks are still saying they are voting for Nader after all the begging and pleading from folks like Michael Moore, I can't see anything in the next 60 days that will change their minds.

When I jokingly said that the polls suggested that we'd need to decamp to Canada, my wife upped the ante and proposed New Zealand. I'm beginning to consider sending job applications to the University of Christchurch...I hear they have good skiing down there. Bottom line: there's a bad moon rising...

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