« Seniors 2:1 Unfavorable on Medicare Prescription Drugs Bill | Main | A Bush Bump? »

So, Did Those Ads in the Battleground States Really Work?

Initially, most of the commentary suggested those ads in the battleground states worked very well and had Kerry on the run, driving up his unfavorables and defining him negatively in voters' eyes. But now, as the GOP steps down its ad buys, the verdict is more cautious about how well the ads worked. Ronald Brownstein's Los Angeles Times article notes that, according to Anthony Corrado, a leading expert on campaign finance, "since March 4 — just after Kerry in effect wrapped up his party's nomination — Bush has bought about as much television advertising as past presidential candidates purchased for the entire general election campaign."

Corrado's assessment: ...."frankly, [the president's campaign] "didn't move the [poll] numbers that much."

Recently-released Annenberg Election Survey data confirm this assessment. Kerrry's favorability rating in the March 1-15 period was 49 favorable/39 unfavorable in the "TV states" (battleground states where the Bush campaign has been running ads). In the March 16-31 period, his rating in these states was essentially unchanged: 48 favorable/40 unfavorable.

Other Annenberg election survey data from March 21-April 7 show that, among the general public, Bush holds statistically significant advantages over Kerry on 7 out of 17 traits, while Kerry holds such advantages on 4 traits. But it's interesting to note that, among "persuadable voters" (those undecided or those who said there was a good chance they might switch their candidate preference)--the presumed target of these ads--the situation was the reverse: Kerry had significant advantages on 8 and Bush on only 3. In particular, persuadable voters, in contrast with the public as a whole, thought the phrase "says one thing, does another" applied more to Bush than Kerry and also thought "changes his mind for political reasons" applied more to Bush than Kerry.

Of course, it would be nice to see data for persuadables within TV states, but, alas, their sample sizes couldn't begin to justify looking at such a small group of respondents.

More interesting data come from the new "Battleground 2004" survey conducted by Tarrance Group/Lake Sosin Perry between March 28 and March 31. (Note that this is an LV poll, which presents problems, but at least it's a light screen--they only toss out RVs who say they are "not very likely" to vote.)

According to the accompanying analysis memo written by Lake et. al., while Kerry leads by a point in overall, he leads by 6 points in the battleground states, where Bush's ad barrage was directed. (Note that, compared to the widely-publicized late March figures from Gallup, this survey is more recent and bases its battleground state figures on about twice the number of LV respondents.)

The poll also shows Kerry ahead by 7 points among independents and by 22 points among moderates.

In terms of specific issues, the poll indicates that, where Kerry is strong, he is generally farther ahead of Bush in the battleground states than among voters as a whole. For example, Kerry is ahead by 25 points in the battleground states on protecting the middle class, compared to 19 points among all voters. Other examples include: improving the health care system (+24/+19); strenthening social security (+23/+19); prescription drugs (+20/+15); creating jobs (+19/+17); the economy (+12/+8); holding down federal spending (+11/+4); keeping American prosperous (+9/+6); and sharing your values (+7/+3).

It's also worth noting that Democrats lead Republicans in this poll by 6 points in the generic Congressional contest. That lead widens to 10 points among battleground state voters, 17 points among independents and 33 points among moderates.

Kerry's campaign is poised to ramp up its advertising in these very same states. It will be interesting to see how their results compare with those of their Republican opponents.


Depiste the findings, I do not trust Battleground. They don't poll on weekends because of supposed Democratic bias, and had Bush five points ahead in their final poll in '00. Although it supposedly is a joing Goeas-Lake poll, it seems to have a lot more Goeas than Lake.

All that is well and good. But the CNN/USATODAY/Gallup polls continue to give me heartburn. Here's the latest (released today, 4-19):

Poll: Bush support holds despite Iraq, 9/11 hearings
By Susan Page, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — President Bush's lead over Democrat John Kerry has widened a bit in a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll despite two weeks that have been dominated by a deteriorating security situation in Iraq and criticism of his administration's handling of the terrorism threat before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The survey, taken Friday through Sunday, showed Bush leading Kerry 51% to 46% among likely voters, slightly wider than the 3-point lead he held in early April. The shifts were within the margin of error of +/ 4 percentage points in the sample of likely voters. (Complete poll results)

The president's job approval rating was steady at 52%.

yes, but that isn't a trend. since the Saddam capture boost, Bush's approval ratings have gradually fallen since January.

I could use some encouragement here. I watched Kerry on 60 Minutes yesterday and was sorely disappointed. I'm beginning to understand why, in spite of Bush's constant stumbles, the 9/11 commission revelations, and the stream of books that paint a very negative picture of the Bush White House, Kerry can't seem to take advantage of it.

First he spent time apologizing for the exaggerations he made in the 70's. A long time ago, I know, but it gives credence to the claims by conservatives that he lies.

Secondly, his explanations of how he's going to pay for his programs and still balance the budget were tortured and obscure, to say the least.

Then he supported Bush's approval of Ariel Sharon's plan to keep some of the land in the West Bank. Shouldn't the Palestinians be consulted before we decide who gets to keep what plot of land?

But supporting the second assassination by Israel of a Hamas leader really surprised me. I realize it would be disingenuous to say that people shouldn't be killing leaders of terrorist organizations when we are on the hunt for bin laden, but couldn't he have just said that before any country commits such an action, it should consider the reaction, or SOMETHING?

This unconditional support of Israel puts a Kerry administration in a tenuous situation as future brokers for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. PLUS it infuriates Muslim states and most of Europe. As a person who respects other country's opinions, he should know that.

OK, so maybe he's pandering to the Jewish voters. But I think he lost the Arab-American voters. I don't know how many of them there are, but I do know that they went GOP almost in unity in 2000. This year they were most likely going to support Kerry. WERE being the key word.

My enthusiasm for Kerry has wilted a bit, and I worry. Joe Lieberman had a very poor showing in the primaries because most Dems viewed him as "Bush-lite". Now Kerry is endorsing every odious comment that Bush makes in regards to Israel. Another Bush-lite?

IMO, Kerry needs to stake out some type of reasonable position on this and other issues and articulate them clearly. His advisors are doing him no favors at present, and we won't see what we really want to see in these poll numbers until Kerry is able to present a reasonable and clear alternative to what we now have.

Is it too late to draft Joe Biden, do you think? Just kidding, just kidding. But PLEASE, John Kerry...get your act together!!!

Gallup continues to overrepresent Republicans. The sample has 40% Republicans, 34% Democrats and 24% Indys. That way overrepresents Republicans, and probably underrepresents Indys even more than Dems. I know of no modern presidential election where Republicans have had a six point margin over Dems.

Paleo, Thanks for pointing that out. I guess that explains Bush having a 5-point lead.

If Gallup give ya gas...

Try the WPost/AP poll! No screen as far as I can tell, in fact, it doesn't even screen for registered voters.

My take is not as rosy as Ruy's...hate to say:

During a time when Bush has been pasted by books and events on the ground and pasting a somnabullent Kerry at the same time...Kerry does not appear to have come out with a push...

Bush did get something for his 50 Million..perhaps its a mini bounce from the news conference but I tend to think that conference did nothing...

The poll looks awfully like the Gallup one

John Mcc., I just read on www.pollingreport.com that the Post/ABC poll has Bush ahead by just 1 when Nader is not included.

WHat worries me isn't the horse race so much as the issue numbers. When its Bush v. Kerry those numbers have closed but apparently when its just Bush alone (approval by issue) then there isn't as much movement.

What this tells me is that Bush's ads have worked WRT Kerry; that recent events have not harmed Bush as much as they should have, and that Kerry still remains an unknown and somewhat ambivalent character to most voters.

I had a conversation with a far left advocate type here in SF with national network connections. He told me that he'd never seen such unity and actiivism nationwide for Kerry adding that "we'd vote for anyone or thing but Bush"

We have to give the voters more than a yellow dog if we are gonna get rid of this cheap little con artist.

No me tho.. ...I have voted every democrat on the ballot for over 30 years!

Yellow Dog to the core

I hate to say this, but the pessimistic part of me is starting to take over. It's not just that Bush should have approval in the low 40"s after these last few weeks, but Kerry is totally not connecting with people.

I listen to the top of the hour radio news and whenever they play a clip of Kerry giving a speech, I want to cringe. His voice and speech pattern are horrible. He sounds like an automan. No naturalness. No appeal.

If most people vote by "likeability", we're sunk. Even though I find nothing likeable about Bush, many people do.

To Ruy

I wrote in when Kerry was leading in standard polls. but the dailies on Rasmussen showed bush ahead.i said that if you looked at the dates that were covered by these other polls that they tracked the Rasmussen polls for those days.

That is the case now, Rasmussen has Bush vs Kerry at tied or Kerry ahead, but the days of polling 4/16-18 again track the daily trend in Rasmussen.

It's worth keeping an eye on this.

Rover: Blame the primary voters for not picking Edwards.

They probably picked Kerry because of his military experience, and given 9-11, I can't say it's a poor decision, but I definitely would have prefered Edwards as our candidate.

I voted for Edwards in our state caucus. I just wonder if his personal appeal and "likeability" would be able to overcome his lack of experience, military and otherwise.

He for sure would have had more people excited about him.

Marcia, I do think that Kerry will likely lose (just look at these poll numbers and also at the media treatment of him and Dems in general), but the Arab vote is already going to Nader anyway. He gets HUGE support among them in polls. I think that they would have only voted for Kucinich.

As to the Wash Post/ABC poll, a couple of things to keep in mind. Going back to 1999, this poll has always been kinder to Bush than most other polls. Plus, the poll done in early March, right after Super Tuesday, was a fluke, as Kerry's numbers were artifically inflated. And Nader at 6% is absurd. Nonetheless, the poll was taken in the wake of Bush's "press conference," and I think that bumped him up a few points.

Zogby had the best track record the last two presidential elections. So, I look to him first.

The Hispanic numbers seem to contradict much of what I have read elsewhere in DR. What should be made of these findings?

One way to think about these polls and public sentiment is that the bad news simply has not fully caught up yet with Bush, in part because the Dems, Kerry in particular, have not come out with full throated criticism of Bush based on the news.

My view is that a decline in approval hangs typically on two necessary components:

1. bad news
2. pointed criticism based on the bad news

Bush in recent weeks has had plenty of 1, but, from Kerry anyway, relatively little of 2.

Sometimes it's best to launch into pointed criticism simultaneously with the bad news. But I think in a number of important cases, it's probably best to decouple the two, and launch into the criticisms AFTER the bad news itself has sunk in. I think this is especially true when the news is highly sensitive, as obviously it would be when it comes to matters of war.

If my theory holds water, then Kerry is doing the right thing by waiting until now to unleash his severest criticisms. The bad news got into the public consciousness largely without the taint of partisanship, yet the news is still fresh in the public's mind. Now the criticisms from Kerry can reap the political benefits of that bad news by expressing, very sharply, in what way that bad news is bad.

Just one further point.

Kerry is, under just about any account, still neck and neck with Bush. I don't know the exact numbers here, but this is true despite the fact that Bush has, I'm guessing, ALREADY spent more on negative ads "defining" his opponent than anyone else in history in a given campaign.

I say this because of the massive amount of money Bush has already spent on ads, AND because the overwhelming proportion of those ads were strictly negative in character.

It would be interesting to know in detail how much previous campaign spent on negative advertising alone.

I think it's fair to say that the Bush campaign is definitely in a phase of diminished, perhaps even non-existent, returns on its negative attacks. They may have pushed Kerry's negatives nearly as high as they're going to go, absent some really bad news for Kerry.

I think frankly0 is absolutely correct on this one. And the key to what he said was "the bad news got into the public consciousness largely without the taint of partisanship." There's a difference between nonpartisan bad news and partisan attacks. You'll recall that Clinton had among his highest approval ratings in the midst of the Lewinski mess. I think there's a point at which the public begins feeling sympathy toward a politican who is mercilessly and relentlessly attacked by the opposing side.

This is why I think Kerry is intentionally laying low to allow the media to deliver the bad news to Bush, and as frankly0 was saying, to allow it to start sinking in. This sinking in can only happen after several weeks of a repeated message, which is exactly what the 9/11 commission has been providing.

Besides the strategic advantage to laying low, though, there's just the reality that there's only so much media oxygen to go around. Not counting the cable news channels (which only reaches a very small percentage of the overall population), there's only a finite number of news stories that the nightly news, the news magazines, and the front page of the newspaper can cover. When you've got two ongoing huge stories -- Iraq and the 9/11 commission -- that doesn't leave much room for other news. A little bit about the economy -- the slow & jobless recovery and gas prices -- seems to take up the rest of the media oxygen.

In this current media environment (which has been going for the past three weeks or so), what would Kerry realistically need to do to make the front page of the papers in a big way? Maybe I'm not being very creative, but I'm having trouble imagining what he'd do or say to really get much attention.

Better strategy for Kerry is to wait for the (bad) news to run its course, and then begin asking pointed questions of Bush. Not accusations or attacks, but questions. "How do we plan to win the war in Iraq?" "When are we bringing our troops home?" "What is our plan for turning over power to the Iraqis?" And so on. The types of questions that clearly put Kerry on the side of the troops, but also reveal the disaster that is Bush policy.

Kerry's already asking these questions, but I say as soon as the bad news is given a chance to sink in, Kerry begin asking the questions and repeating them again and again and again. From the press conference last week, we know that Bush doesn't have *any* answers to them!

Rather than polls, I look to behavior. Especially this early...

Two items of note:

1. DeLay et al launched their attack on the 9/11 commission last week.

2. Bush ramped down his 50 billion ad campaign

Both signs of desperation especially number 1 which in my view has to rank among the top of the list of a growing number of Bush bombs this year.

Peter, " I do think that Kerry will likely lose" is not much in the way of encouragement. And I believe that Kerry pretty much had the Arab vote tending his way, because of a comprehensive plan to deal with Iraq and and because they viewed (past tense) him as a more fair broker in the Middle East peace process than Bush is. BTW, is Nader on the ballot in any states yet? I haven't heard.

So many of you are so tied up with the polls that you don't stop to think that those polls are the way they are for a reason. Charlie Cook refers to Kerry's "rising negatives". Those are tied, IMO, to the perception (accurate, it's beginning to appear) that Kerry has no base, and will say anything to get elected. Why else would he back Bush's approval of Sharon's plan? That plan is so bad that even the Jordanian king "snubbed" the United States over Bush's stamp of approval on it.......and right behind that stamp of approval, came John Kerry echoing what the president said.

I notice that most of you aren't mentioning the Meet the Press interview. Remember how bad Bush looked when he was a guest on the program? Those of you that saw it know that Kerry didn't fare much better.

When Bush announced at his press conference with Blair that he was going to adopt the UN political plan for a June 30 turnover, Kerry should have been on the phone to every news outlet praising Bush for adopting the plan he's (Kerry) been advocating all along, and saying how pleased he was that the issue of bringing the UN into a stronger role in Iraq didn't have to wait for the election and maybe lives would be saved, yada yada. Instead, he let Bush take credit for doing what he's been saying we should do since the beginning of the primaries.

You are all right, Bush should be down in the 30's by now with the negative news that's been coming his way. Instead the polls show him gaining back a lead. Is it because the people like him better this month than they did last month? No, I think it's because they looked briefly at the alternative and found him lacking.

Oh, I'll vote for Kerry. I think Bush is hands-down the worst president this country has ever had. But I'm real worried that we Democrats don't have the best candidate. I am also concerned that the candidate we have isn't running a great campaign. There's still time, but meanwhile, I'll continue to worry.

Charlie Cook is quoted in Josh Marshall's column today...comments quite similar to those I made yesterday to Paula:

If I could capture the mood in a sentence, it is, "If this doesn't sink the guy, nothing will."

I must say that it surprises me too. But, as I said, this is a close race that has bounced back and forth a couple times -- and often for reasons which are not as clearly tied to the current news cycle as we're inclined to think. In short, don't change your view of the race based on the president popping up a few points into the lead.

Another opinion is that of Charlie Cook, in the "Off to the Races" analysis out this morning, who points to the president's ad campaign.

Cook gives a rather downcast view of the state of the Kerry campaign and suggests that the massive Bush ad campaign against Kerry is finally bearing fruit. Nevertheless, measures of public opinion on Iraq keep heading south, as does the all-important 'is the country headed in the right direction/wrong direction' question. He concludes by saying that "Kerry's rising negative ratings and an increase in Bush's own problems create a wash -- a race that remains a dead heat in this evenly divided country."

frankly0: I think the only additional thing Kerry needs to do now (as far as his message goes) it hammer Bush particularly hard on his refusal to debate monthly. He COULD do a "why doesn't he want to talk about the issues" thing, but so far, all I see of him mentioning is on his website.

Marcia said, "But I'm real worried that we Democrats don't have the best candidate. " Okay, Kerry's not perfect. I think we all will agree on that. But who would you say WAS the "best candidate"? Dean was a dynamite speaker who mobilized the Democratic base and first called Bush dishonest. He also had the distinct advantage of being an "outsider" (as a governor). But he had no national security experience and a bad habit of going off script when he spoke. He also had a prickliness that might have erupted under the more intense pressure of the campaign. Edwards was and is an excellent candidate with impeccable speaking skills, good looks, strong apeal to independents, and no doubt a bright future in the Democratic Party. But he also lacked national security experience, and Bush/Cheney would have exploited that in a way they can not with Kerry (same with Dean). Graham? Non-starter. Gephardt? Too much of the Harold Stassen effect about him. Lieberman? Please. Kucinich, Braun or Sharpton? Well, we all need some comic relief. So: at the end of the day, given the dominance of the national security and terrorism issues, and the candidates available, Democratic voters chose what I for one believe IS the "best candidate" for the circumstances that we find ourselves in.

Despite his lack of foreign policy credentials (what credentials did Bush and Clinton have?), I still think Edwards would have made the strongest candidate. I hope Kerry puts his ego aside and chooses Edwards for VP.

Marcia, "Kerry didn't fair much better"?????? Than Bush? You have got to be kidding.
John Kerry answered questions. What do you want another skater like Bush?
I was very impressed by Kerry. He answered every question with an intelligent answer. Quite refreshing actually. If the people of this country don't want answers then they can elect bush.
So many of you are so negative about John Kerry. Get off of it. Negative is for bush. Negative is how the publicans do it.
No one is going to answer every question to everyones satisfaction. At least Kerry has answers.
We do have the best candidate, period. Stop dissing John Kerry. Start supporting him. It will do no one any good to sit around and belly ache about how they wish they had someone better. Just plays into the other guys strengths that way.
Get off your can and go out and convince someone that bush is not their man. Every vote counts, especially this year.
I am reminded of that line from Kelly's Hero's when Oddball says "Always with the negative waves, stop with the negative waves"!! Yeah, stop.

Here, here, Doofus. Right on the money man.

The polling will fluctuate back and forth, five points here, five points there, over the next six months. The wildcard is Kerry: he needs to define himself and his positions, and as yet he has not really done that. Let's hope that Kerry's pattern (fumbling until the last minute, then coming onlike gangbusters; see the Kerry/Weld campaign and the primaries this year) will allow him to recover, or that he breaks the pattern and gets it right before it's too late.

Here's how I look at the situation. The American people are in a crucible. If they elect George W. Bush without significant cheating, then we will know that the American people are not fit to govern themselves.

If you do not think that is so, then look how the likes of G. W. Bush do their best to destroy the public school systems. One goal of this destruction is to make a people unable to govern themselves.

The question of the hour is how to turn this observation into a plan of action. How can we make this election not a choice between Kerry and Bush, but a choice between self-government and mass incompetence.

I am not sure I agree with the "If this doesn't sink him, what will?" evaluation. Our current situation is far from hitting rock bottom. The Iraq situation has only started falling apart; has Bush done anything to stop the disintegration? Hardly; he has inflamed it. Indictments in Wilsongate are pending, and Joe Wilson's book is almost ready for bookshelves. Whose book comes after that? The Republican convention fiasco in New York is months away. And so on. The main problem here is that so many bad things happen that we get used to them. It's increasingly difficult to get angry.

Uh, it's April. Speculating about what's going to happen 6.5 months from now is like speculating about the Iowa caucuses last Independence Day. The mushy middle won't make up its mind until late October. Yeah, we don't have our best candidate. Neither do they.

It would be nice if Kerry was ahead by 10% or more, but that is not going to happen, at least not yet. We have a divided electorate, which has benefits and dangers for Kerry and Bush. Both have a solid base of around 45%. By solid base, I mean a block of voters whose minds will not change no matter what mistakes, setbacks, fiascos, or catastrophes occur. This fact explains why the recent wave of bad news for Bush has not hurt him. At this point, he is down to his core supporters. They will vote for him despite Iraq, the economy, and his inability to give a coherent answer to a reporter’s question at a news conference. Do not expect Bush ever to poll more than one to three points below 45%. Similarly, Kerry will continue to poll within two to three points of 45%, even if he does not advertise or respond to Bush’s attacks. This race will continue to poll near 45%-45% until the election.

The newest polls contain some good news for Kerry and considerable bad news for Bush. First, except for the CNN/USA Today poll, Bush has not climbed above 50% for months. The classic sign that an incumbent is in trouble is his consistent failure to draw more than 50% in the polls. Second, the CNN/USA Today poll was weighted in Bush’s favor. Its breakdown of likely voters was 40% Republicans and 34% Democrats. On Election Day Republican voters will not exceed Democratic voters by 6%. Most likely, they will be tied. If you change the voter participation in the CNN/USA poll so that Democrats and Republicans are equal, Bush and Kerry are tied; in fact, Kerry comes out slightly ahead. Third, the ABC poll has Ralph Nader at 6%. That is a ridiculous number. No one expects Nader to get 6% of the vote in November. He got less than 2% in 2000, when he was on the ballot in every state and running as the nominee of a recognized party. Running as an independent who might fail to make many state ballots, he will be lucky to get 1%. When the ABC poll takes Nader out of its calculations, Bush and Kerry are tied. Fourth, the ABC poll says 57% of the voters sampled believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. This indicator is the classic sign of whether a president is reelected. If that number is above 50%, an incumbent president can look forward to a forced retirement. Given events in Iraq and their likely deterioration, this figure will not improve. Fifth, Bush’s advertising campaign, although massive, has only knocked off a few points from Kerry’s poll showings. He cannot deliver the knockout blow. If Bush and Rove really believed their ads were working, they would continue their advertising, rather than curtail it.

Finally, the last time an incumbent president won a close election, which this election promises to be, was in 1948, with Harry Truman. Before that, you must go back to 1916 and Woodrow Wilson to find a close election when the incumbent won. Incumbent presidents must be well ahead at this point in the year to be headed for a safe reelection. Bush is not. He cannot feel comfortable about his situation.

Richard Antognini

It's not the man, it's the machine behind him.

Bush is barley articulate. He has severe problems retaining or applying concepts that are beyond the grasp of the average 14 year old. Yet, the picadors of the right wing media (Fox, NBC, WSJ, et all) and the GOP keep him in the game. Kerry needs to attack Bush by proxy. He can't do all of his own dirty work and appear presidential. Example: Sen Biden appearing on 'This Week' with Sen Lugar appealing to the President to seek their support/advice in conducting the war. Biden, et al have to stop playing by Marquis of Queensbury and start thinking in terms of all out combat. The sociopaths of the Right just think congressional Demos are schlemiels when they try to support or cooperate with the president. Patting them on the head one day, and then undercutting them the next. We need attacks on Bush from every sector of the party. One unequivocal message: Your lives will be better without George Bush. They will become drastically worse if he is reelected. The Right had one unifying message for 6 years - Bill Clinton as the anti-Christ. The answer to every problem was remove Bill Clinton. We can legitimatley say that most of our problems today eminate from decisions made in the WH. Yet Demo leaders still hesitate to critisize with the outrage and passion the Demo base would expect in the face of the Bush cleptocracy. Was Dean right? Are our leaders too afraid of losing their jobs to do their job?

Richard Antognini, Thank you for giving me some encouragement to keep believing. You are correct, of course. And it is early.

Max, Kerry flubbed military questions, obfuscated the economic questions, and supported Bush on the foreign policy questions. I hope he's invited back and I hope he does better next time.

Marcia<----would have preferred Wesley Clark, but realizes that as a political neophyte, he did have some problems with campaigning. If I ruled the world, right now I'd probably install Joe Biden. I don't like his politics as much as I like Kerry's , but at least he sort of tells it like it is.

But Kerry is the guy, and he does have my vote. It's nice to have left-leaning message boards where I can "vent" my concerns. If this place leaned to the right, I'd be singing the man's praises to the hilt.

Meanwhile, we do need a regime change in 2004......Bring it on!

A further observation regarding the counterintuitive (if quite minor) bump in Bush's poll numbers while things are going very badly for him in Iraq and in the exposure of his negligence before 9/11.

One thing some Republicans have said is that it is actually a good thing for the topic to turn to national security, because that it is still a positive issue for Bush compared to Kerry. This would seem to be a legitimate explanation of Bush's strange bounce on very bad national security news.

In fact, this may very well be true, but in the long run it will very likely damage Bush. Here's why.

Yes, it's true that so long as national security is prominent, then Bush will come out ahead, because he is still preferred on those issues. Yet when national security recedes to more to the background, overall he will, on net, be considerably damaged by this bad news.

Think of it in terms of weighted averages. Bush, to this day, still wins on national security issues in the minds of the American public. Bad national security news brings these issues to the forefront, making the overall importance of these issues significantly greater than before. Because of this greater importance, the edge Bush has on these issues will send him over the top of Kerry, even if his edge on these issues is significantly eroded by the news itself. When, thought, national security news recedes, the importance of the issue will recede, and now the overall net will go in Kerry's favor because he is much better at the other issues.

As a concrete, simplistic, example, suppose that, before this bad news for Bush, voters gave 70% weight to economic issues, and 30% to national security issues. And suppose that Bush won on national security 67-33, and Kerry on the economy 67-33. Then, taken together, Kerry would lead 57-43 in the overall. But suppose when national security issues become prominent, then voters weigh national security 70% and economic issues 30%. Then, with the same edges in the categories, Bush now leads, of course, by 57-43.

Here's the point. Even if Bush's edge on national security gets eroded to, say, 60-40 (a decline of 7%), Bush STILL wins, 52-48.

Does that mean that it's good for Bush to go through this process? Absolutely not, IF the national security issues return in time to their previous level of importance, AND Bush's numbers on the issues stay as they are.

Thus, if the economic factors once again achieve 70% weight in voters minds, and the edges on the issues are now 67-33 for Kerry on the economy, and 60-40 for Bush on national security, then the race swings in Kerry's favor to a net of 60-40, which is a distinct improvement over the previous margin of 57-43, before the bad national security news came up.

(I haven't doublechecked my calculations above, so it's possible they contain some minor errors, but the overarching arithmetic point I'm making must be correct).

Thus, the trick is, let the bad national security news bring down Bush's edge on those issues, even if it gives him a temporary bump. Then, steer the national conversation back to the economy. This will leave Kerry in a far better position than he has ever been.

I remember a time when no Democrat was behind Bush by less than 10%...on the other hand, I also remember a time when Kerry and Edwards were 10% ahead of Bush.

Anyway, when Kerry WAS 10% ahead of Bush, (basically) nobody really knew who he was, but the important thing was that people didn't really like Bush (in fact, if all the "right track" people go Bush, and all the "wrong direction" people go Kerry, then Bush is toast. Like, he is so toast it isn't even funny. Unfortunately, those ads DID work, and Kerry's image was tarnished. So, he's got to go out there and show everybody 'who he really is.' It sure worked for Gore. At the convention, he gave his wife a huge smooch, and tried his best to act like he didn't have gears and diodes beneath (adopting the Populist theme didn't hurt either).

If Kerry does the same thing, he'll be in good shape. Then, all he has to do is not screw up the debates.

Marcie, to get elected a candidate must speak in terms that are centrist in nature. If Kerry comes straight out and and clearly states his plans, opposites of bushies plans (hey what plans? lol) he will alienate to many middle voters who have trouble making a firm decision on almost every matter of concern.
Do you think bush would have gotten the votes he did in 00 if he would have told the country he was taking us to war? Screwing the environment? Eliminating 3 million jobs? The list goes on and on.
The game of becoming the President has it's subtleties. Let's get him (Kerry) in there and then we'll see things happen much more intelligently.

I am a Viet Nam era vet and Kerry answered the military questions just fine. Hey what do you want him saying, he just couldn't recall? Give him a break. Kerry stood up for what he believed in and he spoke those words from his heart. He was there in that hell hole and he had every right to say the things he did because he experienecd it first hand. If you don't want to hear the truth then join the republican party.

Israel question? OK he could have taken a more opposing stance. But what would that accomplish at his juncture? First he gets elected and then........
He has no power to do anything at all about the Israel problem....yet.
So I grade Kerry's performance against his opponent and he gets a passing grade, where as bush doesn't even rate an "F", that is unless you're a blind republican sheep.