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State of the Race

With the second presidential debate under our belts, and the third and final one coming right up, it's a good time to take a step back and assess how the race has changed since very late September--that is, since right before the first debate.

At that time, Bush was running a consistent lead over Kerry though, as I argued repeatedly, the magnitude of that lead was likely fairly modest, despite the gaudy results obtained by some public polls.

Not only that, Bush was continuing to display a number of underlying weaknesses that made even that small lead quite vulnerable. As Guy Molyneux pointed out in his excellent article, "The Big Five-Oh":

...in incumbent elections, the incumbent’s percentage of the vote is a far better indicator of the state of the race than the spread. In fact, the percentage of the vote an incumbent president receives in surveys is an extraordinarily accurate predictor of the percentage he will receive on election day -- even though the survey results also include a pool of undecided voters. Hence the 50-percent rule: An incumbent who fails to poll above 50 percent is in grave jeopardy of losing his job.

And, before the debates, Bush was consistently averaging under 50 percent of the vote in trial heats. Not only that, but:

...polls in [the battleground] states actually reveal an even more precarious position for the president. Taken together, Bush receives a bit less support in these critical states than in the nation overall. In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, Bush receives 49 percent support nationally but only 47 percent in the battleground states, a typical finding. (Bush and Al Gore split the vote in these states evenly, 48 percent to 48 percent.)

More importantly, if we take an average of recent published polls of registered voters in individual states, Bush falls short of the 49-percent benchmark in nearly every one, including Ohio (47 percent), Florida (47 percent), and Pennsylvania (46 percent). Wisconsin (51 percent) is the only crucial battleground state in which Bush appears to have a fairly solid lead. Bush even fails to clear the 49-percent bar in such 2000 Bush states as West Virginia (47 percent), Missouri (49 percent), and Arkansas (48 percent).

The root of Bush's weak support in these terms was pretty simple: people still thought he was doing a lousy job running the country, especially in key areas like the economy, Iraq and health care. These indicators stubbornly refused to budge during the entire time Bush was maintaining a lead.

In sum, Bush was ahead before the first debate not because his campaign had succeeded in convincing voters that Bush was doing a great job, but rather because his campaign had managed to shift a significant amount of attention away from Bush's poor performance and onto Kerry's alleged character flaws. Therefore, Bush's lead was likely to dissipate as soon as voters' attention was drawn back to his actual performance in office and the concrete policy alternatives proposed by Kerry.

That is, in fact, what has happened. The debates have allowed Kerry-Edwards to re-focus the campaign around Bush's record and Kerry's alternatives, thereby taking advantage of the weaknesses Bush never managed to fix in August-September. This was particularly true of the first debate where Kerry's strong performance put Bush on the defensive in what was supposed to be his area of strength: foreign policy.

The immediate post-debate polls all showed Kerry a clear winner:
43-28 percent among uncommitted voters (Knowledge Networks for CBS News); 45-36 (ABC News); 45-32 (Democracy Corps); and 53-37 (CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll). And, across the latter three polls, no matter Kerry's overall margin, he always won by more among undecided and independent voters. For example, in ABC News poll, he won independents by 20 points and in the DCorps survey, he won undecided voters by 31 points.

Moreover, by the weekend, when the debate had had a chance to "settle" in the public mind, Kerry's winning margin widened dramatically--to 57-25 in the Gallup Poll and a crushing 61-19 in the Newsweek Poll.

The most important result of the subsequent vice-presidential debate was not who won overall (where Cheney had a slight edge) but the way Edwards kept the focus relentlessly on Bush's record and Kerry's alternative proposals and repeated Kerry's success in reaching undecided voters.

The second presidential debate was another Kerry win, albeit less spectacular than the first: 44-41 (ABC News); 47-45 (CNN/USA Today/Gallup ); and 45-37 (Democracy Corps ).

As before, Kerry won easily in all these polls among independents and undecided voters. And, as before, his overall winning margin has widened as impressions of the debate have settled among voters (the latest Gallup poll, for example, has his winning margin rising to 15 points from Gallup's initial debate night margin of just 2 points).

These debates, and the dynamic they set up, have transformed the race from a referendum on the challenger and his character to a referendum on the incumbent and his record. And, in the process, voters have received a lot of direct, unmediated exposure to John Kerry and his ideas that has been nothing but helpful to his candidacy, leading more voters to conclude that he is an acceptable alternative to a poorly-performing incumbent.

Here are a number of indicators of how much the race has changed:

1. The horse race. Even if one accepts all current polls at face value--i.e., making no adjustments for any possible over-representation of Republicans--polls taken in the last week indicate, on average, a dead heat. In other words, Bush's pre-debate lead has been completely eliminated. Moreover, Bush's average support level since the first debate has only been running at 47 percent, a very bad sign for an incumbent (see the "50 percent rule", discussed above).

And we find particularly sharp swings toward Kerry among the very public polls that had given Bush his largest pre-debate leads: Gallup shows a 13 point swing toward Kerry among RVs; Ipsos-AP, a 9 point swing toward Kerry among RVs; and Newsweek, CBS News and ABC News, 7 point swings toward Kerry among RVs.

2. Favorability ratings. Kerry now leads Bush in favorability in most recent polls. For example, Newsweek has Kerry at 52 favorable/40 unfavorable, compared to 49/46 for Bush. Similarly, Time has Kerry at 50/34, compared to 48/42 for Bush, while Gallup has Kerry at 52/44 and Bush at 51/46.

3. Job ratings. Bush's job ratings, never very impressive, even when he was leading, now are sinking further. The most recent Gallup poll has his approval rating at 47 percent, his worst rating in that poll since July and Newsweek has it at 46 percent, also his worst rating since July. His ratings on Iraq, the economy and foreign policy are also headed south.

4. Bush vs. Kerry on the issues. Across polls, Kerry shows substantial gains on every issue. Where he was leading before the debates, he now leads by more. Where he was losing to Bush, he is now losing by less or, in some cases, has actually taken the lead. For example, in the Newsweek poll, Kerry is now favored by 13 on the economy, but was only favored by 2 before the first debate and is now favored by 22 on health care/Medicare, compared to 10 points before the first debate. And while Bush is still favored in this poll by 5 points on Iraq and by 2 points on foreign policy, before the first debate he was leading Kerry by 15 and 16 points, respectively. Note also that in the Time poll, Bush was ahead by 6 points on taxes before the first debate, but now trails Kerry by 2 points on the issue.

5. Bush vs. Kerry on candidate attributes. Same story: substantial gains for Kerry on every attribute, widening his lead on attributes where he was already leading and cutting his deficit where he has been trailing Bush. In the Time poll, Kerry widened his lead to 9 points on understanding people's needs (up from a 4 point lead), tied Bush on honest and trustworthy (up from an 8 point deficit to Bush) and took a 5 point lead on having good judgement (up from a 4 point deficit to Bush). Kerry has even opened up a 5 point lead on being "likeable" (up from a 4 point deficit to Bush).

And, critically, both the Time poll and the new Gallup poll now show Kerry leading Bush--albeit by slim 1-2 point margins--on who has clear plans to solve the nation's problems.

The task for Kerry seems clear as he heads into the third debate and the final weeks of the campaign: keep the heat on Bush's terrible record and keep telling voters--in the simplest possible terms--how he would do a better job. The voters, it would seem, are starting to listen.

Comments

I agree on almost everything. Wednesday's debate will be critical. Kerry should have a big edge: he doesn't have to defend Bush's record. Kerry has to keep his eye on the ball. For Bush to even the least bit reasonable, he has to lie, lie, lie. Kerry should remain squeaky clean, and call Bush on each lie. Paul Krugman's column today is a good place to start. The important thing is to keep Bush on the defensive: Domestic policy, not social issues. The campaign has not focused on the economy, prescription drugs, energy policy, the environment, health care, education. Each is a big winner for Kerry. Except for drugs, he didn't handle any with great finesse on Friday. But on Wednesday there should be plenty of time and opportunity.

After the final debate, what next? What's the script? Will it be just 2 weeks of running around the country, yelling at the other guy and hoping for the best? Will Rove and Co have something up their sleeve? What's in the Kerry playbook?

Maybe I missed it earlier, but could someone please explain why the polling organizations are consistently over-representing Republicans? Presumably, their product is more valuable the more they have a track record for accurately predicting the actual votes, so this imbalance can only mean loss of credibility for them. Equate that to loss of future revenue.

I find it hard to believe that they skew the numbers just to shill for the Republicans. So what's going on?

I just want to say I am so nervous that the debate will be a disaster on Wednesday.

Kerry: Don't get overconfident, get plenty of sleep and good luck. We are really depending on you.

Kerry seemed a slight bit hoarse at the second debate. And a little tired.

Kerry and his people have obviously been doing a great job strategically with the debates. I have one suggestion for implementing Ruy's directive that Kerry has to "keep telling voters--in the simplest possible terms--how he would do a better job." Keep it simple, yes, but offer specifics. Or more importantly, instead of framing this claim with "I have a plan on X" and leaving it there, frame it with, "I have a plan on X. Here are some of the specifics on X." It seems to me that the first, general claim, frequently reiterated by Kerry, is both annoying a lot of voters and propping up rather than combating the sense among undecideds and independents that neither candidate is offering the specifics they supposedly yearn for. Kerry is of course more specific, more concrete than Bush. But I think he needs to be explicit in reminding people of that. And I think even just saying, "here are a couple of specifics on such and such an issue," and then offering just a couple, might go some way toward persuading those persuadables just now. I know actual specifics can be dicey political strategy for candidates (cf. Nixon's clever reference to the plan in his coat pocket or whatever on Vietnam), but there are enough innocuous and even good specifics to work for Kerry, I think.

I still have to ask: what's the deal with Wisconsin?

I mean this is a state that hasn't voted Republican since 1984. It seems odd that as historically a Democrat state as Wisconsin would be the one to break the pro-Kerry trend in the close states.

Just how reliable are the polls coming out of Wisconsin? Sorry, but I find it a bit hard to believe that a state that didn't vote for the senior Bush and didn't vote for his son the first time around is seriously contemplating getting behind him this time.

For those interested, I've posted my latest (10/11) survey of 55 Electoral College tracking / prediction / projection / forecast sites here.

Executive summary: Although Bush still leads according to a majority of sites, Kerry has made substantial headway in re-gaining ground he lost to Bush in the last month, reducing a 50 point gap to a 15 - 20 point Bush advantage. Currently Bush has 262 t0 269 electoral votes, while Kerry has 247 to 250.

I sure hope Ruy is right.

I am still someone who adheres to the political machine/media justifying the lying model of politics as the predictor -- both of winners of elections and of how Democrats behave or can behave when they are permitted in (because the Republican is unsalable). The flipflop spin, ignored by both Kerry and the mainstream media for its lack of validity until SEPTEMBER (Marc Sandalow in SF Chronicle, Jonathan Chait in New Republic) is an illustration, as is the fascinating expose of the logos in the NY Times.
Now comes the flap about the Bai article in NY Times Magazine:
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/10/magazine/10KERRY.html
To examine initial conservative exploitation of this article, go to:
http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/2004/10/pillar-of-salt-matt-bai-tries-to.html
----------------------------------------
This is the kind of nyah nyah politics, seizing upon the "nuisance" quote with that fraudulent indignance that Republicans are permitted (the way Bill Maher observes that women are permitted to get away with behaviors that men would be nailed as stalkers for doing)
It was effective for SwiftBoatVeteransForSlime and poses a danger now.
Kerry has to really pound hard on the subject of spins, perhaps using the easily refutable flipflop issue as applied to some of the subjects of the Wed debate (like NAFTA). The METHOD of indoctrination by rote repetition by allies in the media, and the "mere spin" model is the only answer to this kind of thing. Otherwise the campaign could be left Dukakissing -- failing to punch the shark in the nose within 24-36 hours, and keep on as needed.

It's a Baltimore Sun interview with Shirley Irwin of Dunbar, West Virginia:

Irwin, a 64-year-old lifelong Democrat, says things have been "terrible" during the nearly four years that Bush has been in the White House. She's scared that he's "ruined" Medicare and would do the same to Social Security, the programs she depends on to get by. Irwin believes Bush planned to invade Iraq from the moment he took office and says he bungled the war there. But she can't bear to vote for Sen. John Kerry, whom she calls a dishonest waffler whose ideas are no better than Bush's. "I don't like Bush either, but if I've got to choose between the two, count me for Bush," Irwin said. "With Kerry, one minute he would vote for something and the next minute he would change his mind."

It's only anecdotal, but there have been many other newspaper accounts with just such comments. They think that Bush is terrible but they're not going to leave him for Kerry - either they have bought the flip flop meme wholeheartedly or they still think that bush is a known quantity and in a war environment, they will stick with the incumbent.

It could account for why despite stellar performances at the Convention and the debates Kerry's numbers have not moved up more.

It is accounts like these that make me doubt the incumbent rule - if you poll below 50% that incumbents break for you. In this case one could buy the argument that 9-11 did change the calculus that people use when they vote.

Just what is the incumbent -challenger split? And if Bush is at or near 50%, i.e. 48-49, it could be enough to split his way and to still win the election, especially with the extensive voter intimidation and suppression tactics the Republicans will engage in.

I think Kerry needs a real lead going into election day. And how do we make up Wisconsin? Just consider the propaganda value BC'04 would get out of polls showing them ahead in wisconsin just prior to Nov. 2nd. Democrats are too easily demoralized.

Good grief, Cloudy! Where is all this defeatism coming from? Things are rolling our way now. I have been saying all year long that Bush simply cannot win re-election, but now I am convinced of it -- not only because of Bush's dismal record and low approval ratings, but because the Dems have picked a strong candidate who knows how to win. Kerry's extraordinary debating strategies are known worldwide -- he knows exactly what he is doing. He has been hitting back three times as hard as he's been hit. And he'll throw the knockout punches Wednesday (even though it may not be evident at the time to all of us). This is classic Kerry. He starts strong, falls behind and then surges ahead at the end. Every time. And he has done this against MUCH stronger opponents than George W. Bush. So please, relax. Help is on the way. All signs point to it.

How will Kerry maintain his place in the polls during the time between the tomorrow's final debate and Nov. 2? I'm thinking he needs as many tv appearances and interviews as he can get.

Thanks for the insightful discussion. It's great to have statistics shoring up my optimism.

Kerry _ought_ to do well in the debate this week; he's got the facts on his side, and he's shown he can project a commanding personality.
I wouldn't count Bush out though; for all the talk about foreign policy having been his strong suit, his real _passion_ is in standing up for the plutocracy.

Being from Wisconsin, I have to apologize to everyone. I think the big problem here is "up nort" where men are men. A friend of mine said that Democrats are wimps (well, it might have been a bit more harsh). I tried to explain to him that my guy fought in a war and has shrapnel in his leg. His guy joined the Guard and couldn't even complete that. It occurred to me, though, that this is a pretty common feeling. If you factor in the manly men of Northern Wisconsin, I think they feel the Republicans are giving the Arabs exactly what they deserve. I can't tell you how many times I hear the slur "t*wel head," and I live in heavily Democratic Milwaukee. So, Sorry, but feel free to come up and help us out!

Smooth Jazz: Thanks for your post, which contains much encouraging news for Kerry supporters (including the fact that "newly registered voters lean toward Kerry by 49-42 percent"). The Dems are going to win this thing for sure!

Responding to SJ's info:
Nader at 1.6? That's great news! He got 2.7% in the 2000 election. So that's at least a million votes switching to Kerry; probably more, as third party candidates generally do worse than predicted, as their supporters tend to lose their nerve when they actually go into a voting booth and face a real choice.
(BTW, the sci fi store near me sells a bumper sticker "Cthulhu for President: why settle for the _lesser_ evil?")

Most gratifying post all year.
My fear are more Goebbelesque machinations from the HQ of Herr Rove. Each day we get closer to Nov 2 improves the lilkelihood he'll pull something big. Probably a poor metaphor in talking about Rove, but a Hail Mary pass from him and his minions is about at a 100% probability.

The morning polls are in, and they show the Dow dropping 55 points in the first 55 minutes of the trading day. This other poll shows oil at $54 and climbing.

Bush is falling and he can't get it up.

Got wood?

>OT: Well, Well - The nuisance comment may be having an impact. Al-Zogby & Al-Reuters show Kerry losing 3 points from yesterday and is now tied with W.

Or it was a good day of polling for Kerry, followed by a good day of polling for Bush. Zogby: "I am not expecting anyone to pull away in this one -- at least not yet."

A few comments from posts above...

They Said It: Gen. Scowcroft on Making Terrorism a Nuisance

Gen. Brent Scowcroft (ret.): "Can we win the war on terrorism? Yes, I think we can, in the sense that we can win the war on crime. There is going to be no peace treaty on the battleship Missouri in the war on terrorism, but we can break its back so that it is a horrible nuisance and not a paralyzing influence on our societies." [U.S. Institute of Peace, CONFERENCE ON AMERICA'S CHALLENGES IN A CHANGED WORLD, 9/5/02]

General Scowcroft served as the National Security Advisor to both Presidents Ford and the first President Bush.

Think Tank: Iraq Distracted U.S. from war on terror
Oct 11, 2004
By MARK LAVIE, Associated Press Writer
http://tinyurl.com/582jw

TEL AVIV, Israel - The war in Iraq did not damage international terror groups, but instead distracted the United States from confronting other hotbeds of Islamic militancy and actually "created momentum" for many terrorists, a top Israeli security think tank said in a report released Monday.

President Bush has called the war in Iraq an integral part of the war on terrorism, saying that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hoped to develop unconventional weapons and could have given them to Islamic militants across the world.

But the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said that instead of striking a blow against Islamic extremists, the Iraq war "has created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly al-Qaida and its affiliates."

Jaffee Center director Shai Feldman said the vast amount of money and effort the United States has poured into Iraq has deflected attention and assets from other centers of terrorism, such as Afghanistan.

The concentration of U.S. intelligence assets in Iraq "has to be at the expense of being able to follow strategic dangers in other parts of the world," he said.

Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli army general, said the U.S.-led effort was strategically misdirected. If the goal in the war against terrorism is "not just to kill the mosquitos but to dry the swamp," he said, "now it's quite clear" that Iraq "is not the swamp."

Instead, he said, the Iraq campaign is having the opposite effect, drawing Islamic extremists from other parts of the world to join the battle.

"On a strategic level as well as an operational level," Brom concluded, "the war in Iraq is hurting the war on international terrorism."

Poll: Bush Allies See Greater Terror Risk
http://tinyurl.com/6bh8o
By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - More than two-thirds of the people living in Australia, Britain and Italy — three countries allied with the United States in the Iraq war — believe the war has increased the threat of terrorism.

Leaders of those countries — prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain and John Howard of Australia and Premier Silvio Berlusconi of Italy — all get low marks from their people for their handling of the war on terrorism, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll shows.

More than half of those in the United States, 52 percent, believe the Iraq war has increased the threat of terrorism, while three in 10 in the United States think it has decreased the threat — a view promoted by President Bush.

"In the context of the presidential campaign in the United States, this is undeniably a blow for George W. Bush, since it shows that a majority of Americans don't agree with the main justification for his policy in Iraq," said Gilles Corman, research director at Ipsos-Inra of Belgium, who studies public opinion trends across Europe.


Bush's great allies, the Saudis, are doing their best Taliban impersonation: The Saudi interior minister has said women will not be allowed to vote in the country's municipal elections starting in February 2005. In response to a question about women's getting the vote, Prince Nayef bin Sultan said simply: "I don't think that women's participation is possible."

There really isn't much difference between the Saudi Royal family and extremist thugs (such as the Taliban) who claim to be applying Islam. Saudis behead people with fake trials, oppress women, and are as intolerant as the Taliban. They even subscribe to the same erroneous interpretation of Islam as the Taliban did.

These neanderthals have the full and enthusiastic backing of the Bush clan.

Don't even think that President Bush will bring this issue up with his very close friend, Prince Bander (Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.). To give you an indication "relationship closeness" purportedly Bush told Bandar about the invasion of Iraq before Secretary Powell.

THE NET NET: Kerry has to nail Bush on this "double standard" issue at the debate tomorrow !

Smooth Jazz,

If you want to gloat about Bush getting 45% of the vote in any poll, be my guest. Those are very poor numbers for an incumbent.

Thank you so much for this insightful analysis. This is greatly needed to keep morale up in the face of the continuous psy-ops campaign by the corporate media to tear it down.

These numbers, combined with our intensive GOTV campaign, could turn into a decisive victory for Kerry and help Dems up and down the ticket.

1. to Alan, who asked why polls oversample Republicans - it is much more difficult to get Democrats to participate in phone surveys. Some of that is cultural, some having to do with two income earners and limited time at home, some to do with urban educated profs having moved to cell phones. Participation has been a growing problem for phone polling for years now, and it's getting worse.

2. Kerry does NOT need a "real lead" going into election day. In fact, I think it's clear that if Kerry is behind only by 2-3 points in the good polls, he'll win due to turnout, which will be unusually high this year thanks to Democratic and nonpartisan efforts.

3. As for anecdotes about people buying into GOP talking points like "flip flops"; these people were mostly unreachable anyway and quotes from them show up in every election. For every one of these there are one or more independents who are disgusted with Bush's fiscal irresponsibility, continued tilt to the extra-wealthy and corporations, and incompetent planning and execution of the Iraq war.

The extent to which the campaign is relying on the Swift Boat people is telling. Bush needs Kerry to fumble this race.

This election will be decided by the ground game in the battlefront states -- so what Kerry has to do between the last debate and Election Day is events that support the ground game -- the massive GOTV effort necessary to winning. All the months of planning and registering voters now either produce or they fail -- the candidate needs to rally the folk who are trained and ready to go.

I am sure Rove has his plans -- hopefully Kerry has rapid response capacity in place to deal with it. Maybe Kerry even has his own October Surprise.

But post debate it is the real basic stuff.

theCreature asks: "What's with Wisconsin?"

There is a reason Bush keeps saying, "Don't forget Poland." It perhaps has less to do with bolstering the perception that we have a grand coaliton, and more to do with grabbing the polka loving swing voter in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Seriously.

Alan: In a nutshell, Urban = Democrat, Rural = Republican. Urban folks don't answer their land lines, only thier cells. Polling places can't call cells. Urban folks are less likely to tolerate a twenty minute survey. If you look at the regional break downs of the phone surveys, they clearly over-represent the midwest.

> It's a Baltimore Sun interview with Shirley Irwin of
> Dunbar, West Virginia:


[Snip]

On the plus side of the equation, THE WEEKLY STANDARD and NATIONAL REVIEW are now occasionally publishing similarly somber assessments of *Shrub's* chances of winning! As well they should, because screaming "flip-flopping liberal!" for six months --still-- hasn't worked Scare/smear tactics might discourage some people from voting for Kerry (which is bad of course), but the current campaign isn't providing many constructive reasons for voting Bush unless you're a social conservative...
---
I agree with the rest of you that Kerry *MUST* not lose the final debate. A repeat of the first debate would be wonderful, since it would only give "Shrub's" vile spinners two weeks to reconcile the reinforced public image of Kerry as a strong, knowledgeable debater with the weak flip-flopping caricature of the GOP attack ads.


MARCU$

For the umpteenth time I want to say that this election will decided by events on the ground; both here in this country as the two parties get their votes out and in Iraq/Afghanistan where the President has the advantage of being able to direct American armed forces to take specific actions (as they are now in Iraq with the current offensive).

Charlie Cook was on Hardball last night and he gave the perfect distillation of the Bush stategy: "grow the Republican base organically" by emphasizing social wedge issues and muting those hard issues where Kerry has the advantage. Rove and company are going to gin up the largest republican base turnout ever. Cook thought it was a "brilliant" strategy.

Kerry can win only by getting out the Dem base and particularly all those newly registered voters. He also has to hope that Rove is unable to pull off an October surprise in Iraq or Afghanistan that will swing the election to the "commander-in-chief".

My take on tomorrow's debate is that Kerry will do well, and Bush, puffed up and over confident from the last debate, will not perform as well as last time. Bush has some fatal character flaws: refusal to take responsibility (the victim think common to alcoholic personalities), and denial (expressed as stubborness and refusal to face facts). These flaws can be suppressed on a temporary basis (as in the last debate), but they will surface again on Wednesday under pressure. Bush knows this is his last chance to deliver a knock out to Kerry. So far, he hasn't really been able to do that, so he's going to go straight for the jugular on Wed. Watch for increasing frustration and anger from Bush as Kerry stays cool.

We have the momentum. The polls are still going to jump around, but don't forget the newly registered youth who don't show up in the polls. They are going to hand our man a win on Nov. 2. I'm convinced, also, that there will be enough Republicans who will stay home or vote for Kerry to give him the win. I'm optimistic.

I am curious about polling trends as far as married/single, children/no children, and age demographics when it comes to when the polling occurs (i.e. weekday evening, weekend evening). If anyone has a link where these relationships are discussed, post it here.

Just curious . . .

I agree with Jeff L. entirely.

For example, health care. Kerry needs to stop talking about everything in the plan -- scares people -- opens him to attack from W. He should focus on the smartest thing in the plan, namely the removal of catastrophic risk from the general risk pool. "Why are jobs harder to come by? Because health costs are high! We will address high health costs by fighting the drug companies. We will address high health costs with sensible tort reform. But one of the biggest reasons health insurance premiums are high is the cost of insuring against catastrophic injury or illness. Catastrophic costs represent X% of premium costs, and they're making it unafforable to offer employers to offer health benefits and create jobs too. If we remove the costs of catastrophic illness and injury from the risks you have to insure against, premiums go down, there are more jobs, you have more money to spend, and things get better. That's what we do with our plan. We find the real problems and propose effective solutions!"

Ok, I feel better. Today's Rasmussen tracking poll has Kerry pulling to within -1 of Bush. WaPost is now clearly an outlier, with all other polls showing a 3 point (or lower) range between the candidates.

BTW I've volunteered as a van driver on election day, and my wife has volunteered as a poll watcher. Everyone, be sure to call your friends on election day and remind them to vote, vote, vote (only once each, please).

In case it's not yet been reported, Rasmussen trended back in Kerry's direction today, as someone predicted. They now have it at 47.4% for Bush, 45.8% for Kerry, an improvement from the 3.6% lead Bush had yesterday.

Some polls trend one way, others a different way. It's close. Keep at it, everyone.

Kerry keeps looking better and more presidential, while Bush keeps looking worse and less presidential.

Bush doesn't do well when his numbers are falling. He screws his face up more, scrunches his shoulders up more, and looks more pathetic.

I look for Bush to really squirm with the economy staggering, oil climbing, heating oil and gasoline climbing, and jobs sputtering.

"He's a LIBERAL! He thinks terrurists are nuisances!"
--- Bush debate in two sentences.

so - I think that we're all foolish to think Florida and Ohio are out of contention - the Kerry campaign knows they aren't out. The obvious triumph in this election will come from turnout. No matter what vote suppresion takes place there will be a huge Black voter turnout in Florida and in Ohio, and also Pennsylvania, though that one's firm in the Kerry camp.

Both Ohio and Florida have switched back and forth and both are close. Most polls have shown Ohio neck and neck for the past few weeks, with Kerry managing a consistent decimal point lead. The most recent poll to come out - Rasmussen - shows Bush leading in Ohio 50-45, but I see no other poll that backs up that claim. Ohio will be down to the wire - and it is a state with a large, largely disenfranchised, urban black population. The voter turnout machinations in the urban black communities of this country are unparalled this year. My prediction is that this will carry Kerry over the line in Ohio - he only needs half a percentage or so to triumph there definitively.

Florida is similar - though the race is not as close. But the black (and to a lesser degree, non-Cuban latino) community remains angry following the 2000 debacle. Gov Bush's transparent attempts to stifle black turnout have given new fire to the cause. In my opinion this anger will add 2-4 points and put Florida into play. Bush doesn't have anything approaching that kind of fire on his side. he actually managed to alienate the Cuban population in an election year - so foolish.

Even if Florida doesn't topple, Ohio will. That will make the electoral race a slim win for Kerry @ 270 to 268 based on the current leanings - meaning presuming that Kerry gets either Nevada or New Mexico (if he gets both, he'll win hands down, but I think Nevada will ultimately go Bush) and that he can take Iowa, but Bush keeps Wisconsin (which seems likely) and New Hampshire (which could go either way.)

If Kerry takes New Mexico / Nevada (probably NM) *and* New Hampshie, but loses Iowa, then it would be 271-267 on Bush's side. But - the big race to keep in mind is Colorado's ballot initiative to split their electoral votes - favored to win 45-35 in most of the polls I've read. That'll give Kerry another 4 (and of course, take 4 from Bush). That would mean we reverse those numbers and win 271-267.

We can't win under any scenario without either Ohio or Florida (and of course Pennsylvania, but I'm confident there) - unless something odd happens and we end up unexpectedly winning all the little ones (NM, NV, NH, IA, & WI <- unlikely) and it ends up 269 -269, until Colorado's electoral vote split kicks in... or it ends up in the House of Representatives.

But we'll win Ohio and Pennsylvania. And when we do, Kerry takes it.

Todd

I try not to worry about fluctuations in those tracking polls. While Kerry is down to a tie in Zogby, he's up to one point behind in Rasmussen. Got to watch a few days' trend. Zogby's riff that Bush had a good day or Kerry had a good day is really just describing statistical noise.

I'm with Alan who posted at the beginning of this thread---I'm still confused about why polls are oversampling Republicans. If polling firms are trying to market a good product, why would they adopt a sampling method that isn't accurate? I don't get it.

In my more paranoid moments, I think oversampling for Republicans and therefore skewing the poll results is actually just one more cover for stealing the election----that when when thousands or hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters are somehow disqualified or disenfranchised on Election Day, the media can announce that Bush was already ahead in the polls, so it "doesn't matter." Republicans will scream that Democrats are sore losers and should "get over it." And the media will go along, as will the Supreme Court. And they will all point to these skewed polls and say it doesn't matter.

Talk me down!

Gloating over Bush=45%???

Sure.

It is called a psychologiclal or sometimes "moral" victory, although the latter seems especially inappropriate on these facts.

With a record like Bush's to defend, we should have been hearing the L word months ago...and I don't mean "LIBERAL" either

The guy who runs electoral-vote.com just posted this:

"The site has been subjected to a full-scale, well-organized, massive attack with the clear intention to bring it down. The attackers have tried repeatedly to break in, but the server is a rock-solid Linux system which has stood up to everything they threw at it and hasn't crashed since I got it in May. While our troops are fighting and dying to bring freedom of speech to the Iraqi people, there are forces in America who find this concept no longer applicable to America. I don't know who is behind this attack yet (although we are working it), but it is too professional to be some teenager working from a home PC. Given that all the hate mail and threats I get come entirely from Republicans, I can make an educated guess which side is trying to silence me, but I won't say. And I won't surrender to cyberterrorists."

This may be off-topic here, but considering all the recent turmoil on this site leading to the new posting policy I thought the EDM folks should keep in mind the dedication of our friends on the right to wreck havoc. I believe this kind of chicanery runs clear up the ranks of the republican party. Stay vigilant.

It will be interesting to see the results of the latest SKEW, excuse me, PEW poll when it comes out.

Kerry needs to take the advice in Ruy's last paragraph to heart. He needs to avoid getting to caught up in policy or in defending attacks sent his way. He needs to focus on painting the President as a failure and he as the chance for success.

I hope Kerry comes right out early tomorrow night and really blisters Bush on his record of failure. That may push Bush back on his heels and get his angry again. Who knows, maybe we'll hear the "F-Bomb."

For anyone interested- Kerry actually, despite rumors to the contrary or Bush's miquote, does have a vision for America and it was expressed in the New York Times article: He wants a foreign policy where we are not worried about terrorism- its a very optimistic one v. the version of reality that Bush advocates: war without end- why can not Kerry articulate that as just that- a world where we are not concerned with terrorism v. a war with no end. It's essentially an argument almost Reaganesque that says the best days of America are ahead of us.

NPR has reported that the overseas nonmilitary voters have requested over 4 times as many ballots as last election. They are expected to be largely for Kerry. This is one variable that has not been discussed much or factored into the polls. Does anyone have a quess as to how many votes this could mean in swing states such as FL and OH?

One note that is missed: if Get out the Vote drives succeed, they are not being captured by LV or, of course, LV. Additionally, they are being looked over methodologically (due to the higher rural/Republican skewing of respondents).

Finally, add to it the 50% rule that Ruy talked about and you have Kerry, I would say, by roughly 10% nataionally.

You heard it here first.

Smooth Jazz: It seem your daily intent is to demoralize the activists who read this blog. However, by not discussing Ruy's ideas and instead posting articles which may or may not show Shrub being favored, you point to your own lack of enthusaism for the state of the race. I don't waste my time going to a righty site and posting for the sake of bringing them down--though I would have plently to post now.

Midwest Meg,

Pollsters don't work for you and me. They work for those who hire them. They know who hired them, who will hire them again, OR NOT, and who will feed them between elections.

It's not liberals. It's not Democrats.

Any poll that used completely sound polling data this election would be considered "the Kerry" pollster, even though it would be right.

Even though Zogby proved his accuracy last time, he's still "the Dem pollster."

The polls are done to create news stories. Therefore, getting it DONE is the most important thing, not getting it done RIGHT.

Much of what we see in these polls is contrived, is the result of a plan to skew perceptions. But much is also a result of news media simply throwing gasoline on the fire, so it's a better story.

Bush is ahead! Oh My!

Kerry is ahead! Oh My!

Let's remind ourselves one more time: this is not a horse race. It's an electoral college race.

The poster up above who noted Ohio and Florida is dead-on. If Kerry wins both, he wins the election; if Bush wins both, he wins the election; if they split, it could go either way.

There's nothing more critical for Dems in November than to turn registered voters into voters, especially in Ohio and Florida.

As for the debate, i think Kerry will again "win," although the so-called liberal media will go out of business before they acknowledge the likely level of dishonesty that we will see from bush. But the fact is, gore "lost" the debates and "won" the election....

ICR has its latest data out. On the one hand, it seems pro-Bush, with a 5% Bush lead among LV in a 3-way, 3% in a 2-way. On the other hand, last week those numbers were 6% and 5%, so this is movement toward Kerry, if movement is happening.

Smooth: I don't mind your trolling-- it keeps us honest-- but your post refering to "al-Zogby" contains obvious racism. Equating Zogby with Al Qaida or even Al Jazzera is offensive not only because you're attacking the patriotism of a political rival, but because it's an overt reference to Zogby's ethnicity.

Smooth: My, my! (To quote you). WaPo now 50-47 Bush (down from 51-46) and same poll, RVs, 48-46 Kerry. ICR trending Kerry. Ras trending Kerry. See, we can quote favorable numbers too.

I have a basic question about Election Day -- will the absentee and overseas ballots be opened and counted before Nov. 2, or will that occur on Election Day itself? I am wondering whether the vote tallies we see coming out of the states on Election Night will include those ballots, or whether those will be the last ones counted. Anyone know the quick and dirty answer? Thanks.

Here's some encouraging Iowa news. The four most recent state polls, all conducted since the debates began, show good movement toward Kerry, and three of the four (the exception being a GOP poll) show Kerry in front. Strategic Vision (GOP) has gone from Bush up 5% to Bush up 3%. Rasmussen has gone from Bush up 3% to Kerry up 4%. SUSA has gone from Bush up 4% to Kerry up 1%. Zogby has gone from Kerry up 3% to Kerry up 7%.

Hopefully Kerry can solidify this lead. Iowa is key. If Kerry gets only Ohio and New Hampshire from the Bush 2000 states, then he can lose Wisconsin and one Maine vote, but no more. Iowa, Minnesota, and New Mexico are probably his biggest other vulnerabilities. I'm pretty optimistic about Minnesota. He needs New Mexico or Nevada or West Virginia.

Cook's report has Kerry needing 63 EV's, Bush 62 from the list of Florida (27), Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (7), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), West Virgina (5) and New Hampshire (4).

Florida or Colorado would be huge. But Ohio is the key.

Tomorrow at the debate, Kerry needs to amplify how out of touch Bush is on the domestic front. With all the jobs lost, with people having to work two or three jobs to make it, everything going up (gas, medicine, etc.) Bush and Congress still don't want to raise the minimum wage. Mention when the last time it was raised. Mention what it currently is ($5 and change). Mention their wanting to change the overtime rules.
Tomorrow can and should be the nail in Bush's coffin.

Tomorrow at the debate, Kerry needs to amplify how out of touch Bush is on the domestic front. With all the jobs lost, with people having to work two or three jobs to make it, everything going up (gas, medicine, etc.) Bush and Congress still don't want to raise the minimum wage. Mention when the last time it was raised. Mention what it currently is ($5 and change). Mention their wanting to change the overtime rules.
Tomorrow can and should be the nail in Bush's coffin.

Polls of today will mean relatively little once one of Rove's October Surprises gets going... The Sinclair Broadcasting Group is proposing to interrupt prime-time coverage to air a 90-minute anti-Kerry documentary on the affiliates it owns (including some in key swing states). For continuing coverage see Josh Marshall's blog: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/

For a quick list of who to hit, see The Gadflyer's list: http://gadflyer.com/flytrap/index.php?Week=200442#935

For the full list of sponsor's see: http://www.boycottsbg.com/advertisers/default.aspx

Thanks.

-DS

Perhaps you could comment on the absence of cell-phone-only users. I certainly fall into this category, though I'm outside the 18-14 age range.

See this article:

WASHINGTON - A growing number of people rely solely on cell phones to make and take calls, putting them out of reach of polling organizations trying to get a fix on the American electorate.

Many cell-only users are young and mobile, a demographic that often doesn't vote. That makes survey researchers confident their polling, which excludes cell phone numbers, reflects the opinions of those likely to have an impact on Election Day. Still, with reports of unprecedented voter registration, many young voters could be flying under the pollsters' radar.

"Pollsters don't think the cell phone issue will affect them this year, but they are worried about it," said Michael Brick, a survey methods specialist at Westat, a research firm in Rockville, Md. "This may be the last round of presidential elections before it does have an effect."

When tracking this year's election, pollsters contact people on traditional phones. About 5 percent of all households receive telephone service only by cellular phone, according to a face-to-face survey done earlier this year by the Census Bureau (news - web sites) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among young adults up to age 24, the number is close to three times as high.

Anyone care to comment on the polls out today, that show a reverse trend away from Kerry, particularly Zogby, but also ICR (which has been noted here already) and a few others on Polling Reports.

Maybe the wisest thing to do right now is just to avoid polls, but I don't seem to be able to help myself!

Kerry standing, with the exception of Gallup's figures (which really makes my head spin) seems to be stuck in the dead mid forties, after seeming to be climbing out of that a few days ago. I wonder if it is the attacks based on the NYT Magazine article that are hurting him.

Addy

Mark,

It is my understanding that the absentee and overseas ballots are not counted until/after election day. And, if memory serves me, they do not count them (for purposes of calling the state for one or the other) if the difference between candidates is less than the number of absentee and overseas ballots. However, this could be a state issue. We may need more wisdom from the wise ones.

Also, for whatever reason I am feeling very positive. I have all the confidence in the world in Kerry tomorrow night. I am sure when he is in a "prep" session the handlers play hardball. I read earlier in some cyperplace that Clinton has also contributed to the Kerry prep.

As has been mentioned Kerry is a good at closing. I cannot imagine anything "shrub" could lob that could knock Kerry off his game. He has not been defensive or shrill. He has the most beautiful posture and brilliant analysis.

Just so y'all know - I joined the Kerry camp before there was an official camp (the day after the last mid-term elections) - I have not waiverd not once. I cannot tell you in a sound bite - but I can yell it from the highest mountain - I am voting for Kerry not against Bush. There are lots of folks just like me. On January 20, 2005 I am going to join Zogby and others in DC for the festivities. I too look forward to the day when we live life as we did before, where terrorism is a concern, but not our driving concern.

Twenty days and counting.

Jody

I've given money to the DNC on several occasions but I think we need to think long haul. I'd like to sign them up to charge my card for $10 to $15 a month indefinitely but I see no mechanism for that on their site. Even if Kerry wins this election, he won't be able to deliver much with Congressional control in the hands of the Southern leadership. Indeed, he and his cabinet will be investigated to death. And frankly I wouldn't be surprised to see a strategic impeachment designed to cripple his presidency (on some sort of pretext). All of which is to say that we are not in a three week home stretch but the beginning of a long uphill fight to restore sanity to the polity. I figure I should be kicking in $10 or $20 a month to keep the Dems in shape to match the oligarchs.

[reposting with the URL]

For those interested, I've posted my latest (10/11) survey of 57 Electoral College tracking / prediction / projection / forecast sites at http://unfutz.blogspot.com/2004/10/electoral-college-survey-1011.html.

Executive summary: Although Bush still leads according to a majority of sites, Kerry has made substantial headway in re-gaining ground he lost to Bush in the last month, reducing a 50 point gap to a 14 - 17 point Bush advantage. Currently Bush has 261 to 266 electoral votes, while Kerry has 247 to 249.

Geez, onprotractedwarfare, let's get through the Nov. 2 election first before we start worrying about whether Congress is gonna investigate and try to impeach Kerry! Why is it that so many of us Dems such defeatists? Our candidate drops two points in a poll and suddenly it's time to hit the panic button! Our candidate is on the verge of winning the presidency and we already have him impeached! Democrats have GOT to get out of this mode -- it's not productive. And just to ease your concerns: if Kerry wins in an electoral landslide, which I increasingly believe is possible, I think there will be enough coattails to win back the Senate -- if not the House. So the bottom line is: Buck UP!

One of the things that frustrates me about Kerry's campaign is the lack of proactive aggressiveness. For example, a month or so ago, Bush told Matt Lauer that he didn't think we could ever win the war on terror. Why wasn't the Kerry campaign trumpeting THAT comment in the same way that Bush is screaming about Kerry's "terrorism/nuisance" remark?

When you are fighting pigs, you have to get down in the mud. I still don't think the election can be won SOLELY by relying on the American people to focus on real issues. A huge percentage of the American populace is intellectually lazy and incapable of analyzing issues.

Chillmoth ... despite the high cost of X% of these premiums. How is the Hourly Employee to pay for the protection that is needed for CATASTROPIC injury or illness ???... the way things are now ... when the insurance is needed, the consumer is NOT getting their $$$$ worth! .... MMMMMMMMM Everyone keep up the great posts!

Adelaide,

The polls are all over the place for many reasons, one of which is their different periods of sampling.

Imagine the polling groups describing the last game of the Astros v. the Braves. What is this score?

3-0
5-3
12-3

It all depends on the point in time.

Two days over the weekend versus three days during the week are two very different polls, too.

Adelaide,

Rasmussen trended back toward Kerry yesterday. The Washington Post moved toward Kerry today. Patience. Polls will go this way and that in the next while. Don't get either overly optimistic or pessimistic.

I'm sorry, but Smooth Jazz has crossed the line with the racist, jingoistic "Al" references. I am surprised that one got past the moderator. I would have no problem banning him/her.

Nonetheless, that he/she would stoop to this is, as always with the Repigs, a sure sign of desperation. Take heart, we have them on the run and grasping for straws (if I may mix my metaphors)!

democracy

I think we need to be cautious about inferring too much from the "50 percernt rule." While it does indicate an ominous ceiling on the incumbent's support, in a three way race, it is not necessary for a candidate to hit 50% to win. Consider Clinton's election and re-election victories. Neither time was he able to break 50%.

With Nader pulling, one, two or three percent of the vote, Kerry and Bush are competing over 97-99% of the electorate, half of which would be 48.5-49.5%. Support above THAT threshhold is indicative of a likely victory and Bush has often polled at or near that level.

Hey Mark:

We can be optimistic or pessimistic wrt to Kerry's chances of winning. My point is that the objective situation is a highly polarized electorate and we are working from a situation where it would probably take two or three elections to turn the House around, if it can be done in the next generation, and there are few scenarios where a commanding lead in the Senate will be established, in this election.

It therefore makes sense that we be thinking of this, win or lose, as a situation that will require long-term consistent rather than electoral season support.

Chesire,

If you read Guy Molyneux' article in American Prospect, you will find that even thought he discussed the "50% rule," he went on to say that minor party candidates should get about 2% of the vote this year, so that the tipping point for Bush is probably around 49% -- just as you inferred.