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The Latest Democracy Corps Strategy Memo

Here are some highlights from the latest Democracy Corps strategy memo by Stanley Greenberg and James Carville. Make sure you read the full-text of the memo at the D-Corps site. It’s got lots of important additional information and data that can help everyone from door to door canvassers to top strategists make the best use of the next two weeks.

Date: October 19, 2004
To: Friends of Democracy Corps
From: Stan Greenberg, James Carville

Report on the State of the Race After the Presidential Debates

The close of the debates has moved John Kerry into a small lead in the latest Democracy Corps polls, 50 to 47 percent, which puts him in a strong position to win on November 2nd. The race is still close and the Democrats still need to win the final battle over mobilization, but they go into this phase with many advantages over the Republicans. Indeed, the race has consolidated after the debates in many ways that make it harder for Bush to catch Kerry in the sprint to the end.

In highlighting Kerry’s lead, we do not do so triumphantly. It is important that progressives and Democrats and independent observers know what is real so that they can act with great effectiveness in the few days we have to impact the outcome.

We are obviously aware of the many newspaper polls, which paint more volatility and deep uncertainty about the trends of the race. If they were right, it would produce a wholly different strategy to win. But the race is not volatile and inscrutable. In fact, the average of the public polls has the race dead even, with both Bush and Kerry at 47 percent. Let us underscore some points that will aid in interpreting the chaos of media polls.

  • Bush’s vote is at 47 percent in our two post-debate polls; his job approval rating has dropped to 47 percent and his vote in the public polls is at 47 percent…As the incumbent, it is very difficult for him to get a vote on election day higher than 47 percent, unless he can raise his position before then.
  • That is mostly true because “undecided” voters are not really undecided and almost always break against the incumbent, particularly if the incumbent is a polarizing figure, like Bush. The undecided in this election are populist change voters. By 63 to 28 percent, they want to go in a significantly different direction than Bush; they are critical of big corporations; and break two-to-one Democratic at the congressional level.
  • Independents have moved steadily to Kerry, as President Bush has waged his conservative, base-oriented campaign. Today, Kerry has taken a 4 point lead (49 to 45 percent) in the Democracy Corps poll, but that is also true in the CBS/New York Times and ABC News polls. For Bush to win, Republicans would have to be more united than Democrats and outnumber Democrats on election day. But the latter is very difficult, since the likely electorate is more Democratic by at least 3 points.
  • The Democrats have consolidated behind Kerry in the post-debate period. While Kerry had not consolidated Democrats before the debates, he has done so with a vengeance afterwards. Kerry is getting 91 percent of Democrats, while Bush is getting 92 percent of Republicans. Kerry and Bush voters now express an equal enthusiasm for their nominees and equally strong intention to vote. Part of that consolidation includes substantial gains with African-American, union, and Hispanic voters.
  • The Democracy Corps poll includes an increasing number of new registrants, now at 7 percent of the likely voters – up from 2 percent in July and 6 percent in September and early October. These new voters who could play a decisive role in this election support Kerry by 61 to 36 percent.
  • Young voters (under 30 years) could play a very big role in this election. They will for sure give John Kerry his biggest margin of any age group, now giving him over 60 percent of the vote.

The Growing Mood for Change

What makes it difficult for George Bush to change the contours of the race is the growing mood for change in the country. This is not an incumbent moment. The number saying the country is headed off on the wrong track jumped to 55 percent in this survey, with only 40 percent saying things are going in the right direction.


This is a very difficult environment for Bush to campaign for a new mandate, as a large majority of the undecided and the whole electorate want something new, perhaps a “fresh start.”

The Pressures of a Cultural Election

President Bush has waged a full-throated cultural conservative election, attacking Kerry on liberalism and big government and underscoring his pro-life and religious posture. That has produced rising support among self-identified conservatives and with religious voters, particularly Evangelicals. That has made it harder for Kerry and Democrats to break through in rural areas and with many non-college educated women voters.

But they have paid a big price for this choice, which may have limited their opportunities for gains. Conservatives are 42 percent of the electorate, but the majority are moderate and liberal, who have both become increasingly anti-Bush.


Kerry’s Change Message Defeats Bush’s Dark Message

President Bush has put his entire campaign behind his attack on John Kerry as unfit and too liberal to be president in these times. It is important for people to know that this is not working and is not likely to work in the weeks ahead, if the progressive groups continue to make the case for change and the case for Kerry’s new direction.

While Bush mounted these attacks in the debates and afterwards, worries about Kerry on flip-flopping, taxes, liberalism and defense have actually fallen. He has gained ground on making America safe, being ready to deal with Iraq, and on the economy.

To test the coming onslaught, we tested the Kerry message, as presented in his advertising and speeches. We also confronted that message with two Bush’s messages – one focused on Kerry’s liberalism and the other on his weakness on security. The Kerry message defeats these messages by 50 to 46 percent, slightly larger than the current margin in the race. Kerry is in position to control the future agenda, despite the strong Bush attacks.



Is there a Republican equivalent to the Democracy Corp? I'd be curious to see their thinking. But I suspect they operate in secrecy.

The only consistent thing that I've seen with all of these polls is that the two big internals - GWB's approval rating and right/wrong track - have been negative. It makes me nervous to see Bush leading in so many of these polls, but it just seems to implausible that he can win when a solid majority do not approve of him and think the country needs to go in a different direction.

"The Democracy Corps poll includes an increasing number of new registrants, now at 7 percent of the likely voters"

I'm wondering if this alone accounts for Kerry's lead in their polling. If indeed it is, it seems like a remarkably optimistic estimate, and to me would call the poll results into question. Does anyone know what the other polls are including as far as new registrants, and how it differs from this?


"If indeed it is, it seems like a remarkably optimistic estimate, and to me would call the poll results into question. "

Actually, if these numbers (below) are any indication, 7% is likely on the LOW side!

"In New Mexico, the Republicans increased their share of voters, growing by 9 percent while Democrats grew 7.7 percent. But the Democrats still added nearly 10,000 more voters. The voter rolls grew overall at 7.6 percent in Arizona, with Democrats seeing a 7.5 percent increase and Republicans 6.1 percent. "

The new Pew poll from today (10/20) supports the findings of DC.

The significant numbers from the Pew poll are:

Bush- 44% over all approval; 37% approval on Iraq policy; 38% on the economy; 49% on terrorism threats; 37% on foreign policy. Bush's approval numbers on the issues two weeks ago were about 10 points higher except for terrorism, which was 13 points higher. These are scary results for Karl Rove.

The other scary numbers for Karl are the Battleground State results... Bush 43%, Kerry 49%.

I think BIG MO has definitely shifted to Kerry.

I don't want to say this, but I actually am beginning to believe Kerry will pull this out.(I don't want to be overoptimistic) But we now have Zogby, NBC/WSJ, and Democracy Corp. giving Bush approval ratings of 44 to 47%, even Gallups poll before the last debate had W. at 47%. I only wish we were closer than 2 weeks away.

We all know how desperate and evil Karl Rove is, I'm afraid of three things that might happened to derail a Kerry victory:
1.Dirty or slimy trick(Rove's speciality)
2.Terror Alert!!!Terror Alert!!! Be AFRAID!!
3.Look who we found why if it isn't Osbma!

The last thing which neither W or Kerry can control is an actual attack which would also wipe out Kerry.

I hope and pray that the four things above don't happen.

I truly believe when this election is all over we will find the polls conducted prior to the election to be far enough off as to warrant a revamp of the polling system. The pools today are reflecting the *status quo* and I believe people in this country are quite angry on both sides of this election. The anger will drive a larger than normal voter turnout of which the standard polling procedures do not reflect.

:) jmd