Excellent sites to go to for Election 2004 coverage: Daily Kos, DonkeyRising, CJR Campaign Desk, the Swing State Project, Political Animal, Atrios/Eschaton, Talkingpointsmemo, MyDD, Our Congress, 2.004k.com, Electoral Vote, Race 2004


- Massaging of Inconsistent Exit Polls and Comparison to Voting Results
- Voting Irregularities/Suppression/Fraud/"Glitches" and Suspicious Results

POST-MORTEM: A Blueprint for the Future


11/4/04 <link>
With Bush back in the office, what should Democrats and their supporters do?

A number of bloggers have commented on this. Here are some links:

The Left Coaster, Alas A Blog, Skippy, Atrios, Josh Marshall - and a follow-up, Brad DeLong, MyDD, MyDD, Dailykos, Dailykos, Eric Alterman, David Neiwert

11/3/04 <link> UPDATED 11/18/04
Voting Irregularities and Anomalies

Click here to find out more

10/24/04 <link>
John Kerry for Dummies

A brief review of Kerry's career record to answer Republican questioning on it. Read it here.

10/22/04_1 <link>
The State of the Battleground

You can never tell if you watch too much CNN or Faux News or for that matter most of the media (see Media Matters' letter to CNN criticizing them for hiding polls favorable to Kerry) , but Kerry is actually in a strong position (dare I say "leading") in the Battleground States. Mystery Pollster (Max Blumenthal) has helpfully compiled the data and wonders whether Bush's strong lead in the red states might lead to a 2000-like situation where Kerry leads in the Electoral College but loses the popular vote. Now, this speculation is premature because even nationally Bush is not "leading" consistently and any leads are within the MoE (and it certainly won't hurt to see this MoveOn ad - capturing live Bush's infamous joking about WMDs while soldiers were dying "searching" for them - run all week next week). But I wonder what the RNC, Faux News and all the sheep in the Republican Party who defended Mr. Electoral Vote Man in 2000 will have to say about that scenario?

Ordinarily, I would advise caution in interpreting subgroup findings, as the smaller sample sizes come with considerably more sampling error. However, when we see a consistent pattern across multiple surveys, we can have a lot more confidence in the statistical significance of the finding.

Here is the list of what I have been able to cobble together (note that the definition of battleground states varies from poll to poll, from 12 to 20 states):

All Voters Battleground States
Dates Bush Kerry Bush Kerry  #
AP-IPSOS LV 10/18-20 46% 49% 46% 50% 20
Marist Poll RV 10/17-19 47% 47% 43% 50% 17
Marist Poll LV 10/17-19 48% 47% 43% 51% 17
Pew RV 10/15-19 45% 45% 43% 49% ?
NBC/WSJ LV 10/16-18 48% 48% 43% 49% 12
CBS/NYT LV 10/14-17 47% 45% 40% 51%
Harris LV#1 10/14-17 48% 46% 44% 51% 17
Harris LV#2 10/14-17 51% 43% 47% 47% 17
Gallup RV 10/14-16 49% 46% 46% 46% 16
WashPost RV 10/15-17 48% 47% 45% 50% 13
ICR LV 10/9-11 43% 41% 43% 44% ?
RV = among registered voters; LV=among "likely" voters

The pattern is consistent: In every case Kerry runs better in the "battleground states" than he does in the overall electorate, although in some cases the difference is quite small. Another survey that did not release specific numbers also showed the same pattern: John Gorman of Opinion Dynamics noted that his survey for Fox News showed a similar result: "One odd factor is that much of the lead is concentrated in the so-called 'red states,' which were pretty much conceded to Bush at the beginning. Thus his national lead does not reflect a big lead in the battleground states that will decide the election. We may well be facing a situation, as we did in 2000, where the popular vote and the electoral vote produce different results."

Of course, it's still October and there's still time for Bush's October surprise. And if that doesn't happen, there's always Vote Fraud to save the day for Bush - bundles of it. So it ain't over until it's over.

10/13/04 <link>
It's 3-out-of-3 for Kerry!

Kerry was masterful and definitely more Presidential and in command of issues in this third debate than President Bush was. It was an obvious win for Kerry in my view. My concerns ended up being unfounded, with Kerry doing well to keep the focus on his opponent and politely but forcefully refuted Bush's repeated false attacks. One more thing: Kerry's composure and strength is just astounding.

Josh Marshall has an excellent summary - and I agree with it for the most part (for example, unlike him I did call all the debates for Kerry off the bat). Go read it. [Bush's litany of lies will hopefully come out soon - especially the one about Osama bin Laden. What a whopper!]

One disappointing point. Why were there no questions on the environment or energy policy or stem cell research? 

It is no surprise that the early polls are coming in for Kerry.

Here's DailyKos with some results:

CBS News Poll

Kerry 39
Bush 25

CNN Focus Group

24 on the panel

Kerry 10
Bush 7
Undecided 7

ABC News

Kerry 42
Bush 41

38% GOP
30% Dem
28% Independent

Matthew Yglesias has one more data point.

Kerry 52, Bush 39

That's CNN's quick poll response. A clear win for John Kerry. The reason, I think, is that even though both sides won some rounds, Kerry won the important rounds, on health care and jobs. Especially on jobs. It's easy for the professional media to overlook the extent to which job overshadow talk about, say, the deficit since, by definition, media professionals are not unemployed. Nor do media professionals live in the areas of the country that are afflicted by job losses. But in Ohio, West Virginia, and elsewhere that stuff's a huge deal and all Bush said to people who are hurting is that they should go back to school. It's pretty insulting for a president (especially this president) to suggest that the reason folks are struggling is that they're too dumb.

CBS News poll was of uncommitted voters.

A CBS News poll of uncommitted voters who watched the debate named Kerry the winner by 39-25 percent over Mr. Bush, with 36 percent calling it a tie. Sixty percent said Kerry has clear positions on the issues. Before the third debate, only 29 percent of the same voters said Kerry had clear positions.

ABC has a breakout here. 81% of Democrats and 42% of Independents called it for Kerry. Only 73% of Republicans and 35% of Independents called it for Bush. With a heavily Republican biased sample, the Presidential vote was 49-48 for Bush before the debate and 49-49 after.

The USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll results are striking, considering their tendency to have high Republican Party ID in their polls. The link shows other good numbers for Kerry. 

1. Regardless of which candidate you happen to support, who do you think did the better job in the debate – John Kerry (or) George W. Bush

  Kerry Bush Neither (vol.) Both/ equally (vol.) No opinion
2004 Oct 13 52 39 1 8 *
2004 Oct 8 47 45 1 7 *
2004 Sep 30 53 37 1 8 1

The Democracy Corps poll of voters (who voted 49-46 for Bush over Gore in 2000 and are matched with Democrats or Dem-leaning in Party ID) shows a shift in the Kerry-Bush horse race from 48-48 before the debate to 50-47 after the debate. Good showing Senator!

10/9/04_3 <link>
Dred Scott - and Abortion?

One thing I forgot to mention in my Debate #2 Roundup below - President Bush's rather out-of-the-blue mention of the infamous Dred Scott case, saying that he would never appoint a judge who would have ruled in favor of the Dred Scott decision. Why is this important?

Well, firstly he appears to have gotten the facts wrong (and likely deliberately), as usual - as Atrios pointed out:

Mistakes involving the issue of slavery are particularly offensive, no matter what the mistake.
Bush said:

Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges years ago said that the constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

Dred Scott wasn't based on property rights. It was based on racism.

The decision of the court was read in March of 1857. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney -- a staunch supporter of slavery -- wrote the "majority opinion" for the court. It stated that because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The decision also declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820, legislation which restricted slavery in certain territories, unconstitutional.

But more importantly, why did he pick Dred Scott of all cases and why now? 
Fairshot has the answer (via Kevin Drum) and it is not pleasant (remember, right-wing conservatives in power usually talk in code!):

Dred Scott = Roe v. Wade

Some people seem to be a bit boggled by Bush's Dred Scott remark last night. It wasn't about racism or slavery, or just Bush's natural incoherence. Here's what Bush actually said [Fairshot's translation of Bush's remarks for his religious Right base]:

If elected to another term, I promise that I will nominate Supreme Court Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Bush couldn't say that in plain language, because it would freak out every moderate swing voter in the country, but he can say it in code, to make sure that his base will turn out for him. Anti-choice advocates have been comparing Roe v. Wade with Dred Scott v. Sandford for some time now. There is a constant drumbeat on the religious right to compare the contemporary culture war over abortion with the 19th century fight over slavery, with the anti-choicers cast in the role of the abolitionists.

Don't believe me? Here.

Further, Bush has to describe Dred Scott as about wrongheaded personal beliefs, rather than a fairly constricted constitutional interpretation because he needs to paint Roe v. Wade the same way, and he wants "strict constructionists" in the Supreme Court, so he can't really talk about the actual rationale used in Dred Scott.

I can't emphasize enough how important this is, and how much it needs to be publicized.

Fairshot is absolutely right. Here is one of the links (The National "Right to Life" Committee, NRLC) from the Google search he points to:

In an 1857 court case, known as the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled that slaves, even freed slaves, and all their descendants, had no rights protected by the Constitution and that states had no right to abolish slavery. Where would Blacks be today if that reasoning had not been challenged?

The reasoning in Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade is nearly identical. In both cases the Court stripped all rights from a class of human beings and reduced them to nothing more than the property of others. Compare the arguments the Court used to justify slavery and abortion. Clearly, in the Court's eyes, unborn children are now the same "beings of an inferior order" that the justices considered Blacks to be over a century ago.

Is this astonishing or what?  

10/9/04_2 <link>
Is Bush Wired, as in - wearing an earpiece with someone prompting him when he speaks?

I'll let the links do the talking here (bold text emphasis and comments in brown font are added by me).

Dave Lindorff, Salon.com:

Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry? That's the latest rumor flooding the Internet, unleashed last week in the wake of an image caught by a television camera during the Miami debate. The image shows a large solid object between Bush's shoulder blades as he leans over the lectern and faces moderator Jim Lehrer [photos are here for those who do not subscribe to Salon.com].

The president is not known to wear a back brace, and it's safe to say he wasn't packing. So was the bulge under his well-tailored jacket a hidden receiver, picking up transmissions from someone offstage feeding the president answers through a hidden earpiece? Did the device explain why the normally ramrod-straight president seemed hunched over during much of the debate?

Bloggers are burning up their keyboards with speculation. Check out the president's peculiar behavior during the debate, they say. On several occasions, the president simply stopped speaking for an uncomfortably long time and stared ahead with an odd expression on his face. Was he listening to someone helping him with his response to a question? Even weirder was the president's strange outburst. In a peeved rejoinder to Kerry, he said, "As the politics change, his positions change. And that's not how a commander in chief acts. I, I, uh -- Let me finish -- The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at." It must be said that Bush pointed toward Lehrer as he declared "Let me finish." [for the video - see here]. The green warning light was lit, signaling he had 30 seconds to, well, finish.

Hot on the conspiracy trail, I tried to track down the source of the photo. None of the Bush-is-wired bloggers, however, seemed to know where the photo came from. Was it possible the bulge had been Photoshopped onto Bush's back by a lone conspiracy buff? It turns out that all of the video of the debate was recorded and sent out by Fox News, the pool broadcaster for the event. Fox sent feeds from multiple cameras to the other networks, which did their own on-air presentations and editing.

To watch the debate again, I ventured to the Web site of the most sober network I could think of: C-SPAN. And sure enough, at minute 23 on the video of the debate, you can clearly see the bulge between the president's shoulder blades.

Bloggers stoke the conspiracy with the claim that the Bush administration insisted on a condition that no cameras be placed behind the candidates. An official for the Commission on Presidential Debates, which set up the lecterns and microphones on the Miami stage, said the condition was indeed real, the result of negotiations by both campaigns. Yet that didn't stop Fox from setting up cameras behind Bush and Kerry. The official said that "microphones were mounted on lecterns, and the commission put no electronic devices on the president or Senator Kerry." When asked about the bulge on Bush's back, the official said, "I don't know what that was."

So what was it? Jacob McKenna, a spyware expert and the owner of the Spy Store, a high-tech surveillance shop in Spokane, Wash., looked at the Bush image on his computer monitor. "There's certainly something on his back, and it appears to be electronic," he said. McKenna said that, given its shape, the bulge could be the inductor portion of a two-way push-to-talk system. McKenna noted that such a system makes use of a tiny microchip-based earplug radio that is pushed way down into the ear canal, where it is virtually invisible. He also said a weak signal could be scrambled and be undetected by another broadcaster.

Mystery-bulge bloggers argue that the president may have begun using such technology earlier in his term. Because Bush is famously prone to malapropisms and reportedly dyslexic, which could make successful use of a teleprompter problematic, they say the president and his handlers may have turned to a technique often used by television reporters on remote stand-ups. A reporter tapes a story and, while on camera, plays it back into an earpiece, repeating lines just after hearing them, managing to sound spontaneous and error free.

Suggestions that Bush may have using this technique stem from a D-day event in France, when a CNN broadcast appeared to pick up -- and broadcast to surprised viewers -- the sound of another voice seemingly reading Bush his lines, after which Bush repeated them. Danny Schechter, who operates the news site MediaChannel.org, and who has been doing some investigating into the wired-Bush rumors himself, said the Bush campaign has been worried of late about others picking up their radio frequencies -- notably during the Republican Convention on the day of Bush's appearance. "They had a frequency specialist stop me and ask about the frequency of my camera," Schechter said. "The Democrats weren't doing that at their convention."


The blog Isbushwired.com and Cannonfire have plenty of additional material, including other incidents suggesting that Bush might be wired. For example:

(a) Apparent prompting of Bush during a joint Press Conference with French President Chirac earlier this year, accidentally carrying over to the transmission. Note, as Marisacat points out in the post that "The bleed thru was in advance of his words, not his voice - at first I thought it was the bleed thru of both original transmission and delay but no different voice - but his words. Then he would track, repeat the words with tiny differences, breaths taken at different times." [for the video, see here]
More on this, including other witnesses' comments, here. Cannonfire provides a transcript:

Regarding the D-Day speech, I may not have yet relayed this transcript of Bush and the "phantom voice":

Q President Chirac, given the fact that your government also believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the war, do you believe that there was a worldwide intelligence failure? And despite your opposition to the war, do you believe that Iraq is better, or worse off, today?

Mr. President, what role specifically would you like the French to play in Iraq going forward? Merci.

PHANTOM VOICE: The French are going to provide advice...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Listen, the French are going to provide great advice. President Chirac has got good judgment about the Middle East, and he understands those countries well. The French are going to work together to put out a U.N. Security Council resolution that sends a clear signal the free world is united in helping Iraq. And those are great contributions, for which I am grateful, and so is my nation.

(b) Isbushwired adds:

A poster to IsBushWired comments that she heard the prompter for Bush's 9/11 address on a New York station: "I was watching ABC in NYC. I had no cable and I could only get ABC from my antenna at that time (the only station that transmitters on the Empire State instead of WTC). I definitely heard the prompter. I posted about it at the time at Salon."
"Sure, Bush uses an earpiece sometimes," a top Washington editor for Reuters said to me last spring. "State of the Union -- he had an earpiece for that. Everybody knows it," he said, or assumes it. But everybody doesn't know it, I said. Why hadn't Reuters investigated? The editor shrugged and said it wasn't so different from using a teleprompter.

Except that a teleprompter isn't a secret. And Americans have the right to know if the president can't or won't speak in public without covert assistance.
...A news photograph from July 7 shows Bush with another odd bulge at the back of his jacket.

(c) Cannonfire has some additional links here, here and here

Since Lindorff's report, there have been some developments (with the New York Times, the Washington Post and Associated Press picking up the story) in which the White House initially claimed the video was doctored - only to backtrack and claim it was probably just a crumpled suit, which is also implausible given the perfect rectangular shape of the protrusion. Lindorff's latest update at Salon.com also adds this:

The most important piece of information obtained by the Post reporter was a statement by the Bush campaign that the president was not wearing a bullet-proof vest during the debate appearance -- one of the most widely offered alternative explanations for the bulge in the jacket.

Another point of note that Cannonfire points out:

Two lengthy quotations, taken together, paint a rather disturbing picture. The first, which many of you have already read, comes from Joshua Marshall (who offers his observation "with some hesitation"):

In 2001, 2002 and 2003 the president had his annual physical in early August. And after each he's gotten a clean bill of health. To all appearances the president is in excellent health.

But this year, according to AFP, he's decided to postpone his physical until after the election.

On its face, the explanation makes a certain amount of sense. "This has been a busier travel period for the president than the previous three years," Scott McClellan told the AFP.

But can the president really not afford one day?

And another thing occurs to me.

What was the president doing in early August this year? Right about then is when he was taking the traditional hiatus from campaigning during the Democratic convention. It seems like then of all times he had some time free.

10/9/04_1 <link>
Kerry-Bush Debate #2

Bush did better than in his first debate but not well enough. Kerry did well but should have done much better. Overall, my immediate thought after the debate ended was that Kerry just did well enough to win the debate

Bush showed himself to be clearly in need of anger management (the new meme is "Furious George"). It remains astonishing to me that nearly half the country wants to vote for a supposed commander-in-chief who is barely in control of himself when the myriad fantasies of his Presidency and his judgment are challenged. If there was ever a spoilt, incompetent brat in the White House, this is it. Kerry on the other hand looked far more mature, balanced and in control. After two debates, Kerry has impressed me far more than I expected (and even some staunch conservatives agree). Having grown accustomed to the almost unlimited amount of carping I have heard over his supposed lack of charisma, I am glad Kerry proved his critics wrong. Additionally, Kerry was to the point for the most part, was moderate yet strong in his responses, and had strong (yet inoffensive) messages countering Bush and the charge of "flip-flopper". In other words he was playing both to his base as well as the undecideds /independents, whereas Bush was trying to shore up his base - which was disappointed after his debate #1 debacle.

Surprisingly though, Kerry's biggest debating weaknesses were in the discussions on domestic issues (the second half of the debate). Examples:
(a) I was dissatisfied at how he handled Bush's attacks (on Kerry) on taxes and abortion. 
Why not point out that Bush's fear mongering about taxes is absurdly fake considering that the last time taxes were raised we had the most unprecedented economic and jobs expansion in American history? 
Why not point out that Bush favors not just a ban on the so-called "partial birth abortion" (hoax), but also favors a constitutional amendment to ban ALL abortions?
(b) I was a bit underwhelmed by his somewhat weak comments on embryos used for fertilization - something that he should have used more aggressively to completely destroy Bush's abjectly fake morality on the stem cell topic
(c) Kerry's response to the budget deficit reduction question was probably the most underwhelming of all. It is clear that his proposals have little chance of reducing the deficit by half in 4 years - but, being in this situation I was wondering why he didn't go after Bush more aggressively to point out that what Bush has proposed in terms of additional tax cuts and spending will add much more to the deficit than Kerry ever would. Kerry also let Bush get away with his completely fabricated nonsense about non-defense discretionary spending in the past 4 years, and Bush's lie about not having part ownership of a timber company, among other things. In the end, Kerry probably salvaged the situation by reminding voters that he has actually fought repeatedly for balanced budgets - which gives him far more credibility than Bush. But he let this issue become a real fight rather than just a skirmish.

Perhaps it was the time limit - and perhaps I am just being overly demanding on Kerry. We'll see how he handles these topics in debate #3. 

Looking ahead to Debate #3
In the first two debates Kerry successfully attacked and almost reversed the hoax that "national security and foreign affairs are Bush's strengths" - indeed Kerry has shown that he is far more capable of handling the country's security and Iraq than he has been given credit for.  
However, his performance in the second half of debate #2 makes me concerned that on domestic policy - which is widely consider his strength (and it is) - he might actually be more vulnerable to Bush's attacks unless he gets much sharper on this on the debate floor. This is particularly true since Bush and Cheney are going to continue to churn out egregious lies by the dozen about Kerry - and the media will probably not help much by their "fair and balanced" stand
Will Saletan at Slate
, who was disappointed with Kerry's performance in debate #2, has some advice for Kerry on this (especially on what he needs to learn from Edwards).

How did the public rate debate #2?
Consistent with my own view, a majority of potential voters (a slight majority in one case, medium in another) appear to have concluded that Kerry won debate #2. More encouragingly, Gallup's poll and the Democracy Corps poll both show that independents and/or undecided voters felt Kerry won by double digit margins -- while Kerry continued to consolidate his base. Perhaps most importantly, Kerry's positives in the polls (favorability, likeability, etc.) continued to increase measurably. (NOTE: Zogby is showing Kerry moving "ahead" (within MoE) of Bush slightly in the latest tracking poll.)

10/7/04 <link>
Iraq for Dummies ©
Given the joke that the Bush administration has made out of American lives and American security (especially in Iraq), it's time for us all to drink some Kool-aid and check out Iraq for Dummies ©. Now!

10/6/04_2 <link>
Exaggerate and stretch while running for office? That's not allowed, said Bush and Cheney - 4 years ago. Ah, compassionate conservatism at work.

Via Digby, we have blogger Just My 2 with an appropriate flashback:


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, I want to compliment the governor on his response to those fires and floods in Texas. I accompanied James Lee Witt down to Texas when those fires broke out.


Well, Al Gore did not actually visit Texas on this occasion with James Lee Witt, the FEMA director at the time. He visited with his subordinates. However, he did visit approximately 18 other disaster areas with Lee Witt at other times. A small discrepancy right...

Well, not if you were part of the Bush/Cheney 2000 team. Here is what they said.

Let's start with...

MARY MATALIN: He did not accompany James Lee Witt in '96 or '98. He never toured any of the fire zones. He did get a briefing in the pilots lounge at the airport when he went down to campaign for Governor Bush's opponent.
...Have we seen -- have we not seen this kind of compulsive behavior in the leader of the free world, and don't we understand the dangerous ramifications of somebody who just can't help themselves from making up stories?


Here's the President at the time...

CROWLEY: The Gore camp says the vice president frequently travels with Witt to disaster sites and suggests that Gore's statement was a trivial honest mistake. George Bush says this is not about details, but about the larger picture.
BUSH: If there's pattern of just exaggeration and stretches to try to win votes, it says something about leadership as far as I'm concerned, because once you're the president, you can't stretch.

And the President again...

Bush also criticized Gore for saying, during Tuesday night's debate, that he visited disaster sites in Texas with federal emergency management chief James Lee Witt.
"It's a pattern of just saying whatever it takes to win," Bush said. Asked whether the discrepancy was a big deal, he said "There's a pattern of exaggerations and stretches to try to win votes, and it says something about leadership."

and the coup de grace...

Bush's running mate, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, said he was "puzzled and saddened to learn" that Gore had misrepresented his actions during the 1998 wildfires in Texas.
"Al Gore has described these presidential debates as a job interview with the American people," Cheney said. "I've learned over the years that when somebody embellishes their resume in a job interview, you don't hire them."

10/6/04 <link>
The Edwards-Cheney debate

At worst it was a draw for Edwards. More objectively I think Edwards just about won this debate (especially with the undecideds). Why? For three reasons. 

(1) Most importantly, Edwards did the job of telling people that KE04 have a plan for most of the issues and highlighted the lack of a plan (or worse) when it comes to BC04. I see that liberal Republican William Saletan agrees in Slate:

If you watched this debate as an uninformed voter, you heard an avalanche of reasons to vote for Kerry. You heard 23 times that Kerry has a "plan" for some big problem or that Bush doesn't. You heard 10 references to Halliburton, with multiple allegations of bribes, no-bid contracts, and overcharges. You heard 13 associations of Bush with drug or insurance companies. You heard four attacks on him for outsourcing. You heard again and again that he opposed the 9/11 commission and the Department of Homeland Security, that he "diverted" resources from the fight against al-Qaida to the invasion of Iraq, and that while our troops "were on the ground fighting, [the administration] lobbied the Congress to cut their combat pay." You heard that Kerry served in Vietnam and would "double the special forces." You heard that Bush is coddling the Saudis, that Cheney "cut over 80 weapons systems," and that the administration has no air-cargo screening or unified terrorist watch list.

As the debate turned to domestic policy, you heard that we've lost 1.6 million net jobs and 2.7 million net manufacturing jobs under Bush. You heard that he's the first president in 70 years to lose jobs. You heard that 4 million more people live in poverty, and 5 million have lost their health insurance. You heard that the average annual premium has risen by $3,500. You heard that we've gone from a $5 trillion surplus to a $3 trillion debt. You heard that a multimillionaire sitting by his swimming pool pays a lower tax rate than a soldier in Iraq. You heard that Bush has underfunded No Child Left Behind by $27 billion. You heard that Kerry, unlike Bush, would let the government negotiate "to get discounts for seniors" and would let "prescription drugs into this country from Canada." You heard that at home and abroad, Bush offers "four more years of the same."

Most Democrats, including Kerry, duck and cover when Republicans bring up values. Not Edwards. He knows the language and loves to turn it against the GOP. The word "moral" was used twice in this debate. The word "value" was used three times. All five references came from Edwards. He denounced the "moral" crime of piling debt on our grandchildren. He called the African AIDS epidemic and the Sudan genocide "huge moral issues." When Ifill asked him about gay marriage, he changed the subject to taxes. "We don't just value wealth, which they do," said Edwards. "We value work in this country. And it is a fundamental value difference between them and us."

Edwards applied the same jujitsu elsewhere. He framed his vote against the $87 billion Iraq appropriation as a vote against a $7.5 billion "no-bid contract for Halliburton." When Cheney faulted Kerry's inconsistency, Edwards argued that Kerry, unlike Bush, had been "consistent from the beginning that we must stay focused on the people who attacked us." When Cheney accused Kerry of weakening America by subjecting its foreign policy decisions to the approval of allies, Edwards replied that Bush, by refusing to persuade allies, was leaving Americans to bear the war's costs and casualties.

My favorite moment came when Cheney impugned Edwards' voting record. Edwards replied that Cheney had voted against Head Start, Meals on Wheels, the Department of Education, and the Martin Luther King holiday. It was such a devastating flurry of kidney punches, so blandly and shamelessly delivered, that my wife and I burst into sobs of weeping laughter. At the skill or the gall, I'm not sure which.

The charge that did the most damage was the one Edwards leveled at the outset: that Bush and Cheney aren't telling the truth about prewar and postwar Iraq. Edwards listed the evidence contradicting Cheney's assurances about the current situation: the monthly escalation of American casualties, criticism of the administration's incompetence by Republican senators, and a critique issued Monday by Bush's former Iraq administrator. Then he listed the evidence contradicting Cheney's associations of the Iraq war with 9/11: testimony from Secretary of State Powell and reports from the 9/11 commission and the CIA.

To this indictment, Edwards added two others. In Afghanistan, he blamed Bush for letting Osama Bin Laden escape Tora Bora to strike again. In Iran, he accused Cheney of opposing sanctions against "sworn enemies of the United States"—and an emerging nuclear threat—because Halliburton had business there. Together, the charges painted a picture of an administration that spent its ammunition on the wrong target, allowing more serious threats to flourish.

Edwards' assault took Cheney completely off his game. Cheney spent the first 15 minutes defending the administration, unable to deliver his prepared attacks on Kerry. He lost his cool and started to snap at Edwards, saying, "You probably weren't there to vote for that," and "You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate." Though Edwards was delivering the harsher blows, Cheney looked meaner.

(2) Edwards was debating perhaps the most powerful and nasty Vice President in American history and he more than held his own as a presumed "new kid on the block". While he did miss responding to some Cheney zingers, I was surprised at Edwards' pre-emptive and consistent aggressiveness against Cheney. Remember, Dick Cheney's job was to pull off a resounding victory for BC04 and he failed to do that even if you believe that Edwards did not win or that the debate was a draw (as the bulk of the media talking heads seem to think). 

(3) If the media really focuses on facts, they will unmask Cheney's astonishing litany of lies in the debate whereas Edwards can at best be accused of some exaggeration. Indeed, Edwards' frontal attack on Cheney may have even forced Cheney into some mistakes. Here are links to multiple fact checks which show among other things that Cheney lied about meeting Edwards the first time yesterday, about not hinting of an Iraq - 9/11 link, about who benefits from the tax cuts, about how Halliburton is benefiting from the Bush administration, etc. etc. [of course, Edwards relatively minor exaggerations, in comparison, are also discussed]: 
Jonathan Landay and Seth Borenstein (Knight-Ridder)
, Glenn Kessler and Jim VandeHei (Washington Post), William Saletan (Slate), Reuters/MSNBC, Pandagon, Atrios, Liberal Oasis, KE04 - 1, 2 [and updates -->] Kevin Drum (Political Animal), Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball (Newsweek).
[I will take a minute to commend Knight-Ridder and the Washington Post for elevating the importance of facts in this election. This year, they have done better than any other newspaper or media as far as I can tell]. 

Markos at DailyKos asks the following, after showing Cheney's claim that he never met Edwards before to be a bald-faced lie:

Why would Cheney make a lie so obviously easy to expose? It's almost pathological -- reality need not get in the way of a good zinger.

Brad DeLong responds correctly:

It's not almost pathological, it's totally pathological--and based on an enormous confidence in the incompetence of the press corps.

A final point of humor via DailyKos

Cheney urged the audience to go to FactCheck.com to get the "truth".

Turns out that FactCheck.com is a George Soros site. [it redirects to georgesoros.com!]

He probably meant FactCheck.org, which is a non-partisan site. But even if he meant that, look at the top headline from the site: Bush Mischaracterizes Kerry's Health Plan

Bush claims Kerry's plan puts "bureaucrats in control" of medical decisons, "not you, not your doctor." But experts don't agree with that.


10/4/04 <link>
The Bush Cheney 04 platform: The art of frightening people into voting for them

Two appropriate links to mark the biggest hoax on Americans in a long time - namely, the claim that Bush and Cheney have reduced the risk of terrorism against the U.S. 

The first one is via Americablog - and I entirely agree with John - it is absolutely brilliant - click on one of the links below (whichever works for you) and watch it. NOW!

Watch this, NOW. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

I've posted links to several different sites carrying the same video - it's getting a lot of traffic.

- Link 1
- Link 2 (you have to to give this link a chance to download - if you're on dial-up, good luck).
- Link 3

UPDATE: This video was apparently done by Brennan Houlihan. You can read more about Brennan here, courtesy of OliverWillis.com, they're also one of those hosting the video.

The second one is via Kevin Drum (Political Animal) who brings to our attention the other part of the Bush-Cheney strategy for this election:

TERROR ALERTS QUANTIFIED AT LAST....This falls into the category of stuff we already knew, but it's nice to have rigorous confirmation anyway:

When the federal government issues a terrorist warning, presidential approval ratings jump, a Cornell University sociologist finds. Interestingly, terrorist warnings also boost support for the president on issues that are largely irrelevant to terrorism, such as his handling of the economy.

...."Results showed that terror warnings increased presidential approval ratings consistently," says [researcher Robb] Willer. "They also increased support for Bush's handling of the economy. The findings, however, were inconclusive as to how long this halo effect lasts."

The full report is here, and the basic result is simple: a terror warning leads to an average increase in the president's approval rating of 2.75% and the increase lasts for about a week — possibly two weeks at the outside. The results are statistically significant at a very high level and (assuming I read the report correctly) Willer properly controlled for major events like 9/11 and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

That's good to know, isn't it? Until now, we might have lazily guessed that the White House was going to stage some kind of terror alert for, oh, mid-October or so. But with this new data in hand, I think we can confidently expect it on about October 27 instead. After all, the effect only lasts a week.

Incidentally, the DCCC's blog, The Stakeholder has another excellent Bush debate fact-check video on Iraq and terrorism here (via Buzzflash). Don't forget to check it out as well.

10/3/04 <link>
The First Debate - and Where We Go From Here

Kerry did well in the debates and although I expect minimal shifts in the horserace numbers due to to this, it should help significantly strengthen voters' views of him as a dependable and credible leader. The work now is to keep doing what he did in the debate, EVERYDAY, for the rest of this campaign. Plus, his camp needs to aggressively fight the fabrications and spin from the GOP and the media.

More detailed analysis is here (including Fox News' latest fabrications about Kerry). Take a look.

9/27/04_2 <link>
Who voted "for war"? 

Atrios has the goods...

Let's consider Bush's recent rhetoric. His latest ad says "Kerry voted for the Iraq war."

When he asked Congress for the resolution, when Andy Card rolled it out after Labor Day, Bush claimed it was a vote for peace:

you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force. But it's -- this will be -- this is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say, we support the administration's ability to keep the peace.
At the time he signed the resolution, he claimed it was a vote for peace.
Our goal is not merely to limit Iraq's violations of Security Council resolutions, or to slow down its weapons program. Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully.
And, even today, as the ad is running he says:
Of course, I was hoping it could be done diplomatically. But diplomacy failed. And so the last resort of a president is to use force. And we did.

He claimed then it was a vote for peace. He told Congress it was a vote for peace. He then says that the vote for peace that he asked John Kerry to make was actually a vote for war. The previous March he'd said, "Fuck Saddam, we're taking him out." So, he told people it was a vote for peace even though he'd decided it was a vote for war. Maybe war is peace. Who the hell knows anymore.

Sure, we all knew in October what this vote was really for, and Kerry should have too. But, it wasn't what Bush said.

9/27/04_1 <link>
More on the painting of Kerry as a flip-flopper on Iraq

Via Buzzflash, I see Mark Sandalow has this piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, pointing out what William Saletan did.

Flip-flopping charge unsupported by facts
Kerry always pushed global cooperation, war as last resort

No argument is more central to the Republican attack on Sen. John Kerry than the assertion that the Democrat has flip-flopped on Iraq.

President Bush, seated beside Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, said Tuesday: "My opponent has taken so many different positions on Iraq that his statements are hardly credible at all.''

The allegation is the basis of a new Bush campaign TV ad that shows the Democratic senator from Massachusetts windsurfing to the strains of a Strauss waltz as a narrator intones: "Kerry voted for the Iraq war, opposed it, supported it and now opposes it again.''

Yet an examination of Kerry's words in more than 200 speeches and statements, comments during candidate forums and answers to reporters' questions does not support the accusation.

As foreign policy emerged as a dominant issue in the Democratic primaries and later in the general election, Kerry clung to a nuanced, middle-of-the road -- yet largely consistent -- approach to Iraq. Over and over, Kerry enthusiastically supported a confrontation with Saddam Hussein even as he aggressively criticized Bush for the manner in which he did so.

Kerry repeatedly described Hussein as a dangerous menace who must be disarmed or eliminated, demanded that the U.S. build broad international support for any action in Iraq and insisted that the nation had better plan for the post-war peace.

There were times when Kerry's emphasis shifted for what appear to be political reasons. In the fall of 2003, for example, when former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean surged to the top of Democratic polls based on an anti-war platform, Kerry's criticism of the president grew stronger. There are many instances in which clumsy phrases and tortuously long explanations make Kerry difficult to follow. And there are periods, such as last week, when the sharpness of Kerry's words restating old positions seem to suggest a change.

Yet taken as a whole, Kerry has offered the same message ever since talk of attacking Iraq became a national conversation more than two years ago.


9/23/04_2 <link>
Did Kerry claim that he would have invaded Iraq even knowing what he knew today?
(Also see THIS UPDATE)

The answer is NO. William Saletan in Slate looks at the charge and shows that Kerry has been consistent in saying that he would have voted for the Iraq war resolution to give the President leverage, but he would not have gone to war the way Bush did. 

Bush argues that this is yet another Kerry flip-flop and that Kerry now endorses Bush's war. At a campaign rally on Tuesday, Bush asserted,

My opponent has found a new nuance. He now agrees it was the right decision to go into Iraq. After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons we believed were there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Does Kerry now agree with Bush's decision? Would Kerry have gone into Iraq? Would he have voted to give Bush the authorization had Kerry known what he now knows about the absence of WMD and about how Bush would use the authorization?

The answer, if you look closely at Kerry's statements over the past three years, is no. [read here for more]

Of course, since this article was written, Kerry gave this excellent speech at NYU on 9/20/04. Go read/watch it because he finally makes his stance crystal clear - making it obvious that voting for Kerry means voting for a very different view and a more effective approach towards the Iraq war. Accordingly, William Saletan has provided a summary of what Kerry stands for and does not stand for.

Not surprisingly, Bush has started blandly lying about Kerry's speech, as Liberal Oasis points out:

For the second time in two weeks, (click here for the first time) ABC World News Tonight actually performed a basic media function: truth-squadding.

PETER JENNINGS: We were struck today by a very pointed attack by President Bush on John Kerry.
First of all, this is what Mr. Bush said.

[begin video clip]

BUSH: We agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell.
And that stands in stark contrast to the statement that my opponent made yesterday, when he said that the world was better off with Saddam in power.
I strongly disagree.

[end video clip]

JENNINGS: And this is what Mr. Kerry actually said. [emphasis original]

[begin video clip]

KERRY: Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in Hell.
But that was not...in and of itself, a reason to go to war.
The satisfaction...that we take in his downfall does not hide this fact:
We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.

[end video clip]

JENNINGS: Trying to keep track of the Iraq debate.

This is not to say that ABC is by any means a flawless media operation.

In my opinion, Senator Kerry should simply say the following to the American public:

"George Bush has consistently misled you about a lot of things - whether it is Iraq, terrorism, the economy and jobs, or healthcare. So, is there any reason to believe him when he throws accusations at me, especially ones that are repeatedly being shown to be untrue?" 

9/23/04_1 <link>
CBS Rathergate Update

As I said before, the memos have turned out to be NOT "authentic". I'm glad CBS exposed the source of the discredited memos (Bill Burkett) and apologized and is doing an investigation on how they used it without fact-checking. Now, I don't happen to hold a particularly high opinion of CBS anyway - remember, CBS viewers were second to viewers of Faux News in holding views that patently contradicted the facts regarding the Iraq war. In other words, after Faux News viewers, CBS viewers were most likely to think that the U.S. found WMDs in Iraq, that evidence was uncovered that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were working closely, and/or that the majority of the people in the world backed the US war on Iraq. This itself told me the caliber of CBS' "journalism".

Having said that, Outlet Radio (via DailyKos) has an appropriate summary of the situation:

Dan Rather, CBS News Anchor
  • given documents he thought were true
  • failed to thoroughly investigate the facts
  • reported documents to the American people as true to make his case
  • when confronted with the facts, apologized and launched an investigation
  • number of Americans dead: 0
  • should be fired as CBS News Anchor
George W. Bush, President of the United States
  • given documents he thought were true
  • failed to thoroughly investigate the facts
  • reported documents to the American people as true to make his case
  • when confronted with the facts, continued to report untruth and stonewalled an investigation
  • number of Americans dead: 1100
  • should be given four more years as President of the United States

9/20/04 <link>
Bush National Guard Update

Eric Boehlert (Salon.com) has a remarkably simple summary of the Bush Texas Air National Guard story. He summarizes what is known and not known, what Bush was supposed to and did not. This is a must-read.

9/19/04_2 <link>
The Draft - the stormy petrel of (more) war 
Will there be a military draft because of the morass in Iraq?

Senator Kerry charged last week that Bush plans a major call up of reservists and Guard members immediately after the election - something based on verifiable information from Rep. John Murtha, and something that the Bush camp has denied

I don't know where the truth lies for sure. However, one can attempt educated guesses on this enormously important topic, one which should be a major item for debate in this campaign. At least Senator Kerry has made it clear that he will work with allies across the world to build a larger international force in Iraq (to stabilize the country) - allies who have been substantially disillusioned with the Bush administration and who are now continuing to pull troops from Iraq despite the rapidly deteriorating security situation there, which is claiming greater numbers of American casualties every month for some time now. President Bush has offered nothing other than "staying the course", meaning that our troops should continue to sacrifice their lives for his grand, failed experiment, while he continues to amass an unmatched record of flip-flops on Iraq in the process of displaying unmatched incompetence (as certified by several Republican Senators recently).

Where do we go from here? Well, since the Bush administration won't be straight with us, we have to assume what is logical. The logical conclusion one arrives at when one considers that Iraq's security situation has reached quagmire proportions, while (relatively small) allied contingents are leaving Iraq, is that there will be no option other than institute the draft, as long as the Bush administration remains in power. (Senator Edwards, speaking for Senator Kerry, has already ruled out the draft if they are to be elected to power). 

The potential introduction of the draft at this particular point in time is fundamentally a disturbing proposition, especially when thousands of lives (Americans and Iraqis) have already been unnecessarily sacrificed for no fault of theirs, due to dereliction of duty by those who sent our troops there to fight the wrong war (based on myriad false pretenses) against the wrong enemy at the wrong time -- while the Bush administration continues to catastrophically underfund National Security and ignore Al Qaeda (the real terrorists behind 9/11), just like they did prior to 9/11/01

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest has a timely post on the draft, and I reproduce part of it here.

It's the Draft, Stupid - Calling All Bloggers

In the 1992 election James Carville hung a sign in the Clinton campaign "war room" that read, "It's the economy, stupid!" He was saying that the issue that was going to win for them in that election was the economy, and everything else was a time-wasting distraction. Perceptions about the economy tend to decide elections because people tend to vote in their blatant self-interest.

In this election I think there is another issue that is a winner: the Draft. I think if young people start to believe they could be drafted they will register and vote because it is in their blatant self-interest. There are enough young non-voters to completely change the dynamics of this election - even in the short time remaining to get them registered.

The news from Iraq is not good. We are not winning, the anti-American insurgency is gaining momentum, and we obviously need a lot more troops there as soon as possible. This is why we are hearing about National Guard and Reserve call-ups, as well as stories about troops being threatened with being sent to Iraq if they do not re-enlist. It appears that Bush is waiting until after the election to do something about this - and this politically-motivated hesitation means that things will be even worse in November than they are now.

It's just reality that our military is stretched too thin in Iraq, and consequently is stretched too thin in the rest of the world. If ANYthing happens in another location, like Korea, we are in trouble. We should have a draft in effect NOW, but Bush will not discuss this before the election for obvious political reasons.

If we can start getting the word out that a draft is coming, it will be self-re-enforcing. Every time Bush calls himself a "war president" it reminds young people that they are of draft-age.

If you are young, you better read Dave's other post on this topic, as well, which leads succinctly with this: The Draft – A Reason to Vote if You’re Under 30

9/19/04_1 <link>
CBS memos
I've been relatively silent on the CBS memo issue (largely because I've been busy with my other websites), but one point does need to be made. All this talk about right-wing bloggers and "experts" having proven that the memos are fake is bunk - and not only that, the work of long-time Republican operatives and right-wing media/columnists in promoting lies about the memos, the actual Bush AWOL record and his lies about it as well as the words of multiple eyewitnesses who have attested to the validity of the basic content of the memos been largely downplayed by the media. This does not, of course, mean that the memos are NOT fake - they could very well be. But proving a negative, in cases like these, is not trivial. David Neiwert of Orcinus has succinctly addressed the whole controversy, so I'll just quote him:

It's pretty funny, really, how right-wing bloggers are serially breaking their arms patting themselves on the back for having exposed "Forgerygate." Actually, all they've really managed to prove is P.T. Barnum's famous adage, perhaps recast as "There's a blogger born every minute."

Have any bloggers actually yet proven definitively that the CBS documents are fake?

Well, no. All they've been able to produce so far is a great deal of speculation, much of it later proven to be entirely without substance.

Times New Roman didn't exist in 1972? It existed in 1931.

You can create a nearly identical copy with MS Word? Perhaps that's because MS Word was designed to replicate an IBM typewriter.

The signatures look fake? Actually, the signatures are the only thing that experts have been able to say conclusively are genuine.

And on and on and on.

Perhaps the most amusing of the "forgery" theories is the recent suggestion that the documents released by Bush in 2000 (and re-released by the White House this year) are also forgeries.

At least, that seems to be the conclusion reached by those mental wizards at WizBang, who have developed a theory that Marty Heldt (whose work I've featured here several times) has also been peddling forgeries. This by way of arguing that Heldt is the source of the CBS documents.

The only problem with that? Heldt's sole source for the documents was a FOIA request, a fact that's easily substantiated by others, mostly journalists at the Boston Globe and elsewhere, who received the identical documents. It's further substantiated by the fact that the White House re-released the exact same documents earlier this year.

The source for the accusations against Heldt?

"Brooks Gregory", a supposed Democratic "political consultant" who claimed on an Internet forum:

I bought the document package from Marty Heldt and we subjected them to the most thorough investigation one could imagine. Why? Because if there was anything there, we damn sure wanted to use it. But guess what? Only two of those documents proved to be authentic and they were not even related to the charge being levelled.
The problem?

"Brooks Gregory" appears to be a fictitious person. Certainly, there was no person by that name attached to the Janet Reno campaign, as the hoaxter claims. And Marty Heldt has confirmed to me that he "peddled" no documents to anyone in any campaign, gubernatorial or otherwise, and the only documents he dealt with at all were those he obtained through FOIA.

Now, exactly who is falling for a hoax here?

This has, of course, been the typical MO for right-wing bloggers dealing with the CBS flap: Wrack your brains looking for seeming logical flaws, find a tidbit that -- with the help of your own faulty logic -- seems to fit, and then pronounce "AHA! I'VE GOT IT!!!" Which then guarantees it'll be picked up by mainstream media morons who've proven incapable of discerning shit from shinola in this matter.

That said, see this post by Jules Siegel - and the comments to the post. The message I take away from this whole episode is that the memos are likely not authentic (i.e., they are likely fake), but that their content has been independently verified to be consistent with the statements of the author (Killian) from that time. CBS and Dan Rather should be doing far more to not just authenticate the memos (and expose the source if they are fake), but also focusing their energies on highlighting the fake claims from the right-wing regarding the memos, as well as continuing to focus on Bush's national guard records. I for one can't figure why all these media outlets are so reluctant to use the rich research from Paul Lukasiak who has already made the case against Bush?


9/18/04 <link>
More Confusing Polls - What the Heck Does it All Mean?

In recent days, widely varying poll results have been reported by different polling organizations. Some polls show large or enormous leads for George W. Bush (over John Kerry), while others show a tie or slight Kerry lead. However, analysis by seasoned poll watchers show serious methodological flaws in the former polls - especially the use of meaningless "Likely Voter" models and unproven/incorrect Party ID weighting in Registered Voter models. Adjusting for such flaws provides a picture of a race that is essentially close and unpredictable - and essentially dead even at this time. Other factors such as the Margin of Error (MoE) in the polls, the Nader effect, the impact of Absentee Ballots, and Undecided Voters, is also not properly accounted for in some articles that provide "analysis" on polling results. There are some broad lessons here for Kerry supporters - and some feedback for the Democratic Party and Senator Kerry.

For details, continue reading here.

9/8/04-2 <link>
More on the post-RNC polls
Ruy Teixeira has another interesting post, that further challenges the nonsensical results from the Time and Newsweek polls - which I cited at some length earlier today

Does Bush Really Have a 7 Point Lead?

I've certainly made no secret of my skepticism. Now consider this excellent analysis along the same lines by Professor Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, one of the leading academic analysts of American politiics. (He sent this to me in an email and graciously agreed to allow me to share it with readers of this blog.)

1. The latest Gallup Poll has Bush ahead of Kerry by 52-45 percent among likely voters but by only 49-48 percent among registered voters. Based on the numbers of registered and likely voters in their sample, this means that Gallup is projecting that 89 percent of Bush supporters will vote but only 79 percent of Kerry supporters will vote. That seems unrealistic. It is way out of line with data from the American National Election Studies on turnout among registered Dems and Republicans in recent elections. For the past three presidential elections, the turnout gap between Republicans and Democrats has averaged 3 percentage points and was never larger than 4 percentage points. The smallest gap was in 1992 (1 point), the election with the highest overall turnout. Assuming that 2004 will be another relatively high turnout election, we should probably expect a relatively small turnout gap, similar to 1992.

2. Among registered voters, Gallup shows Bush leading by one point overall, with Kerry leading 90-7 among Democrats, Bush leading 90-7 among Republicans, and Kerry leading 49-46 among independents. This means that Gallup's sample of registered voters includes more Republican identifiers than Democratic identifiers. But in 2000, according to the VNS national exit poll (which hits the overall percentages for Bush and Gore right on the nose), Democrats made up 40.3 percent of the electorate while Republicans made up only 36.5 percent of the electorate. If you apply Gallup's trial heat results among Democrats, independents, and Republicans to the VNS 2000 electorate, Kerry comes out with with a four point lead: 50.3 percent to Bush's 46.4 percent.

Food for thought, eh?

9/8/04 <link>
RNC dissembling and Post-RNC polls - what lies ahead for Kerry? 
After an astonishingly mendacious and truly despicable performance by Zell Miller at the RNC, the dissembling and misleading (about Kerry) continued with Cheney and Bush. A few fact checking articles reveal the extent of the lies and deception:
GOP Prism Distorts Some Kerry Positions, Glenn Kessler and Dan Morgan, Washington Post 
Lies, Damned Lies and Convention Speeches: Setting Kerry's Record Right - Again, Fred Kaplan, Slate 
Imperial President: Opposing Bush Becomes Unpatriotic, William Saletan, Slate 
Bush Glosses Over Complex Facts in Speech, Calvin Woodward, Associated Press 

While the conventional wisdom regarding Miller's speech was that it was egregious, with Miller taking a beating in the post-speech interviews at CNN and MSNBC (Hardball) - one of those rare occasions where the cable news media decided to try and significantly challenge a GOP supporter on the facts, initial polls from Time and Newsweek seemed to suggest that the RNC speeches actually played well enough to give Bush a massive bump in the polls. But detailed analysis by Ruy Teixeira and others showed that these polls had methodological flaws. For example, here's Teixeira on the Time poll:

Measurements of a candidate's bounce should be based on polls taken before and after a convention.
That said, let us consider the results of polls taken during the GOP convention. The one that seems to be freaking out some Democrats is the just-released Time poll.
The Time poll, conducted 8/31-9/2, has Bush ahead by 11, 52-41 in a 3-way LV matchup that includes Nader.
In an attempt to compare apples to apples, here are Bush-Kerry results from contemporaneous 3-way LV matchups (except Rasmussen, where only a 2-way LV result is available), with Bush's margin in parentheses:

Zogby, 8/30-9/2: 46 Bush-43 Kerry (+3)
ARG, 8/30-9/1: 47 Bush-47 Kerry (tie)
Rasmussen, 8/31-9/2: 49 Bush-45 Kerry (+4)

In this company, 52 Bush-41 Kerry (+11) certainly sticks out. Could it have anything to do with the different dates included in these surveys, even though they are very close? Well, the Rasmussen data are from exactly same period as the Time data (8/31-9/2).

But if you are skeptical of the Rasmussen data, consider the Zogby data. The Zogby data only include an additional day (8/30) when compared to the Time data. But perhaps 8/30 was a very pro-Kerry day since the Republican convention had just started. However, for Zogby and Time to matchup (have Bush leading by 11) for the three days they share, Kerry would have to be leading by about 21 points in Zogby on the day (8/30) they do not share. I rather doubt that is the case.

The simplest hypothesis then is that the Time poll, for this period, is exceptionally pro-Bush and therefore should be viewed with skepticism.

Teixeira also weighed in on the Newsweek poll real time (bold text is eRiposte emphasis):

...I'll try to do the same about the new Newsweek poll, conducted 9/2-3, which has Bush ahead 54-43 among RVs.

Here are some important points to keep in mind about the poll:

1. It is still not a true bounce poll; only one night of the two covered by the poll actually took place after the GOP convention was over. That night is highly likely to be Bush's best post-convention night, since it was right after his big speech and the huge media splash the next day. And, in fact, Newsweek's data show that Bush led by 16 points in their poll on this night and by only 6 the night before. Don't forget that Kerry did very well in polls the night right after his speech then fell off rapidly in the next few days.

So why do Newsweek and Time insist on doing their bounce polls wrong so they're almost guaranteed to get misleading results? Simple: their publication schedule. They've got to have to data in time to dump it into their print publication. If they waited to do it right the poll would be too old to put in their magazine the subsequent week.

This is especially egregious since even a poll conducted entirely after the convention needs to be viewed with caution. As Charlie Cook points out:

A week or 10 days after the GOP convention, the electorate should have stopped bouncing and settled back down enough for horse race poll results to once again have some real meaning.

2. Aside from the timing, there are other reasons to be skeptical of the Newsweek poll. As has been widely reported in various blogs, the partisan distribution of the RVs in the Newsweek poll is quite startling: 38 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 31 percent independent. This 7 point lead for the GOP on party ID does not comport well with other data on partisan distribution this campaign season--which have consistently shown the Democrats leading by at least several points--and can't be blamed on a likely voter screen since there was none.

As Chris Bowers of MyDD shows, if you assume a more reasonable distribution of party ID, Bush's lead is about cut in half. Moreover, if you assume that the differential in partisan support rates in the poll--94-4 for Bush and only 82-14 for Kerry--is, if not overstated now, highly likely to converge toward parity in the near future (as it has been for most of the campaign), even a Bush lead of 5-6 points looks very unstable.
It's still a long time 'til election day. People should resist the urge to push the panic button and insist that Kerry launch an incendiary campaign against Bush's and his surrogate's personal attacks. As John Judis points out, there are interesting similarities between this campaign and the Reagan-Carter campaign of 1980. These similarities suggest that:

....just as Bush might be wise to avoid Carter's mistakes, Kerry might be wise to consider Reagan's successes in 1980. He is certainly going to have to answer some of the Bush campaign's personal attacks, just as Reagan occasionally responded to Carter--although Reagan did so in a disarming manner ("there you go again") that put the onus of disagreeability directly onto his opponent. But Kerry needs to direct the public's attention, like Reagan did, to the underlying reality of the economy, the Iraq war, and the threat of Al Qaeda; and he needs to propose ways to deal with each that are at least plausible, if not preferable to those adopted by Bush. If he does that, and if he shows himself to be the equal of Bush in the debates, he could discover, like Reagan did in 1980, that the voters are ready to put someone new in the White House.

Amen. End of sermon.

Teixeira is certainly correct about the support for Kerry in the post-DNC polls. Newsweek should have known better than to do their polling in the utterly ridiculous way they did. When they polled right after the DNC, they noticed Kerry's lead was dramatic the day after his speech and diminished significantly beyond that. So, it is ridiculous that they reported their results with polling ENDING the day after Bush's speech, creating an apples to oranges comparison. Not to mention, the likely GOP-overweighting in their poll.

To understand the real situation in the horserace, it is instructive to look at other polls taken *BEFORE* and *AFTER* the convention. Here's Teixeira citing some leading comments from Gallup:

...here are some interesting observations that are worth keeping in mind from a just-released Gallup analysis of the bounce issue:

Based solely on history, the Bush-Cheney ticket could expect to gain five to six points among registered voters after this week's convention. That would result in a 52% to 53% support level for Bush among registered voters, up from 47% in the pre-convention poll.

However, the results from Gallup's post-Democratic convention poll showed that history might not apply in 2004, a year in which the electorate was activated long before the conventions (usually the conventions serve to activate voters), and a year in which relatively small proportions of undecided and swing voters are available to the two presidential tickets. Also, the post-Democratic convention poll suggested that the Democratic convention might have helped energize Republican voters. It is unclear whether the Republican convention could have a similar paradoxical effect on Democrats, or if Republicans will be activated, as is typically the case.

So, how did BC04 do compared to Gallup's prediction? 

Poorly! (bold text is eRiposte emphasis) [note: also see Kevin Drum]

I think those of us who have expressed skepticism about the results of the Time and Newsweek polls can consider ourselves vindicated. The new Gallup poll, conducted entirely after the GOP convention and therefore the first poll that truly measures Bush's bounce, shows Bush with a very modest bounce indeed: 2 points, whether you look at RVs or LVs. His support among RVs has risen from 47 percent before to 49 percent after the convention, so that he now leads Kerry by a single point (49-48) rather than trailing by a point.

But that's it. Contrast Bush's 49-48 lead among RVs in this poll to Time's 50-42 Bush lead and, especially, Newsweek's 54-43 Bush lead in the same matchup. Quite a difference.

Note also that Bush's 2 point bounce from his convention (which, remember, is defined as the change in a candidate's level of support, not in margin) is the worst ever received by an incumbent president, regardless of party, and the worst ever received by a Republican candidate, whether incumbent or not (see this Gallup analysis for all the relevant historical data). In 2000, Bush received an 8 point bounce. And even his hapless father received a 5 point bounce in 1992.

So that's the big story, right--Bush got a disappointingly small bounce and the earlier Time/Newsweek polls got it wrong about the bounce and how well Bush is doing. Nope, not if you're writing stories at USA Today. You dasn't [sic] contravene the current CW about the campaign (Bush surges ahead!) no matter what your own data says.

That's why we get a story like this one, "Bush leads Kerry by 7 points", which prominently features the LV results (where Bush does have a 7 point lead) and resolutely refuses to dwell on Bush's historically poor result from his convention or on his almost non-existent lead among RVs.

Instead, the article goes on to discuss some results from the poll that look pretty good for Bush and, of course, allow Matthew Dowd to spin the poll's results in the GOP's direction.

As usual, of course, Dowd does a pretty good job of spnning the poll (we gained more than we expected!), which is then followed by a very weak reply from Mark Mellman where he essentially says the GOP's gains from the convention will fade. That's not the right reply. The right reply is what gains and and how very disappointed the GOP must be in their historically poor performance.

But this is a persistent problem: Dowd and the people behind him relentlessly spin every poll and feed journalists various mini-analyses (can we call them "analysisoids"?) that purport to show how great Bush is doing relative to expectations, historical patterns, etc. and how bogus any poll is that shows Kerry doing well. Where are the Democrats on this one? The occasional lame quote from Mellman is not enough to outgun Dowd in this particular part of the political debate. 
[eRiposte: This is exactly right and points to the continuing ineptness of Democrats in using every opportunity to convey a clear message backed by facts, which are available by the baleful]

Let me mention a few other results from the Gallup poll that suggest the relative ineffectiveness of the GOP convention.

Bush's acceptance speech, which the media fawned over so ostentatiously, was not rated any better by the public than was Kerry's--in fact, it received slightly worse ratings. Kerry's acceptance speech was rated excellent by 25 percent and good by 27 percent; Bush's was rated excellent by 22 percent and good by 27 percent.

In terms of whether the Republican convention made voters more or less likely to vote for Bush--the real point of the convention after all--there were almost as many saying the convention made them less likely to vote for Bush (38 percent) as said it made them more likely (41 percent).

This is actually quite a poor performance. The Democratic convention this year had a substantially better 44 percent more likely/30 percent less likely split. In fact, looking back to 1984, which is as far back as Gallup supplies data, no candidate has ever had a more likely to vote for/less likely to vote for split even close to as bad as Bush's this year.

Well, what about the tone of the convention? Do voters think the Republicans got that one right? Nope. Just 39 percent think the GOP maintained the right balance between criticizing the Democrats and saying positive things about themselves, compared to 50 percent who think they spent too much time criticizing the Democrats. By contrast, in 2000, 45 percent thought the GOP maintained the right balance in their convention, compared to 38 percent who thought they spent too much time criticizing.

But this unfavorable judgement on tone for the GOP this year is not without precedent. In 1992, just 26 percent thought the Republicans maintained the right balance in their convention, compared to 56 percent who thought they spent too much time criticizing.

Interestingly, and certainly surprising to me, the Gallup battleground polls taken after the RNC actually show that Kerry is running STRONGER in the battleground states after the convention (as Teixeira points out)!

Kerry Widens Lead in Battleground States!

Now that's a headline you're not likely to see in the mainstream media, consumed as they are with the storyline du jour about Bush's Big Mo' from the convention.

But that's what the internals of the latest Gallup poll tell us. Prior to the Republican convention, Kerry had a one point lead among RVs (47-46) in the battleground states. After the Republican convention, now that battleground voters have had a chance to take a closer look at what Bush and his party really stand for, Kerry leads by 5 in these same states (50-45)! Note that Kerry gained three points among battleground voters, while Bush actually got a negative one point bounce.

And wait--there's more! The Gallup poll's internals also show that Kerry continues to lead among independents (49-46) and that both parties' partisans are equally polarized for their respetive candidates (90-7). Note that these findings directly contradict the results of the recent Newsweek poll, which showed Bush doing much better among Republican partisans than Kerry was doing among Democratic partisans. Note also that, given the equal polarization of partisans and Kerry's lead among independents, the only possible reason Bush has any lead at all among Gallup's RVs must be because their sample has a GOP advantage on party ID (my guess is 5 points) that is inconsistent with almost all other polling data from this campaign season (see my recent post on the Newsweek poll for more discussion of this issue).

It's not just Gallup showing Kerry leading in the battleground states. The Zogby poll also shows Kerry maintaining his lead - as DailyKos notes - although the news for Kerry isn't all good since Bush has gained in the polls in many states. As Zogby says:

Coming out of the Republican convention, President Bush has his best showing since John Kerry accepted his party's nomination in late July.

The latest Zogby Interactive poll still shows Mr. Kerry well ahead, leading in 12 of the 16 battlegrounds in Zogby's twice-a-month polls. But Mr. Bush took the lead in two states -- Arkansas and Tennessee -- since the poll conducted a week before his convention. And there are other signs of strength for the president.
Mr. Kerry's 12 states control a total of 135 votes, while Mr. Bush's four have 42. If you add up the numbers, you find that Mr. Kerry would win the Electoral College 307-231.

Sifting through the numbers, though, the results aren't as clear cut.

First, Mr. Kerry's leads in three states -- Florida, Missouri and Nevada -- are less than one percentage point.

Overall, looking only at the states where the results are outside of the margin of error, Mr. Kerry is ahead by just four states to three -- and his Electoral College lead shrinks to 40-36. In fact, more states' results are outside of the margin of error in this poll than in any since Zogby began conducting polls for WSJ.com in late May.

Another sign of shift: In the July 12 poll, which was the leader until now in terms of the poll with the greatest number of states outside of the margin of error, Mr. Kerry had six states (worth 80 votes) outside the margin. At that point, Mr. Bush had none.

Many states show improvement for the president. For instance, Mr. Bush increased his lead in Ohio, a key contest, to 10.9 percentage points, his biggest lead there yet and up sharply from the 5.6-point edge he had in mid-August.

At the same time, Mr. Kerry's lead in Pennsylvania slipped to its weakest since the Zogby polls began in May. Mr. Kerry was ahead there by 2.8 percentage points, inside the margin of error. In four of the five prior polls, Mr. Kerry's lead was outside of the margin; his lead hadn't fallen below 6.5 points in any of the prior Zogby polls.

All told, Mr. Bush's numbers improved in 12 of the 16 states, most notably Tennessee. That state, which has been volatile in prior polls, gave the president a 9.6-point lead. In the mid-August poll, Mr. Kerry was up 1.9 points.

Still, Mr. Kerry picked up ground in Minnesota, Washington, Michigan and New Mexico. His leads in the latter two states moved outside of the margin of error. In Washington, his lead has been outside of the margin in every poll since early June.

So, where does all of this leave Kerry? Well, for one thing, there is no doubt that Kerry needs to fight back harder than he has. He cannot continue to let the garbage and the lies permeate. Secondly, he needs to make his message much clearer and it appears this is starting to happen, based on the advice of Bill Clinton and former Clinton advisors who have now joined the Kerry campaign - as The LeftCoaster points out - along with some critical comments on how Kerry's previous advisors handled the Swift Boat affair.

Former President Bill Clinton, in a 90-minute telephone conversation from his hospital room, offered John Kerry detailed advice on Saturday night on how to reinvigorate his candidacy, as Mr. Kerry enlisted more Clinton advisers to help shape his strategy and message for the remainder of the campaign.

In an expansive conversation, Mr. Clinton, who is awaiting heart surgery, told Mr. Kerry that he should move away from talking about Vietnam, which had been the central theme of his candidacy, and focus instead on drawing contrasts with President Bush on job creation and health care policies, officials with knowledge of the conversation said.

In addition to the strategic advice, Kerry at Clinton’s urging finally brought in the heavy guns for the final 60 days.

The conversation and the recruitment of old Clinton hands came amid rising concern among Democrats about the state of Mr. Kerry's campaign and criticism that he had been too slow to respond to attacks on his military record or to engage Mr. Bush on domestic policy. Among the better-known former Clinton aides who are expected to play an increasingly prominent role are James Carville, Paul Begala and Stanley Greenberg, campaign aides said.

Members of both camps played down any suggestion of a Clinton takeover of a troubled campaign and insisted there was no tension between the two groups. Still, these days, Mr. Lockhart is stationed in an office on one side of the campaign war room; Mr. Shrum's office is on the opposite side.

On Saturday, Mr. (Joel) Johnson drew applause from Democrats assembled for a weekly strategy meeting at Mr. Kerry's headquarters when he reassured aides that the campaign had settled on a clear line of attack against Mr. Bush, people at the meeting said. They said Mr. Johnson told the group that the campaign wanted the entire party to heed the new talking points.


"It's very simple," Mr. Johnson said in an interview yesterday, describing what he said would be the template for Mr. Kerry's speeches and advertisements in the weeks ahead. "It's: 'Bush has taken us in the wrong direction. If you want more of the same for the next four years, vote for President Bush. If you want a new direction, John Kerry and John Edwards.' It's not complicated. Failed policies, jobs and the economy, health care."


Mr. Begala, who said he would remain a CNN commentator, said he was delighted with the changes. He added that Mr. Bush had succeeded over the past month in transforming the race from a referendum on an incumbent president to a referendum on Mr. Kerry.

"It was an enormous shift," Mr. Begala said last night. Then, referring to Karl Rove, a top Bush strategist, he added: "And it required the cooperation of the candidate. And you know what? The Kerry campaign is no longer cooperating. Sorry, Karl."

And if you want evidence that Clinton’s team needed to come aboard now, you need look no further than the inane comments from the current Kerry team of Tad Devine and Bob Shrum.

"We talked about this last year, the fact that Republicans would come after his service and the idea that they would come after what he did when he got home," said one midlevel Kerry adviser who is not part of the Clinton camp. "The idea that we got caught flat-footed is just crazy."

Mr. Shrum, in an interview yesterday, called such second-guessing "ridiculous," saying, "We responded within six or seven days.

Six or seven days? You call that a response, Ace? You can be buried in six or seven days.

"I was strongly in favor of responding to the Swift boats when we did or around when we did, and so was Mary Beth," Mr. Shrum said, referring to Ms. Cahill and the advertisements by the Vietnam veterans critical of Mr. Kerry.

Then why didn’t you do it, clown?

The extract above has an important message for Democrats in general, as Liberal Oasis has also pointed out.

In all likelihood, Kerry's furious campaigning -- beginning at midnight Fri., blunted the bounce (as LO suggested on Fri.)

By being active, aggressive and confident, he prevented Bush from getting victory lap press that would have furthered his messages from the convention.

Unfortunately, Kerry's own messages were hemmed in by the mind-numbing stupidity of the Beltway Dems, whining to the press about strategy throughout the long weekend.

Instead helping with strategy by amplifying Kerry's messages.

(See LO on 4/28 for the most recent time this page called on whiny Beltway Dems to shut up.)

For the last time (this year) Establishment people: this is all-out combat, and we have one leader.

You have a problem with the campaign, then tell it to the campaign.

Telling the media is for your ego. Not for the cause. Not for the country.

There are 56 days left. Get your damn game faces on, and get behind the big guy.

That's about right.

One point that the Kerry campaign and many Democrats do NOT seem to be getting is that avoiding national security in the campaign is likely to be a very bad idea. The notion that this is somehow Bush's "strength" is utterly laughable, considering how Bush and Cheney have seriously jeopardized the war on terrorism in multiple ways - whether in their asleep-at-the-wheel behavior prior to 9/11 including the downplaying of the PDB, or letting Afghanistan slip back to its pre-9/11 state, or creating a much bigger haven for terrorism and a quagmire in Iraq (see here, here, here, here, here and here) while more than 1000 American soldiers have died there (and thousands injured, many grievously), or their abysmal handling of homeland security after 9/11 (first responders, port-, airline-, chemical-, nuclear- security etc.). 

As Kevin Drum points out:

Of course, there's also the bigger question of what to talk about: national security or domestic issues? I think this is really the core question, and I'm appalled at the advice of Democratic bigwigs that Kerry should focus on domestic issues. Fundamentally, I think this election is all about national security. It's about convincing people that Bush's vision is dangerous and misguided and that Kerry can do a better job of protecting the country. More on this later if I can get my thoughts in order.

A final point. There is a lot of righteous anger in the lefty blogosphere about the mainstream media's pro-GOP tilt - in the way they have given free rein to garbage groups like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, while continuing to ignore or downplay critics of Bush who have unpleasant (and often factually accurate) things to say about Bush. Digby has highlighted some of this in a series of posts.


Isn't It Time To Ask
One Simple Question?
"How many times have you been arrested, Mr. President?"


They Can't All Be Democratic Liars
George W. Bush: AWOL in Alabama

Texans for Truth, established by the 20,000-member Texas online activist group, DriveDemocracy.org, has produced a 0:30 second television advertisement, "AWOL." The ad features Robert Mintz, one of many who served in Alabama's 187th Air National Guard -- when Bush claims to have been there -- who have no memory of Bush on the base. In other words, Bush failed to fulfill his military duty while others were dying in Vietnam.

Here and here on whether Bush has really stopped drinking (also see Mark Kleiman who says, "Bush's return to drinking is apparently common knowledge in DC, though it seems unlikely anyone will talk on the record") and here, about Kitty Kelley's book that claims Bush snorted cocaine in Camp David when his dad was President. Not to mention Bush's national guard AWOL record or the abortion story.

Although the media continues to downplay things unfavorable to Bush, there is no reason why Democrats should sit back and take the attacks on Kerry lying down. 

UPDATE: The media is slowly picking up on the Bush National Guard AWOL/fraud issue. Here's UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman:

Josh Marshall says 60 Minutes has the goods.

Better yet, Nicholas Kristof has found someone who was part of the small unit -- 25 to 30 pilots -- that 1LT Bush allegedly reported to in Alabama, and recalls looking for Mr. Bush (in hopes of partying with him)and not finding him. (Yes, that's the same Mr. Bush who now can't remember from one day to the next whether the thinks America can win the war on terror or not.)

Kristof also links to this sober and apparently well-researched -- but extremely damning -- analysis of the Bush TANG record by U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Gerald Lechleiter. In particular, Lechleiter shows that one of the forms that supposedly supports Mr. Bush's claim to have done his full complement of hours in 1972-73 is probably fraudulent: the form was eight months obsolete on the day it was signed, having been replaced by a different form, and it shows 1LT Bush as having flying status when he'd been grounded in August of 1972 for missing his flight physical.

Even accepting the documents at face value, Lechleiter demolishes the contention that 1LT Bush had met his service requirement, simply by correcting arithmetic errors in the document put out by the White House.

Moreover, Lechleiter shows inconsistencies in the records purporting to show service in Alabama, and unaccountable gaps in the documentation that ought to have been present. He doesn't say it, but between the lines it's clear that the record appears to have been both doctored and scrubbed. What he does say is that 1LT Bush cheated the government by taking pay for service he never performed.

If one of Mr. Bush's defenders has a response up, I'd appreciate a pointer to it.

Update The Boston Globe is on the case.

In February, when the White House made public hundreds of pages of President Bush's military records, White House officials repeatedly insisted that the records prove that Bush fulfilled his military commitment in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

But Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice during his Guard service -- first when he joined in May 1968, and again before he transferred out of his unit in mid-1973 to attend Harvard Business School -- Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty.

He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show.

Gee, our Wartime President failed to keep a promise? Whodathunkit?

With rather endearing Bushite brazenness, White House spokesman Dan Bartlett responds to a story that accuses Mr. Bush of exploiting his family's power by shirking service and not getting called on it by citing Mr. Bush's honorable discharge as proof that he'd served adequately. That Bartlett can say such things without laughing out loud suggests an astonishing level of skill.

9/1/04 <link>
Pre-RNC polls, the RNC and the GOP's new lying liar
Let's see. The cable and TV media increase their coverage plans for the RNC, compared to the DNC. The talking heads in the media talk up "doom" for Kerry (so-to-speak) even though there is no evidence of that - not to mention, how they downplayed Kerry's lead/strong position vis-a-vis Bush for months. The Governor of California (Arnold Schwarzenegger) "becomes the first American to proclaim himself a follower of [former President and criminal] Richard M. Nixon in thirty years" (as Brad De Long says). He simultaneously expresses happiness over Nelson Mandela's coming to power in South Africa, conveniently forgetting to mention that the sitting Vice-President (Dick Cheney) he is campaigning for was one of the key people (other than then President Ronald Reagan - presumably another Schwarzenegger favorite?) who did as much as he could to prevent the end of apartheid and Mandela's coming to power. Not to mention, as LO says, "sending out a Hollywood millionaire to chastise anyone who is struggling to succeed in today's economy as "economic girlie men," is not quite the best way to convey compassion." 

William Saletan in Slate responds to the RNC's pimping of Bush's so-called national security "leadership" based on his showing up in Ground Zero a few days after 9/11 and sending the military to war:

But isn't it odd to see Republicans belittle the physical risks Kerry took in battle while exalting Bush's armchair wars and post-9/11 photo ops? Isn't it embarrassing to see Bob Dole, the GOP's previous presidential nominee, praise Bush's heroism while suggesting that Kerry's three combat wounds weren't bad enough to justify sending him home from Vietnam?

Watching the attacks on Kerry and the glorification of Bush reminds me of something Dole said in his speech to the Republican convention eight years ago. It was "demeaning to the nation," Dole argued, to be governed by people "who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered and never learned."

You tell me which of this year's presidential candidates that statement best describes.

We shouldn't leave out the key lying liar and attack dog of the RNC so far - former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Kudos to Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post (via Atrios), for doing (with rather undeserved emphasis on politeness) what most of the mainstream media has been egregiously negligent in doing - fact-checking standard GOP (now Giuliani's) attacks against Kerry. Bold text is my emphasis.

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani made a number of specific attacks based on statements allegedly made by Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry in his speech to the Republican National Convention Monday night. But Giuliani's description of those comments often lacked context.

For example, Giuliani said: "In October of 2003, he told an Arab American institute in Detroit that a security barrier separating Israel from the Palestinian territories was a barrier to peace. Okay. Then a few months later, he took exactly the opposite position."

The context: When Kerry made his statement about a "barrier to peace," he was referring to, as he put it, the "Israeli government's decision to build the barrier off of the Green Line [the de facto boundary between Israel and the West Bank] -- cutting deep into Palestinian areas."

Kerry's stance was similar to the position taken by President Bush a few months earlier, in July 2003, when he said in the Rose Garden: "I think the wall is a problem, and I discussed this with [Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon. It is very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel with a wall snaking through the West Bank."

The Bush administration has spent months negotiating with the Israelis the precise route of the fence. Both Kerry and Bush opposed involvement of the International Court of Justice in the matter.

Giuliani: "I quote John Kerry: 'I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.' "

The context: The administration's request for the funding was controversial, even among Republicans, and various attempts were made to split off $67 billion for the troops from the $20 billion for reconstruction, or to turn the $20 billion grant into a loan, or to fund some of the spending by raising taxes on incomes greater than $312,000. Kerry voted for a different version of the bill, just as Bush had vowed to veto a version that originally passed in the Senate that would have converted half of the Iraq rebuilding plan into a loan.

Giuliani: "Just a few months ago, John Kerry kind of leaked out that claim that certain foreign leaders who opposed our removal of Saddam Hussein prefer him."

The context: The reporter who provided a pool report on Kerry's comments at a fundraiser in March later said she had mistranscribed the comments, and Kerry actually did not use the word "foreign." He also did not refer to Saddam Hussein. Speaking to supporters who noted the opposition to Bush overseas, Kerry said: "I've been hearing it, I'll tell you. The news, the coverage in other countries, the news in other places. I've met more leaders who can't go out and say it all publicly, but boy they look at you and say, you gotta win this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that."

From the full conversation, it appears clear Kerry is speaking about dislike of Bush and his policies by leaders overseas, but not necessarily the invasion of Iraq.

Giuliani: "He even, at one point, declared himself an antiwar candidate, and now he says he's a pro-war candidate."

The context: Giuliani's statement appears derived from an appearance by Kerry in January in which he was asked on MSNBC's "Hardball" if he was one of the candidates "unhappy with the war has been fought, the way it's been fought . . . are you one of the antiwar candidates?" He answered: "I am. Yes. In the sense that I don't believe the president took to us war as he should have, yes. Absolutely. Do I think this president violated his promises to America? Yes, I do, Chris. Was there a way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable? You bet there was and we should have done it right."

Chris Mathews, host of "Hardball," has protested to the Bush campaign the use of the statement that Kerry called himself an antiwar candidate, saying the remarks were taken out of context.

Now to the pre-RNC polls. Regardless of the media spin, the polls show that Kerry and Bush are tied - not that Bush is "ahead". Ruy Teixeira already showed this when he debunked the media spin that the false attack ads from (and media orgy over) the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" somehow downed Kerry a bit. Teixeira even has a follow-up with Bush's dismal numbers on the economy

Having said that, I agree with Josh Marshall:

There are articles about a possible shake-up among high-level staffers, blind quotes from Democratic insiders saying that after a couple more days it may be too late; and I've gotten a slew of emails from readers either asking me if I still think there's hope or ranting that they've had it with Mary Beth Cahill or Stephanie Cutter or someone else.

All I can say is, really, really, shut up and calm down.

Politically, this is one of the worst things about Democrats -- and it has many sources. As a group they seem to have a great tendency toward becoming disheartened, turning on their candidate, doubting his strategy, doubting his advisors, and so forth. Unfortunately, the candidates and advisors have an equal tendency to be open to that kind of fretting. And with the media playing the handmaiden to the synergizing anxiety, the whole thing can become very demoralizing and damaging for campaigns.

Many folks look back and say Al Gore ran a terrible campaign. Maybe. Maybe not. For me, I look back and see something different. I remember a campaign that was far too sensitive to the spin and CW of the moment and thus capable of being buffeted by the smallest political squall. This, rather than any particular tactic or strategy, has always struck me as its greatest failing.

The Bush 2000 campaign was wholly different. They had many reverses. But there was never any serious question that a Rove or a Hughes would get canned. And if there was, the campaign sent out a clear signal that it would never happen. On many levels they were more disciplined.

That difference made a big difference in consistency of strategy and morale among the troops.

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know I've been very critical of the rapid-response from the Kerry campaign (wherever it may have gone to) as well as their seeming disinclination to go on the offensive and stay there.

But the difference between the race today and where it was two, three or four weeks ago is still very small. The difference in the national polls is very slight. The last nine major national polls have ABC (tied), ICR (+3 Kerry), Time (+2 Bush), Fox (+1 Kerry), CNN (+2 Bush), NBC/WSJ (+2 Bush), LAT (+2 Bush), NPR (+4 Kerry), IBD/CSM (tied).

(Those numbers are from the graphic on the front page of Pollingreport.com.)

Let me be clear: Those polls tell me the momentum of the race has clearly moved in the president's direction. And some of the state-by-state numbers (like PA, for instance) show that even more clearly. For all that, though, it is difficult to say that Kerry has lost the race when it's not even clear that he's behind.

Again, this is not a Pollyannaish post. The Kerry campaign needs to get control of the debate back from the president. And they need to start hitting much harder. But Democrats themselves need to be a lot tougher and hardier about the cycles campaigns go through. And that applies to self-serving Democratic 'insiders' too.

Discipline pays rewards.

8/17/04 <link>
Support for Bush amongst various cultural/demographic groups below GOP expectations
African American, Jewish, and Hispanic support? No change since 2000 
Catholic voters? It's probably worse than in 2000
Muslim and young voters? It's worse than in 2000

Regardless of the GOP spin that Bush's (so-called) "leadership" in the "war on terror" and his "outreach" efforts are going to attract a bigger percentage of the vote from these groups this time around, the facts remain unpleasant for Bush.

Jewish support for Bush? No change from 2000
Via DailyKos, we see that the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) has released the results from a recently concluded poll of Jewish voters. And the results are not particularly good for Bush.

Washington, DC: A just-released survey demonstrates that despite a four-year effort, GOP attempts to woo the Jewish vote for President Bush have failed, with likely Jewish voters preferring Senator Kerry over President Bush by a whopping 75-22 percent margin -- essentially identical to the 76-21 percent margin by which the same respondents voted for then-Vice President Al Gore over then-Governor Bush in 2000. (Please see footnote, below.)

The poll, performed by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the National Jewish Democratic Council and The Solomon Project, shows that American Jews continue to strongly prefer Senator Kerry over President Bush. The survey of 817 likely Jewish voters was conducted between July 26-28, 2004, and has a margin of error of /- 3.5 percent.

Among the poll's major findings:

** Senator Kerry maintains a very strong lead over President Bush within the Jewish community. Senator Kerry leads President Bush by a margin of 75 percent to 22 percent. Senator Kerry's lead is as strong as the American Jewish vote was in 2000 for then-Vice President Gore over then-Governor Bush; respondents voted in 2000 for Gore over Bush by a margin of 76 percent to 21 percent.

** American Jewish support for Senator Kerry is extremely solid. Fully 78 percent of Kerry supporters indicated that there is "no chance" that they will vote for President Bush, while only 52 percent of Bush supporters are solid in their support.

** Jewish voters overwhelmingly agree with Senator Kerry on the issues -- including on Israel and the war against terrorism. On the issue of abortion, for example, American Jews believe that Senator Kerry does a better job on the issue than President Bush by a margin of 85-15 percent. On the issue of the economy and jobs, respondents believe Senator Kerry will do a better job by a margin of 79-21 percent. Even on the issues of Israel and America's war on terrorism, American Jews overwhelmingly believe Senator Kerry will do a better job, both by a margin of 66-34 percent. Only 24 percent of respondents said they were closer to President Bush on Israel than Senator Kerry.

** President Bush is deeply unpopular among American Jews. President Bush is seen as favorable by only 20 percent of respondents; a stunning 73 percent see him unfavorably. Conversely, Senator Kerry is seen as favorable by 59 percent of the respondents, while only 27 percent view him unfavorably.

** An amazing 77 percent of respondents believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. The two greatest concerns of respondents are in the areas of the economy and jobs, and terrorism and national security -- both areas in which Senator Kerry is strongly preferred by American Jews, according to this survey (see above).

NJDC also links to another earlier survey from Gallup showing that Bush is unlikely to gain amongst Jewish voters this year. 

African-American support for Bush? No change from 2000
Ruy Teixeira of DonkeyRising has pointed this out recently:

The other big component of the minority vote, of course, is black voters and a new poll by BET/CBS News suggests that Democrats will replicate their traditional strong performance among these voters in this election.

The trial heat question in this poll gives Bush only 10 percent support among black voters, compared to 79 percent for Kerry. That 10 percent support is the average GOP presidential support in the last three elections and is unlikely to grow much, if at all, before election day since, based on historical patterns, pretty much all the undecided voters in this group should be allocated to the Democratic candidate.

And you can see why given the incredibly negative views of black voters on Bush and his administration. They give Bush an 11 percent approval rating, with 85 percent disapproval (!) Only 6 percent of blacks think the country is going in the right direction, compared to 92 percent who feel things are off on the wrong track. Just 9 percent think Bush has the same priorities for the country as they do, while 84 percent think he doesn't. And, by 90 percent to 8 percent, black voters don't think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the associated loss of life and other costs.

Hispanic support for Bush? No change from 2000
Here's Ruy Teixeira again:

Turning to key groups for the Democrats in the upcoming election, today saw the release of not one, but two, major new polls of Hispanics--one from The Washington Post/Univision/Tomas Rivera Policy Institute and the other from the Pew Hispanic Center. And if you're Matthew Dowd, leading Bush-Cheney campaign strategist, who has famously remarked that "As a realistic goal, we have to get somewhere between ... 38 [percent] to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote" in 2004 for the GOP to be successful, these polls are very bad news indeed.

Start with the horse race results. Both polls give Kerry-Edwards a 30 point lead over Bush-Cheney among Hispanic RVs. This is a wider margin than Al Gore had among Hispanics in 2000, when he carried them by 27 points (62-35).

The Washington Post (WP) poll (which was conducted in the 11 states with the highest concentrations of Hispanics) has Kerry-Edwards over Bush-Cheney by 60-30, even with Nader-Camejo included. The Pew Hispanic Center (PHC) poll, which was conducted nationally, has Kerry-Edwards over Bush-Cheney by a very similar 62-32. Note that the Bush-Cheney figures of 30-32 percent aren't anywhere near the 38-40 percent target set by Dowd. And they're not likely to get much nearer since one would expect Hispanic undecideds to break toward the Democratic challenger, not the Republican incumbent.

These results are actually worse for Bush and the Republicans than earlier polls this year by the Democracy Corps and others, which gave Kerry and the Democrats healthy leads but not quite this good. So Hispanic voters, it would appear, are trending against the Republicans.

Dowd, of course, refuses to accept this evidence, offering as a counter that a few small Hispanic subsamples in conventional national polls have showed Bush's support among Hispanics in the 40 percent range. But this doesn't pass the laugh test. These samples of Hispanic voters are not only ridiculously small (perhaps 50 voters or so), but they also suffer from the well-known problem that standard telephone polls make no special efforts (use of the Spanish language, etc.) to secure Hispanics' participation and hence tend to draw more upscale, conservative samples of Hispanics than the specialized efforts discussed here.

Looking at the views of Hispanics, as captured in these polls, it's not hard to see how Kerry-Edwards could have such a commanding lead at this point. In the WP poll, Bush's overall approval rating among Hispanics is 36 percent, with 54 percent disapproval. On the economy--by far Hispanics' top voting issue--Bush's approval rating is worse, a dismal 32 percent approval/60 percent disapproval. And his rating on Iraq is worse still, 29/62. In addition, his rating on immigration is 27/55 and his rating on education is 40/46. Only on the US campaign against terrorism (54/38) does he have a net positive rating.

But even on this issue, where Bush gets his best approval rating, Hispanics still say they prefer Kerry over Bush by 43-35. And they prefer Kerry over Bush on every other issue as well: the economy (53-28); Iraq (45-34); immigration (46-26); and education (51-27). Kerry is also viewed, by 25 points (55-30), as the candidate who would do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years.

In addition, Hispanics give Kerry higher ratings than Bush on "understands the problems of people like you" (Kerry, 53 yes/23 no vs. Bush, 37/55); "can be trusted in a crisis" (53/21 vs. 47/44); and "is a likable person" (69/14 vs. 61/34). And even on "is a strong leader", where Kerry and Bush get about the same number of yes votes, Kerry's net rating is quite a bit higher than Bush's (57/22 vs. 58/36).

On Iraq, contrary to early media reports that Hispanics were especially supportive of the war, the reverse is clearly now true. Hispanics believe that the US is losing the war on terrorism (40-37) and that the war hasn't contributed to the long-term security of the United States (48-44), while the general public still has modest pluralities in the other direction. And Hispanics overwhelmingly believe (63-21) that, considering the costs and benefits to the US, the war with Iraq wasn't worth fighting (the general public is only 53-45 that the war wasn't worth fighting).

Finally, Hispanics in the WP poll give the Democrats a 36 point advantage as the party that has more concern for the Latino community (50-14) and a huge 41 point lead on party ID (66-23).

Incidentally, Teixeira has been pointing this out for some time now.

Catholics' support for Bush? It's probably worse than in 2000
Here's Teixeira:

...according to Pew data pooled from May and June, Kerry is leading Bush by a point among white Catholics. That may not sound like much, but in 2000 Gore lost white Catholics by 7 points.

Also in 2000, Gore carried all Catholic voters by 3 points, even as he was losing white Catholics by that 7 point margin. That suggests that a one point margin among white Catholics implies a substantially larger margin among Catholics as a whole.

And, in fact, a recent Gallup report, based on Gallup's late May and early June polls, does indicate that Kerry is running a solid lead among all Catholics. According to that report, Kerry leads Bush among Catholic RVs, 50-42. And note that Kerry has gained much ground since January, when Bush was carrying Catholics 56-42.

So what happened to Karl Rove's plan to tilt Catholics in Bush's direction by emphasizing Bush's conservatism on social issues like abortion and gay marriage? Well, it was always a suspect plan, given that Catholics as a whole hardly differ from the rest of the population in their views on issues like abortion. And, in general, there is little evidence that centrist and modernist Catholics, which is the overwhelming majority of Catholics–including among Hispanics–are likely to vote the conservative social positions of the Catholic church on issues like abortion or gay marriage. That was the assumption underlying Rove's plan, but it is highly unlikely to happen. Instead, polling data suggest strongly that these Catholics are far more concerned and moved electorally by other issues, such as the economy, Iraq, health care, education and so on.

Muslim-Americans' support for Bush? It's worse than in 2000 - no surprise there!
Here's Dante Chinni in the Christian Science Monitor:

The Muslim vote long fell fairly reliably into the Democratic column, but that changed in 2000. A combination of perceived slights by the Gore campaign and active wooing by Mr. Bush led to a break in the conventional wisdom. Major Muslim community groups actually went so far as to endorse Bush in 2000, in large part due to one big issue: racial profiling. On the campaign trail and in the debates, Bush used the issue to talk about his support of the Secret Evidence Repeal Act, a proposal to reverse parts of a Clinton-era law that made it easier for prosecutors to use secret evidence in terrorism cases.

Polls in 2000 showed Muslims favored Bush over Mr. Gore by a wide margin - some showed support in the 90 percent range - and some groups argued that some 60,000 Muslim votes put Bush over the top in Florida.

It's amazing how much can change in four years - years that have included Sept. 11, John Ashcroft, and the Patriot Act. The latest poll by the Council on American-Islamic Relations shows John Kerry with 54 percent of the Muslim vote in the 2004 race, comfortably ahead of Ralph Nader, who garners 26 percent. The president? With a little work he may break out of the single digits with Muslim-American voters.

More here:

Islam is the fastest growing religious community in the US. There are now, according to some estimates, seven million Muslim Americans, making this the second largest religion in the US. In the year 2000 presidential election, as many as 80% of Muslim voters cast their ballots for George W. Bush. The practical effects of such overwhelming support for Bush can be illustrated most dramatically by looking at the Florida results. While news coverage mostly focused on hanging chads, and to a lesser degree the alleged disenfranchisement of African American voters, the Bush victory in Florida, and thus in the nation, would not have happened without the organized support of Muslims. There are about 100,000 Muslim voters in Florida; 91% of those going to the polls cast their ballots for Bush, 8% for Nader and only 1% for Gore. According to some estimates, this means that nearly 60,000 more Muslim votes went to Bush than Gore in a state that was decided by several hundred votes.

As the 2004 presidential election approaches, sentiment in the Muslim American community has turned around completely. In Washington, DC, on June 29, 2004, a standing room only audience listened to a panel of experts discuss the potential impact of the Muslim-American vote on the coming election...The co-sponsor of the event was the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). This is the largest non-profit Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S. and it is led by Executive Director, Nihad Awad.
In key states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, Awad continued, John Kerry, now has a large lead in support from Muslim-American voters. His organization recently released the results of its own poll of voter preferences, state by state. Poll results from Pennsylvania, for example, show Kerry support running as high as 57 percent, to only 2 percent for Bush. Awad also described the decision making process within the Muslim-American community that will determine whether various Muslim organizations officially endorse Kerry. That decision, Awad believes will be made several weeks before the election. One thing, however, is clear, he concluded, “The Muslim-American community sees Sen. John Kerry to be a better candidate.”

Support for Bush amongst young voters? It's worse than in 2000
In late July, Teixeira said:

The new Harvard University/Institute of Politics poll of college students shows Bush in deep trouble among this group as well. Since March, Kerry's already-wide lead over Bush among students has increased by 8 points, from 53-40 to 58-37. Bush's approval rating among this group has sunk to 40 percent, while support for the US having gone to war in Iraq has fallen to 42 percent, with 56 percent opposition. And, at this point, by 50-31, college students feel the Kerry campaign is talking about issues that young people care about, while, by 61-26, they feel the Bush campaign is not.

Sounds like a tough sell for the GOP among the nation's students!

Here's some more recent data, from Richard Morin et al. in the Washington Post:

Surveys suggest that Bush's popularity has plummeted among 18- to 29-year-olds in the past four months, posing a new obstacle to the president's bid to win reelection and an immediate challenge to Republicans seeking to win over impressionable and lightly committed young people during their upcoming convention.

Four years ago, network exit polls found that Bush and Democrat Al Gore split the vote of 18- to 29-year-olds, with Gore claiming 48 percent and Bush getting 46 percent -- the best showing by a Republican presidential candidate in more than a decade.

But that was then. In the latest Post-ABC News poll taken immediately after the Democratic convention, Kerry led Bush 2-1 among registered voters younger than 30. Among older voters, the race was virtually tied.

Bush's problems with younger voters began months before the Democratic convention, Post-ABC polls suggest. The last time Bush and Kerry were tied among the under-30 crowd was back in April. In the five surveys conducted since then, Bush has trailed Kerry by an average of 18 percentage points.

Virtually every other major poll conducted in the past month confirms Kerry's newfound and perhaps transient popularity with voters under the age of 30. The size of this advantage varies, due in part to the relatively small number of younger voters and correspondingly large margin of sampling error in each survey.

A Newsweek Poll conducted on July 29-30 found Kerry with a 51-32 lead among 18- to 29-year-olds. The CBS News/New York Times post-convention survey of registered voters showed Kerry with a 50-31 advantage among this group.

Kerry also led among young adults in most surveys conducted during the weeks leading up to the convention. The combined data from surveys of 2,891 registered voters conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in May and June showed a 15-point Kerry lead, but its mid-July survey found the race tied. A Newsweek poll exclusively of younger voters interviewed in mid-July found Kerry with a 48-41 lead while a Post-ABC News survey put the Democrat ahead by 9 points on the eve of his party's convention.

Taken together, the post-convention surveys suggest that if the election were held today, Bush would do about as badly among younger voters as Republican Robert Dole did in 1996 when he lost to incumbent Bill Clinton by 53 percent to 34 percent in this age group. Dubya's dad was more popular with younger voters in both 1988 and 1992: The elder Bush split the young vote in 1988 and lost to Clinton by 9 percentage points in 1992. Of course the Reagan era marked the recent high-water mark for Republicans with younger voters, who gave the Gipper his biggest victory margin of any age group in 1984.

8/10/04 <link>
Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" v. The Truth
For the most comprehensive coverage yet detailing the lies, fabrications and distortions by the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush (er, for the "Truth"), - about John Kerry - check out my coverage here. Would you be surprised to know that a key operative who was behind the ads that falsely smeared John McCain when he ran against Bush in 2000, is also behind this smear attack against Kerry? That's Merrie Spaeth - and among other things, she was also a coach of sorts to Kenneth Starr during the Clinton impeachment hearings. Another key character behind this egregious attack is John O'Neill, a Nixon protégé and patsy, a long-time Kerry nemesis, and a partisan right-wing Republican who once clerked for William Rehnquist, the current Chief Justice of the United States. Read more, here.

8/2/04 <link> (updated 8/7/04)
Democratic Convention, Kerry and post-convention polls: How did Kerry do?
Answer: The horserace bounce was small in absolute terms, but the internals of almost all polls show Kerry did pretty well; plus, he's leading the electoral vote count comfortably at this time

The Democratic Convention, in my opinion, was above my expectations. As much as one may be tempted to assign more drama than substance to such conventions, I think there is one thing that this particular convention achieved, which is worth noting. It made it clear that the Democratic Party is not about to lay low on issues of national security and foreign policy and aggressively challenge the so-called policies of the Republican Party in this area. This is long overdue, and in part it does move the party forward in the direction I had hoped, when I last wrote about this in 2002. Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, along with others like Gen. Wesley Clark, Barack Obama (a rising star in the Party and running for Senate in Illinois), former President Bill Clinton, and Teresa Heinz Kerry, all spoke well and highlighted the key areas the party wants to focus on in this election, with Obama in particular surprising many with his passionate call to arms (so-to-speak). All-in-all a convention that made me genuinely more optimistic about the Democratic party, even though I continue to have misgivings about their political (as opposed to policy) competence at times, owing to the ineptitude with which they seem to be still approaching the fake GOP charges surrounding Kerry's vote (or lack thereof) for the $87B bill. That said, it was a good start to the campaign ahead; a summary of the Kerry-Edwards platform is available here.

Now to the post-Convention polls. Chris Bowers has nicely summarized the polls that are out so far. Not unexpectedly, there is a limited bounce for Kerry (considering the margin or error in these polls) - which is not altogether surprising, as I highlighted in my earlier post before the Convention. This may very well be because of the high degree of polarization in the electorate. The silver lining for Kerry, though, is that he has improved his standing on numerous issues quite significantly (high single digits to high teens in some cases), even if that does not reflect in the horserace totals. You can see that by clicking here (for example). Also, Atrios' summary says more than the horserace numbers.


Kerry leads Bush as "better qualified to be commander-in-chief," by 52 percent to 44 percent.

Anyway, here are the results from Chris:

Ruy Teixeira has definitely won me over when it comes to determining the most accurate most important trial heat models. For me, it is all about the two-way, registered voter trial heats:
940 RV, 7/30-8/1, MoE 3 (7/22-25 results)
Kerry 52 (48)
Bush  45 (49)

776 RV, 7/30-8/1, MoE 3.5 (7/1-7/3 results)
Kerry 49 (49)
Bush  46 (45)

991 RV, 7/30-8/1, MoE 3 (7/11-7/15 results)
Kerry 49 (49)
Bush  43 (44)

1,366 RV, 7/30-8/1, MoE 3 (7/19-7/21 results)
Kerry 48 (49)
Bush  48 (45)

1,010 RV, 7/29-7/30, MoE 3 (7/8-7/9 results)
Kerry 52 (51)
Bush  44 (45)

UPDATE 8/7/04: Another handy page, where you can see the three-way horse race results is 2.004k.com. Additional polls since the DNC continue to show Kerry in a good position, even if his apparent bounce per se is in the few % range.

Kerry by 5% USA 43-48-4-(4) LV 8/3 - 8/5 TIME Magazine
Kerry by 3%   " 45-48-3-(3.5) RV 8/3 - 8/5 Associated Press/Ipsos Poll
Kerry by 5%   " 44-49-4-(3.1) LV 8/2 - 8/5 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner
Kerry by 3%   " 42-45-5-(3.5) RV 8/2 - 8/5 Investor's Business Daily/TIPP
Kerry by 4%   " 42-46-2-(3) RV 8/3 - 8/4 FoxNews/Opinion Dynamics
Kerry by 5%   " 43-48-2-(2) RV 8/2 - 8/4 Economist/YouGov

John of Americablog (via Buzzflash) has a quick and dirty, but original, analysis that is worth noting. Rather than simply looking at Kerry's absolute bounce in the polls, John looks at the percentage of the undecided vote that Kerry picked up (temporarily or permanently? - that is TBD) in the bounce. This is clearly an important metric. The absolute bounce is clearly a function of the available undecided voters; thus, as I've stated before, in a closely divided populace with a historically low percentage undecided voters, there is less one may expect in terms of a bounce. Anyway, here is his conclusion: Kerry did as well as Clinton did in 1992 in capturing a similar percentage of the undecided voters. 

This election, as Newsweek notes, is NOT AT ALL AN AVERAGE ELECTION. There are MUCH FEWER voters up for grabs - most have already committed to one candidate or another. AP reports 75% of Kerry and Bush supporters say they will "definitely" vote for their candidate - that's a big jump from 1992, when fewer than half of Clinton's supporters said the same about their candidate going in to the convention.

Clinton in 1992 was able to use the convention to woo 16 of the 66 "up for grab" voters - or around 1 in 4 of the "up for grab" voters.

Last week, Kerry was able to woo 4 of the 17 "up for grab voters" - or 1 in 4 "up for grab voters." (And if you believe that only 10 percent of voters were "up for grabs," then Kerry won over 4 out of 10 voters as his convention bounce.) Using either figure - 1/4 or 4/10 - that's pretty darn good, and just as good if not better than Clinton did with his one-in-four "massive" bump.


Now I'm not arguing that Kerry got exactly the equivalent of a 16 or a 26 point bounce, BUT, the fact remains that Kerry inherited a very divided, set-in-its-ways electorate. If only ten percent of the electorate were in fact "up for grabs," and Kerry had gotten all 10 percent as a result of his convention bounce, the media would still be saying "gosh, Clinton got 16 percent, and Kerry only got 10%, so Kerry didn't do as well" - even though, in fact, KERRY WOULD HAVE GOTTEN ALL THE AVAILABLE VOTERS.

John also points out, that the internals of the Fox News poll, are very positive for Kerry. Kerry has gotten massive bumps in how voters perceive him on areas where he was trailing Bush significantly. William Saletan of Slate states the same thing based on other polls - that the internals of the latest polls are actually very favorable to Kerry and troublesome to Bush. Polling pundit Ruy Teixeira of DonkeyRising agrees. Chris Bowers' General Election Cattle Call shows Kerry is a pretty strong position. Chris also shows at MyDD how Bush's favorables MINUS unfavorables margin is poor compared to Kerry's. And via Brad DeLong, I learn that Frank Luntz (The GOP pollster) seems somewhat pessimistic about Bush's chances. 

All in all, Kerry has done well. Now the even harder work starts to keep the momentum and win the campaign. And, please, will someone tell the DNC and Kerry-Edwards to send COMPETENT people to the represent them in the media, not just well-meaning people who are often ignorant of the facts?

7/21/04 <link>
Polls and polls - and possibly NOT MUCH of a "Convention bounce" expected for Kerry
Lots of interesting posts about polling data in the blogosphere today. Of course, a "July surprise" or an "October surprise" may change everything - but so far, Kerry/Edwards seem to be in a good position vis-a-vis Bush/Cheney. Still, a lot of hard work and challenging months ahead for Kerry.

Ruy Teixeira at DonkeyRising points to two recent poll analyses. A column by Charlie Cook on National Journal, where Cook says that the relative stability of the horse race so far (which he considers somewhat unusual) and Bush's sub-50% numbers indicate that Kerry is in a good position at this time. Teixeira also points to an analysis by David Gopoian in Salon, where Gopoian says "...Kerry needs to make small gains among friendly voters, while Bush needs to make huge gains among relatively unfriendly voters..." in order to win.

DavidNYC at the Swing State Project points to two more websites doing poll projections: the Electoral Vote Predictor and David Wissing at the Hedgehog Report.

What I found most interesting was Chris Bowers' call that Kerry may not receive much of a bounce after the Democratic Party's Convention next week. Bowers says:

Bush's solid states are as low as I believe they can honestly reach: 118. Kerry's safe states are as close to as high as I can imagine them reaching (291--only FL, IA, MN, NM and WI could further become solid). Less than a week before the convention, Kerry is looking very good ineeed. This point equals his highest ever standing in the two-party vote, and he is within three points of 366 EV's, and 291 solid EV's.

Considering all of this, I wouldn't expect much of a convention bounce if I were you. Kerry is close to maxing out how far he can probably be ahead by. A four point bounce would be remarkable. Here is a simple formula I am using to determine Kerry's maximum bounce: 12 - Kerry's current trial heat lead- (undecideds * .5) = Kerry's maximum bounce. Check out a few recent trial heats to see what a small number that is.

7/12/04 <link>

Congratulations to John Edwards and kudos to Sen. Kerry for making a good choice. Not unexpectedly, meaningless nonsense and spin about Edwards (and Kerry) is being pushed to the forefront by the GOP. Let's see if that can be debunked, shall we?

1. Is Edwards really "too liberal"?

John Campanelli at DailyKos has posted a letter from Andrew Sullivan's website on this:

I'm growing a bit frustrated with the media, including you, running with this Kerry and Edwards being the first and fourth most liberal Senators. Everyone is citing the National Journal's ratings but they are doing it sloppily. I have seen no recent article that cites anything but the 2003 ratings where Kerry missed 37 and Edwards missed 22 of 62 votes and both were setting themselves up for primary battles where their base was essential. Think what you may about missing votes and pandering a bit (seems suicide to not do both when going for the nomination), but my larger point is the media should be looking at this much more historically and in years when Edwards and Kerry actually showed up to do their jobs. I'll do it for them. Following are rankings and liberal scores since 1999.

2003: Kerry - 1st (96.5) Edwards - 4th (94.5)
2002: Kerry - 9th (87.3) Edwards - 31st (63.0) Edwards made the centrist list.
2001: Kerry - 11th (87.7) Edwards - 35th (68.2) Edwards almost tied with Lieberman.
2000: Kerry - 20th (77) Edwards - 19th (80.8) Rankings past 20 are not available nor are composite scores for all Senators, so Kerry is 21st or higher.
1999: Kerry - 16th (80.8) Edwards - 31st (72.2)

Average: Kerry - 12th (85.9) Edwards - 24th (75.7)

Now this paints a different picture. Certainly Kerry is a stalwart liberal (although probably not or barely a top 10 liberal), but he does hail from and represent one of the most liberal states. But Edwards is definitely a moderate Democrat (if you define that as somewhere in the ideological middle of the Democratic platform).

Jeff Horwitz pointed this out in Salon.com, as well:

A Charlotte Observer article from February sums up the National Journal's findings:

"[The National Journal] found Edwards more liberal than 63 percent of his Senate colleagues in 2002. Put another way: He was more conservative than all but 10 of the Senate's 50 Democrats. Over his four years, the magazine said, Edwards fell into the 'moderate to conservative range' of Democrats.

"Edwards voted with his party 84 percent of the time last year and 90 percent over the four years, according to Congressional Quarterly magazine. He supported President Bush 76 percent of the time last year and 80 percent overall."

So, should we say that if Bush and Edwards voted the same way 80% of the time (overall) then Bush is only a "little less liberal than Edwards"?

2. Is Edwards really that "inexperienced" from a historical perspective?

As Josh Marshall pointed out in response to yet another GOP-spin-laden, moronic Howard Fineman article in Newsweek:

...That asterisk is a reference to this paragraph, the second of [Fineman's] article ...

Except for Ike, I can’t think of anyone in modern times that entered electoral politics and gained a place on a major-party ticket on such a hurried timetable. Dan Quayle, who’d held office for 12 years when George H.W. Bush picked him, was a grizzled veteran compared with Edwards. Yes, George W. Bush had been governor of Texas for only six years when he won the presidency. But he had run for the House years earlier, and essentially had spent his entire life in the family business of politics. (A helpful reader points out to me that Richard Nixon had a similarly rapid rise. Elected to the House in 1946, he became Ike's running mate in 1952. But an Edwards-Nixon comparison is hardly one that Democrats would like to make.)

So, Bush was in a hurry too. But he once ran for the House between business failures and, besides, for him politics is genetic. And Nixon did it in six too; but he did bad stuff so that doesn't count.

Also of some interest on the Fineman historical acumen watch ...

Wendell L. Willkie: Never ran for public office before presidential nomination; nominated for presidency in 1940. Zero to sixty in zero years.

Thomas E. Dewey: First run for public office (District Attorney) in 1937, New York Governorship in 1942; nominated for the presidency in 1944. Zero to sixty in seven years.

Adlai Stevenson: First run for public office (Illinois Governorship) in 1948; nominated for the presidency in 1952. Zero to sixty in four years.

Spiro Agnew: First run for public office (Chief Executive of Baltimore County) in 1962, Maryland Governorship in 1966; nominated for the vice-presidency in 1968. Zero to sixty in six years.

Geraldine Ferraro: First run for public office (NY Congressional seat) in 1978; nominated for vice-presidency in 1984. Zero to sixty in six years.

Geraldine Sealey at Salon.com has more:

...it's especially strange that Republicans would want to raise the issue of inexperience given who's on top of their ticket. John Edwards was, as anyone who heard him during the primary season knows, born to a mill worker and the first person in his family to attend college. As a young boy, he wanted to become a lawyer to fight for working people. And he did -- a really good one. After his successful career as a trial lawyer, Edwards decided to try his hand at government. (Sounds like the up-by-the-bootstraps, private-sector-success-turned-public-servant stuff of many GOP dreams). Edwards has served a term in the Senate, where he sat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-sponsored the Patients' Bill of Rights with John McCain and Ted Kennedy. But, the RNC says, he has only served about six years in the Senate, so he isn't qualified to be V.P. This is, perhaps, the definition of chutzpah.

Of course, Bush has quite a bit of experience with "inexperience." He served about the same amount of time as Texas governor, from 1994-2000, in a state where the executive yields much power to the Legislature, and before that he was a failed oil executive who used profits from the sale of his Harken Energy stock -- sold miraculously right before the stock value plummeted, which was the subject of an SEC insider trading investigation -- to buy into the Texas Rangers, a deal that made him a multimillionaire. If this man is qualified to be president, we're pretty sure we can trust John Edwards as No. 2.

And if Bush wants to compare his pre-government experience to John Edwards', he may not want to ask David Rubenstein to be a character witness...[read Sealey's entire post]

3. Was Edwards John Kerry's "second choice" behind John McCain? (This is the most meaningless blather of all which needs no comment, but I'm including comments on this because they are amusing.)

(a) MyDD notes McCain's recent statement that he was not actually offered a VP post by Kerry:

As kos has already demonstrated, on the March 18th CBS Early Show, John McCain stated that Bush offered him the VP slot in 2000:

Look, I don't want to be Vice-President of the United States, I do not want to leave the Republican party, I would not be Vice President of the United States on either ticket. I told President Bush when he asked me in 2000 if, when he asked me if I was interested, I said I was not interested

Not only did McCain himself confirm that Bush offered him the VP slot, McCain has just confirmed that Kerry never offered him the VP slot (via Brooklyndem):

SNOW: Now John Kerry, is it true that John Kerry asked you to be his vice president?

McCAIN: Uh, no. No, it was never offered.

SNOW: It was never offered. So, it may have been discussed elliptically, but never flat out request.

McCAIN: Never was an offer, no. (...)

SNOW: Right. But, so- I want to just lay to rest once and for all: never approached you, never hinted that he wanted to talk to you about being vice president. All that kind of stuff was made up.

McCAIN: Well, I cannot attest to that. All I can tell you is my conversations with him were private conversations, but he never offered it.

(b) DailyKos notes that in fact Cheney was Bush's second choice for VP behind McCain:

 From the March 18th edition of CBS' The Early Show:

Look, I don't want to be Vice President of the United States, I do not want to leave the Republican party, I would not be Vice President of the United States on either ticket. I told President Bush when he asked me in 2000 if, when he asked me if I was interested, I said I was not interested.

(c) Wonkette notes an even more damning fact for Bush (dated of course) put forth jokingly by the bumbler Chris Matthews - that Bush was McCain's second choice for President (back in 2000 at least):

What with the GOP claiming Edwards was Kerry's second choice and the Dems saying Cheney was Bush's second choice, people forget that McCain has preferences, too.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You know who John McCain's second choice for president is?
MATTHEW DOWD [GOP strategist]: Who's that?
MATTHEWS: George Bush.

(d) Brad DeLong has some more amusing takes:

Jack Balkin writes:

Balkinization: The Problem With Second Choices: I see that Bush is now running an ad noting that McCain was Kerry's first choice for Vice-President. The Dems should run an ad noting that Al Gore was the country's first choice for President.

There are many riffs you can do on this:

George W. Bush was America's second choice for president.

George W. Bush says John McCain was John Kerry's first choice for vice president. I can assure you that George W. Bush was not John McCain's first choice for president--or his second, third, fourth, or fifth choice either.

George W. Bush complains that John Edwards was John Kerry's second choice for vice president. But what's wrong with that? John Kerry was John Edwards's second choice for president.

George W. Bush is Ralph Nader's first choice for president.

Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein says George W. Bush is his 25,000,001 choice for president.

6/29/04 <link>
Miscellaneous Bush, Kerry and Nader updates

The media's Kerry bashing
Liz Cox Barrett at CJR Campaign Desk has an excellent entry on the incompetence of many in the mainstream media and their ability to flip-flop effortlessly to spout GOP spin.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a senator named John who found himself on Al Gore's short list of potential running mates.

The campaign press in the summer of 2000 was entranced with John. It tumbled all over itself to describe John as the perfect match for what it saw as the somewhat wooden, robot-like Gore. One newspaper described John as a man with "an easy manner and good looks," a politician whose "charisma [might] rub off on [Gore]," a person who could "bring some charm to the ticket." John's selection, it opined, would signal that Gore "thinks the election will be decided on personality." A television reporter also regarded this John as "charismatic." Another newspaper saw him as "younger and more telegenic than Dick Cheney." Yet a third newspaper called him "handsome," with "a record tailor-made to undermine the standard Republican attack on liberal Democrats."

This John's surname was Kerry -- though if you guessed Edwards, you are more than excused -- and the press outlets that offered the above descriptions were the St. Petersburg Times, NBC News, the Boston Globe, and the (New York) Daily News, respectively.

What a difference 1,460 days make.

The "handsome," "charismatic" candidate who four years ago had an "easy manner," "charm," and a record impregnable to Republican attack has undergone a hideous transmogrification, as described by reporters.

Let's listen in.

No longer handsome, Kerry has been compared this election season to "The Addams Family"'s heavy-browed Lurch (by both former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines and by CNBC's talk show host/comic Dennis Miller). The Weekly Standard's Matt Labash sees in Kerry's mug a "long-faced Easter Island mask," while The New Yorker's Philip Gourevitch observes "a long, angular face [that] has something of the abstraction of a tribal mask." Kerry reminds Knight Ridder's Dick Polman of "those long-faced walking trees in 'Lord of the Rings,'" while the Chicago Tribune sees a "droopy, hound-dog look." Kerry, it seems, was repeatedly whacked by an Ugly Stick sometime between 2000 and 2004. (Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Botox, if you -- like the Tribune and other news outlets -- entertain that sort of scuttlebutt).

But there are worse things than ugly; Kerry has also, apparently, lost any shred of charisma, and is now utterly free of charm. In April, the St. Petersburg Times wrote, "...rarely do [Democrats] have much to say about [Kerry's] personal appeal or charisma." On June 20, the (New York) Daily News editorialized that Kerry "is charisma-challenged by a mannequin." (This from newspapers that sang the praises of the charismatic and attractive Kerry not four years ago.)

In March, Chris Matthews wondered aloud on "Hardball" whether John Kerry "has the stuff," given that "nobody ever associated the word charisma with [him]." (Four years ago, Matthews had no such doubts about Kerry. "I think [Gore-Kerry is] going to be the ticket, I'll say it here, because I believe that -- that Bill Clinton, to his credit, set the standard: Pick a vice president who looks right from day one like he could be president," he declared in July of 2000.)

And, during a televised Democratic primary debate last February, CBS's Dan Rather asked John Edwards a question that perhaps set the rest of the press pack a-wondering: Did Kerry, Rather asked Edwards, have "enough Elvis" in him to beat Bush -- "enough excitement factor, enough charisma, enough likeability?"

Well, apparently no. For, having lost not only his good looks but also his charisma, the once charming Kerry has apparently grown "aloof," a favorite word in the new press lexicon. (Stripped of our face and our personality, we have to confess, we might grow a tad "aloof" ourselves.) Newsweek's Howard Fineman wrote in February about "the matter of Kerry's public persona: he can seem aloof, condescending and soporific." In March, Gloria Borger asked her roundtable cohorts on CNBC's "Capital Report": "We always called [Kerry] aloof. Is he still aloof, or is this -- or is he trying to warm up here for us?" On June 16, the Washington Post's Lois Romano wrote that Kerry "often comes off as aloof and elitist."

Could it be that not just John Kerry's face, but also his manner and his personality have really dissolved into a puddle of wrinkles in just four years? Has he aged poorly? Has caution suppressed his charisma? Has the once captivating conversationalist become a snooze-inducing bore? Or could it be that what has aged poorly is the press's hackneyed shorthand descriptions of the candidate and his attributes? That the Kerry press corps is tiring of the grind of the campaign trail, of hearing the same old stump speech delivered from the same old mouth, and that this personal weariness has seeped into their coverage? In 2000, Kerry was a relatively fresh face to journalists outside of Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts. In 2004, after the Democratic primaries and months on the trail, Kerry's face is fresh to no reporter.

The new fresh face -- despite also being a 2000 VP also-ran -- is, in the press' estimation, John Edwards.

Bush's Kerry bashing
This one is older and I was remiss in not posting this earlier. I'm just posting a couple of snippets. I recommend you read the whole article.

From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity
Scholars Say Campaign Is Making History With Often-Misleading Attacks
By Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei


The charges [by the Bush team against Kerry] were all tough, serious -- and wrong, or at least highly misleading. Kerry did not question the war on terrorism, has proposed repealing tax cuts only for those earning more than $200,000, supports wiretaps, has not endorsed a 50-cent gasoline tax increase in 10 years, and continues to support the education changes, albeit with modifications.

Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising.

Three-quarters of the ads aired by Bush's campaign have been attacks on Kerry. Bush so far has aired 49,050 negative ads in the top 100 markets, or 75 percent of his advertising. Kerry has run 13,336 negative ads -- or 27 percent of his total. The figures were compiled by The Washington Post using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group of the top 100 U.S. markets. Both campaigns said the figures are accurate.

The assault on Kerry is multi-tiered: It involves television ads, news releases, Web sites and e-mail, and statements by Bush spokesmen and surrogates -- all coordinated to drive home the message that Kerry has equivocated and "flip-flopped" on Iraq, support for the military, taxes, education and other matters.

"There is more attack now on the Bush side against Kerry than you've historically had in the general-election period against either candidate," said University of Pennsylvania professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an authority on political communication. "This is a very high level of attack, particularly for an incumbent."


Kerry, too, has made his own misleading statements and exaggerations.


But Bush has outdone Kerry in the number of untruths,


Ralph Nader 
Nader shows himself to be not just a narcissist-in-chief but someone who will go to any length to elect Bush - even if that means fraud is required.
The less said the better. Here are multiple reasons why Nader is NOT what he claims to be, not to mention how he's not shy about being unethical (to put it mildly). 
UPDATE 7/12/04: More on this here and here and here and here (via Eric Alterman). 

6/28/04 <link>
"Bias" in Polling 
R. Chung (via MyDD) has an excellent analysis of how the results of various polling outlets compare to their average. The analysis looks at how much more Bush-favorable some polls are compared to others and how that reflects on the Bush v. Kerry poll results. 

I hope Chung will not mind if I reproduce some of her excellent summaries and charts here!

  • Some polls do seem to lean consistently one way or the other.
  • The amount that they lean depends on the type of question being measured: for the same poll, presidential job approval has a different pattern of bias than head-to-head horserace polling.
  • In job approval, the Fox poll consistently reports findings that are more supportive of President Bush than the average of all polls; the Zogby and Harris polls are the opposite.
  • In the presidential election, the Fox poll consistently reports findings that lean more toward President Bush than the average of all polls; the ABC-Washington Post poll appears to lean the most in the other direction.

[Bush] Job approval polls
The table below shows the mean residual difference between each poll and the average poll. That is, on the whole, the Fox poll shows a 5.16 percentage point larger difference in approval-disapproval spread than the average of all polls; while the Zogby poll reports about an 11.15 percentage point lower difference in spread than the average of all polls.





1 Fox 5.16
2 CBS 3.02
3 ABC 2.64
4 Gallup 1.86
5 Pew 0.95
6 Newsweek -0.33
7 NBC -0.43
8 Time -1.37
9 Quinnipiac -2.69
10 AP-Ipsos -5.23
11 Harris -6.14
12 Zogby -11.15

The Zogby, Harris, and AP-Ipsos polls

Note that the two polls that show much smaller than average differences in the approval-disapproval spread are the Zogby and Harris polls. What could be going on? A quick look at the questions asked by those two polling firms reveals that, unlike the other polls, PollingReport.com reports their summaries as a combination of "Excellent/Good" and "Fair/Poor" rather than "Approval" or "Disapproval." Evidently, this way of combining ratings tends to understate the approval-disapproval spread relative to the other polls. One possibility is that some respondents who gave the President a rating of "fair" would also "approve" of the job the President is performing. Note that I am not claiming that the Zogby and Harris polls are wrong; I simply emphasize that they do not appear to be exactly comparable to the other polls.

The AP-Ipsos poll appears to report a smaller approval-disapproval spread than the other polls. Interestingly, there is an oddity about the AP poll: the sponsorship of the poll appears to have changed in November 2003; www.pollingreport.com notes that "data from 11/03 and earlier [were] co-sponsored by Cook Political Report." It appears that AP polls after November 2003 are significantly closer to the overall average than those before. Since the discontinuity is so obvious, and because I am trying to examine current poll biases, I have decided to exclude AP polls taken prior to November 2003. In contrast, although the Zogby and Harris polls appear to be structurally dissimilar to the other polls, it does not appear that the pattern of bias has (significantly) changed over time; I will keep them in this analysis (see the technical note above for a quick evaluation of how much difference in the overall average it makes to keep the Zogby Poll in the analysis). The plot below summarizes the overall biases for these polls and is a visual representation of the table above, after omitting the AP polls prior to November 2003. The Zogby and Harris polls are clear outliers and report (much) less favorable results to the President than the other polls; the Fox poll is an outlier on the other side and reports results more favorably. The rest of the polls, including the now "cleaned up" AP poll are reasonably close to the average.


Head-to-head polls
The discussion above pertains to the President's job approval ratings. What about Bush vs. Kerry matchups? Does the bias in job approval that we observed above extend to the horserace polls?

In my opinion, the value of this study will become apparent over time, and really only after Election 2004. Saying that some poll is closer to the average of all the polls doesn't mean that the average is actually the correct representation of people's opinion. Having said that, this is great work and a useful reference for the future. 

6/3/04 <link>
Is the tide turning a bit against the GOP?
I don't know but Kos thinks it is...

The tide is turning.

After Texas redrew its political boundaries last year, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives was buzzing with talk of big increases in their majority. But when Representative Tom Reynolds of New York, the chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, offered his outlook for 2004 on Wednesday, it did not include such expansive predictions.

"My goal," Mr. Reynolds said, "is to bring back 228 members of House Republicans next year."

That, as it happens, was the same number of Republicans in the House until Tuesday, when Stephanie Herseth, a Democrat, squeaked to victory in a special election in South Dakota, bringing it down to 227. When reporters expressed surprise that Mr. Reynolds was not predicting an even bigger majority, given the redistricting in Texas, he simply reiterated his stance. "My goal is to bring back 228," he said, adding, "I don't predict seats."

Mr. Reynolds might not have been feeling particularly good. In addition to Ms. Herseth's victory in South Dakota -- a state that President Bush won in 2000 with 61 percent of the vote -- another Democrat, Ben Chandler, won in a special election in February in Kentucky, also a Republican stronghold. Though Republicans say those losses do not have greater national significance for the coming elections in November, the fact that Mr. Reynolds was forecasting a status quo outcome could be telling.

Reynolds is using defeatist language, much the same way Democrats were the past two years. The momentum is swinging our way.
Bush won South Dakota by 22 percentage points, the Kentucky 6th by 14 points. On paper, these districts are not competitive, and should not be competitive. And they would not have made any observer's list of possible Democratic pickup opportunities.
When people like Larry Sabato and Charlie Cook draw up their list of '50 competitive races', places like SD and KY6 don't get included.
But this is a different year. The usual rules don't apply. And while November may prove a bust for Democrats, it also offers the best chance of a Democratic majority in a decade.  
The key is to contest every seat.

Every seat. He's certainly right about that. 

UPDATE 7/12/04: See this article in The Progressive (via Salon.com), for more.

5/23/04 <link>
Is New Jersey a Swing State?...PLUS...A note of caution from Ruy Teixeira...

Thomas Lang at the Campaign Desk weighs in on the New Jersey - Purple State? question:

Yesterday morning on CNN's "American Morning," former Clinton aide Lisa Caputo nominated New Jersey's transformation to a "purple state" as the "undercover story of the week." Last Monday, New Jersey showed up as a battleground state in a Reuters piece laying out the electoral map.
As Public Enemy once said, don't believe the hype.
Almost two weeks ago the New York Times's Adam Nagourney christened New Jersey a battleground state allegedly up for grabs this election season. New Jersey, Nagourney noted, had "been considered a lock for Democrats in presidential elections,"as New Jersey's electoral votes went to Gore in 2000 and Clinton in 1996 and 1992.
Reporters putting New Jersey into the "in play" category have mostly relied on polls showing a relatively close race there. Last Thursday, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing Kerry with a surprisingly low 46 percent to 43 percent lead over Bush in a trial heat that also included Ralph Nader (5 percent). A poll conducted in early April by Fairleigh Dickinson University also depicted a close election, with Bush leading Kerry 48 percent to 44 percent (Ralph Nader again captured 5 percent of the vote).
Yet, a closer look at the facts reveals a New Jersey -- which Al Gore won by 16 points in 2000 -- almost certainly destined to fall to the Democrat.
To begin with, a number of other polls have shown Kerry ahead of Bush. In early April the Newark Star-Ledger found that, counting leaners, 49 percent of registered voters supported Kerry, while 40 percent supported Bush. Then in late April, a Rasmussen Report poll showed Kerry with a double-digit lead over Bush, 51 percent to 39 percent.
More importantly, however, the New-Jersey-as-battleground hype ignores the fact that, in 2000, while Gore ultimately crushed Bush, early polls 2000 depicted a close race. In early May of that year, American Research Group found Gore receiving 45 percent, Bush 44 percent, and 11 percent undecided. In June 2000, a Quinnipiac poll had Gore at 41 percent, Bush 37 percent, and Nader 7 percent. That same month Mason-Dixon Polling & Research released a poll that measured Gore's support at 42 percent, Bush's at 40 percent, and Nader's at 4 percent, and a Gannett New Jersey Poll suggested a Bush victory with the Republican out dueling Gore 35 percent to 34 percent (29 percent were undecided).
Then, in August 2000, Gannet measured Bush's lead at 8 percent, before the numbers miraculously shifted in the middle of month giving Gore a 10 percent lead.
Simply stated, the early polls out of New Jersey have not proven to be accurate forecasts of the November vote. Rather, they have proven to be entirely unreliable. (This holds for non-presidential elections also. For example, in 1996, a Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll administered just days before the election depicted a dead heat between the Republican candidate Dick Zimmer and the Democratic candidate Bob Torricelli at 41 percent and 42 percent, respectively. But, when the votes were tallied on Election Day, Torricelli defeated Zimmer by a ten-point margin, 53 percent to 43 percent.)

DavidNYC has more on this at the Swing State Project:

Recently, there's been some hand-wringing about the closeness of some trial-heat polls in NJ. I maintained that Jersey is not a swing state, and I still do. Chris, writing over at MyDD, actually crunches the numbers and comes to the same conclusion.
Looking at the neglected step-child of polling stats - approval/disapproval ratings - Chris observes that Bush is strongly disliked. His only shot in NJ is to pump up Kerry's disapproval rating, but given the Bush campaign's current financial straits, it seems unlikely that they can afford to stay on the air in NJ. And hence, NJ is going to stay in our hands.

In the meantime, Ruy Teixeira at Donkey Rising has some cautionary comments for some annoying Democrats:

...now that Kerry seems to have taken a small lead in the horse race and now that the media have finally aborbed the fundamental fact that Bush is doing poorly, not well, in comparison to previous incumbent presidents, perhaps it's time to strike a few cautionary notes. After all, the election is still over five months away, the lead may change hands again several times, and Kerry's position, while strong, is hardly unassailable.
A first cautionary note worth paying attention to is provided by Matthew Yglesias in an article on the The American Prospect website. As Yglesias rightly points out, the elections about which we have relevant polling data only go back to 1948, which is a mighty small dataset. Hence, just as caution was well-advised when it appeared by historical standards that Bush would win, so is caution well-advised now when it appears that, by those standards, he is likely to lose. Moreover, as Yglesias points out, if you expand the number of cases under consideration by including elections where a sitting vice president runs to succeed an incumbent president (1960, 1988, 2000) as sort of quasi-incumbent elections, the historical picture looks a little cloudier.
Personally, I still think Bush is in a great deal of trouble. But we should be cautious about relying too much on the historical record in assessing his likelihood of losing.
Another cautionary note is struck by Terence Samuel, also on the Prospect website. His article, "Chicken Littles Recant", points out how quickly Democrats tend to go from being more depressed than they should be by political trends (oh no, Kerry's only running even with Bush; he should be ahead by 10 points; disaster looms!!) to being excessively optimistic (Kerry's ahead, Bush is sinking fast--Kerry's going to win by a landslide!!)
As he points out:
This is an up moment, but it was only a few weeks ago that some influential but unnamed Democrats were wringing their hands on the front page of The New York Times about how Kerry was blowing their big opportunity to win back the White House.
Let's try to remember this and not get similarly silly the next time the polls and news cycle go south for Kerry.
Finally, Josh Marshall cautions us not to conclude from the current good news that now is the time for Kerry to ratchet up his aggressiveness and take center stage away from the president. As he puts it:
....partisan polarization will intensify in the coming months. And that will help the president in many ways, getting some of the attention off him and on to Kerry. But a judgment about the president like the [negative] one I've described above, once made, can be hard to unmake. And for the moment, with so many of the president's actions delivering abysmal dividends to the nation he's led, that judgment is being made against the president. So, for the moment, I'm not sure having Kerry give Bush center stage is such a bad thing.
Of course, that doesn't really tell us when Kerry should turn up the heat. But it's a reasonable point that we should not necessarily assume that a bit of good news means that time is now.

5/7/04 <link>
Swing States
I recently discovered the Swing State Project (SSP for short, hereafter)- an interesting site analyzing the political trends in swing states. 

The methodology of the site's owner, DavidNYC, is described in brief here:

Any state where the margin between (Gore + Nader) - (Bush + Buchanan) was ±10% in 2000 is considered a swing state for the purposes of this project.

The 10% margin seems to me to be a bit high. However, DavidNYC also recently provided a link to the swing state assumptions made by others - a nice compilation and reference.

Different organizations count up their lists of swing states differently. Luke Francl tells us who's counting what:

Swing states are those states that people believe the 2004 election will turn on. They are states that were close in the last election. But which states are those? And which states are each campaign and the outside groups focusing on? The following is a list of swing states organized by group, based on their websites and TV advertising. For a brief introduction to the swing states, read this Washington Post story.

Key Findings: There are 17 states (ignoring grassroots efforts) that all groups agree will be key battlegrounds in the 2004 election. Kerry and liberal 527 coalition America Votes are focusing on the same core states, but Kerry just moved into Colorado and Louisiana, which are thought to be safe Republican states. Bush is advertising in Tennessee, where neither Kerry nor America Votes are focused.

Kerry (17 states, plus 2): Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Added recently: Colorado, Louisiana.

Bush (18 states, plus 2): Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Added recently: Colorado, Louisiana. [Added in response to Kerry. - David]

America Votes 527 (17 states): Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Driving Votes (16 states): Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Note: Driving Votes is ignoring Washington and Maine while adding Tennessee. I am not counting them as a major group as it is a completely grassroots effort not affiliated with America Votes.

Swing State Project (21 states — see methodology): Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine (2nd CD), Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

[picture not shown]

The Bush campaign's list comes closest to mine. My only true outlier state is Virginia. As I've said before, I think this state is heading our way, and if the GOP isn't careful (let's hope they're not), they're going to have a big problem the day VA turns blue. Interestingly, by the way, there are several states that had wider margins than VA but that are still considered "battlegrounds." (Such as WA, MI and LA.)

Talking of swing states, both DavidNYC and Ruy Teixeira point out that Kerry is still leading or matching Bush in the swing states - which now appear to have a new name "Purple States".

UPDATE: DavidNYC also responds to a Washington Post article by the WaPo/ABC Poll Editors which makes the same mistake that it criticizes.

Richard Morin & Gary Langer, polling directors for the WaPo and ABC News, respectively, make the argument on the WaPo op-ed page that the list of swing states people are looking at won't necessarily be the close, deciding states on election day. Well, of course not: Some will and some won't. In asserting this claim, they mostly cite a bunch of historical evidence about close states in one year not always being close the following presidential election.
That's great - but so what? What matters are whether the states which were close last time still look close this time, and whether any states that weren't close last time look surprisingly close this time. And on that front, they produce some pretty thin evidence. One Wisconsin poll had Bush ahead by 12 points. So it's no longer a battleground, then? Wrong - the very next poll showed Kerry up by 8. New Jersey is "neck-and-neck," they say? Yeah - in precisely one poll. Two more recent polls showed Kerry up by 12 and 6 points.
I don't mean to disparage the idea of looking at past voting trends - obviously, these matter a great deal. But unless you can show me that an actual state we're calling "swing" really isn't, or a state we're calling "safe" really isn't - in the here-and-now - then it makes sense to stick with this list. And the 17 or so main swing states have polled consistently closely for some time.
The second half of the op-ed reads like a memo to the media: "Please don't regard this as just a horserace to 270 electoral votes and cover the issues, too." The problem is that the electoral college just isn't complicit here. Even if we got rid of it, the media would still treat this as a horserace - just as they do every election. The only real difference would be that national polls would be all-important, and campaign activity (and political coverage) would focus on major population centers. So the media ought to blame itself for shoddy coverage, not the electoral college.

4/29/04 <link>
The candidates and religion/God
Dwight Meredith at Wampum, as usual, has a thoughtful and highly relevant post that reflects the pretty lackadaisically poor coverage of religion and God (in the context of Kerry and Bush) by the mainstream media.

I do not find efforts to explore the ways that a candidate’s religious faith informs (or fails to inform) his or her public policy positions to be inappropriate.
In the run up to the Iraq war, the National Council of Churches prepared and ran an ad that featured a Methodist Bishop. The ad has been described as follows:

In the latest ad, actress Janeane Garofalo says she keeps wondering: Does the United States have the right to invade "a country that's done nothing to us?' "
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, the chief ecumenical officer of the United Methodist Church, answers: "No nation under God has that right. It violates international law, it violates God's law and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Iraq hasn't wronged us. War will only create more terrorists and a more dangerous world for our children."
The choice of a Methodist Bishop to deliver that message was quite pointed as President Bush is, of course, a Methodist.
I find nothing inappropriate about that ad. I do find it inappropriate that some networks and local stations refused to sell time to show the ad “citing the controversial content.”
Similarly, I find nothing inappropriate about the media or partisans raising the issue of how John Kerry’s Catholicism affects his public policy positions. My concern is that the debate is too narrow, not too broad. In particular, it seems to me that the efforts to explore the subject have too often focused on Democratic politicians, the Catholic faith and the issue of abortion.
Kevin T. Keith at Lean Left links to this Washington Post story in which some question why the debate is solely about abortion:
A question has been gnawing at Frank A. McNeirney since he read that some Roman Catholic bishops want to deny Communion to Catholic politicians, such as Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, whose public positions are at odds with church doctrine.
Does this only apply to abortion?" asked McNeirney, 67, of Bethesda. "What about the death penalty?"
Expanding the debate to include issues other than abortion seems like a good idea.
Atrios, in a series of posts entitled Gonzo Journalism, suggests the debate be broadened to include Republican Catholic politicians. Atrios suggests some questions for Governor George Pataki and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, both pro-choice Catholic Republicans:
1) Is it the Governor's position that pro-Choice politicians should not be allowed to take communion?
2) Does the governor himself take communion when he attends church?
3) Does the governor attend church regularly? Did he attend church yesterday? Did he take communion?
Atrios also wants to expand the debate to other issues by asking Catholic Republicans such as Senator Rick Santorum about their position on contraception:
Call the offices of Rick Santorum and ask them what the Senator's position on the birth control pill is. Does he think it should be legal to prescribe it? What about condoms? Vasectomies?
I find those efforts to explore the ways in which the Catholic faith affects politician’s thinking on a variety of public policy issues to be completely appropriate. I do not think that the exploration should be limited to politicians who happen to be Catholic.
President Bush has long used code words to signal to evangelical fundamentalists that he is one of them. I think that it would be useful and informative to ask Mr. Bush directly about his beliefs. For instance, I think that asking “Mr. President, do you believe that the earth is closer to 6,000 years old or billions of years old?” might elicit an interesting answer. Similarly as a belief that Armageddon is nigh could effect one’s thinking about a whole host of public policy issues ranging from environmental policy to 401k’s, asking President Bush directly about his beliefs on the subject is appropriate.
As noted above, Mr. Bush is a Methodist. The Methodist Church, like the Catholic Church, has taken positions on a whole host of issues that are related to public policy. Some of those positions seem to be at odds with the public policy positions taken by the Bush administration. It would be appropriate to ask Mr. Bush if and how he reconciles his public policy positions with his Methodist faith.
For instance, the Methodist Church teaches that:
We claim all economic systems to be under the judgment of God no less than other facets of the created order. Therefore, we recognize the responsibility of governments to develop and implement sound fiscal and monetary policies…
How does Mr. Bush square that teaching with his polices that have produced record deficits?
The Methodist Church:
We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. We further support efforts to revise tax structures and to eliminate governmental support programs that now benefit the wealthy at the expense of other persons.
Did Mr. Bush consider that position when advocating his tax cuts?
The Methodist Church rejects “the permanent replacement of a worker who engages in a lawful strike.” Does President Bush agree?
The Methodist Church believes that:
Every person has the right to a job at a living wage. Where the private sector cannot or does not provide jobs for all who seek and need them, it is the responsibility of government to provide for the creation of such jobs.
Does President Bush’s accept the Church's position on that issue?
It is Republican doctrine that corporations exist solely to promote shareholder value. The Methodist Church disagrees:
Corporations are responsible not only to their stockholders, but also to other stakeholders: their workers, suppliers, vendors, customers, the communities in which they do business, and for the earth, which supports them.

Does President Bush accept or reject Methodist teachings on that subject?
The Bush administration is widely seen as the most secretive at least since Nixon. How does President Bush square that penchant for secrecy with the teachings of the church that “citizens of all countries should have access to all essential information regarding their government and its policies.”
There are many other examples such as school prayer, war, the role of the United Nations and others in which it would be helpful to know how Mr. Bush’s religious beliefs effect his public policy positions.
We should expand, not narrow, the debate over how religious beliefs shape candidate’s public policy positions. The debate should include Republicans as well as Democrats, Protestants (and Jews, and Muslims and others) as well as Catholics and a whole variety of issues instead of a single focus on abortion.
I think that such a debate would be healthy and informative.

4/24/04 <link>
The smearing of John Kerry's war record
With random and not-so-random frauds being allowed by the media to falsely smear Kerry these last few days, it is worth reviewing some of the facts.

Kevin Drum (Washington Monthly):

BUSH vs. KERRY....I have been goaded into writing another post about George Bush's National Guard service. Via email, LT Smash objects to my post this morning, saying my arguments "ring just a bit hollow" given my obsession with GWB's service record earlier this year. Meanwhile, Bryan Keefer at The Campaign Desk wonders why no one is writing about the National Guard story anymore. "Why, exactly, did the media drop the matter?" he asks.
Addressing these questions is an ugly job, I suppose, but someone has to do it. Conveniently, though, I can address them both in a single post.
First, John Kerry. He volunteered for duty in Vietnam; he won a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts; he displayed conspicuous bravery under fire; he served his country honorably in combat; and he left the Navy when his term of enlistment was up.
Is there any reason to suspect any problem with his service record? No. Absolutely none, and he's busily releasing his military records on his website to prove it.
But how about George Bush? Is it fair to suspect problems with his service record just because there are gaps in his military file? In a word, yes, and not because of gaps in his files. We have his files, and it's those very files that raise questions. Let's review:

That's a considerable amount of documentary evidence to arouse legitimate suspicion about Bush's record. But there's more: the "complete release" of documents from the White House in February seemed to be missing some records.
Where was his final Officer Efficiency Report? His pay stubs? The Flight Inquiry Board report after he was grounded for missing his physical? Even Albert Lloyd, who helped the Bush campaign make sense of his records during the 2000 election, expressed suspicion about the lack of original documentation in the file, which would have placed Bush's whereabouts with more precision.
So: suspicion about Bush's service record really is legitimate because there's plenty of good reason to be suspicious about it. That's what makes Bush's case different from Kerry's...

Tom Lang at the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk politely reveals the fact that the Washington Times' coverage of Kerry is as usual, a fraud (not to mention how much of the mainstream media continues to get their facts wrong):

 How many ways can the press distort the picture painted by John Kerry's military service records? Yesterday, we hoped we had nipped this one in the bud with our report on the press's consistent failure to track down just what the U.S. Navy's policy was for awarding Purple Hearts and for reassigning troopers in Vietnam who received three Purple Hearts.
Alas, today, the Washington Times' fatally-wounded coverage of Kerry's newly-released service records makes yesterday's various media bloopers look like journalism at its finest.
In the fourth paragraph of Charles Hurt's Times report, we get our first hint of who Hurt is going to rely on to build a case that Kerry's military record is somehow flawed. Hurt quotes one Mel Howell, a retired Navy officer who flew helicopters in Vietnam, but who apparently never served with Kerry, as saying, "Most of us came away with all kinds of scratches like the ones Kerry got but never accepted Purple Hearts for them."
As Lt. Mike Kafka, a U.S. Navy spokesman, told us yesterday, in line with official U.S. Navy documentation, wounded combatants neither nominate nor award themselves Purple Hearts. The Purple Heart is awarded only after a commander determines that a soldier or sailor has incurred a wound inflicted by the enemy and forwards a recommendation to his superiors.
One paragraph later, Hurt errs more explicitly, writing that it was the award of his third Purple Heart on March 13, 1969, "that let Mr. Kerry request a transfer out of Vietnam and into a desk job eight months before his tour expired." Again, as we noted yesterday, Navy regulations at the time specified that any trooper wounded three times be reassigned outside of Vietnam (soldiers, including Kerry, did get to request specific new assignments). Such a reassignment could be stopped only by a soldier's request.
Next, Hurt turns to one Charles Kaufman, who Hurt describes as a retired Air Force captain now living in Germany "whose job once was to submit military award requests" to analyze a discrepancy in Kerry's war records. (The Personnel Casualty Report (PDF) on Kerry from March 13, 1969 does not correspond in every particular with the injuries described in a Bronze Star citation (PDF) that Kerry was awarded for action that day.) Nowhere does Hurt note that Kaufman served in the Air Force, while Kerry served in the U.S. Navy. Nor did they ever serve together. He does note, however, that Kaufman declares of Kerry's wounds, "I don't want to say it's a lie, but it isn't true," and "his Bronze Star medal citation appears to be based on an injury he did not receive."
According to Lt. Kafka, the U.S. Navy spokesman, the Bronze Star is awarded for bravery, independent of any wounds a soldier may or may not suffer in battle.
Hurt then moves on to veterans who "say [Kerry's] record is too good to be true." One veteran, Ray Waller, is identified as "a combat medic in the Marines" who "was responsible for determining whether injuries warranted Purple Hearts." Waller tells Hurt he doesn't "remember anybody getting three Purple Hearts and leaving [Vietnam], even within six or eight months" of service. He adds, "if they did, it was very, very rare."
However, as noted above, Navy medics neither award Purple Hearts nor recommend others for a Purple Heart. Commanders do that based on, as US Navy guidelines put it, confirmation of medical treatment by "the doctor that provides medical care."
The expansive Waller goes on to tell Hurt that he had "never heard of" a shrapnel injury so minor that it did not require a tetanus shot and time off which had led to a Purple Heart. As Lt. Kafka notes, however, the written "Purple Heart Criteria for the U.S. Navy" does not list either a tetanus shot or time off due to injury as a requirement for receiving a Purple Heart.
Finally -- having apparently run out of sources who weren't there, or were there at a different time, or were in another branch of service -- Hurt winds up his piece by launching a trial balloon of speculation attributed to no one at all:

One possible reason why Mr. Kerry racked up so many battle awards in such a short period of time might be the command structure. Because awards are generally recommended by superiors, Mr. Kerry's bosses would have relied on accounts of the action from Mr. Kerry and his underling crew mates.
And because injuries warranting Purple Hearts are verified by medics -- or corpsmen -- it would have been a soldier inferior to Mr. Kerry who was in charge of determining the seriousness of his injuries.

Got that? It was up to corpsmen reporting to Kerry to determine if the boss deserved a medal. In a way, that's true, in that a wounded officer is going to be treated by a medic. But no one thinks that calls into question every Purple Heart ever awarded to such officers.
In short, little in Hurt's rambling, accusatory article is remotely on the mark, other than his description of the discrepancy between Kerry's Personnel Casualty Report from March 13, 1969 and the Bronze Star citation issued for Kerry's actions that day. Even for a reporter in a hurry, it almost takes an extra effort to get this many things wrong-- but Hurt seems to have pulled it off.
If Campaign Desk ever gets around to awarding its own commendations, Hurt is a prime candidate for our tinfoil star.

Via Matthew Yglesias at TAPPED, we find this commentary by Phil Carter, who has done a somewhat detailed comparison of Bush's and Kerry's records:

At the risk of being labeled a partisan hack, I decided to compare the evaluation reports from the military records of President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry. Bottom line up front: I found significant differences between the character of the two sets of documents. I feel somewhat qualified to judge these reports, having been a junior military officer subject to similar evaluation schemes.
...[snip to the conclusion]...
Analysis: In summary, the evaluations of John Kerry clearly stand over those of George Bush. However, I think much of the disparity owes to the difference between the two men's military service. Had Pres. Bush served more time on active duty, or in combat, we would have a more complete record on which to judge his service as a junior military officer. A lot of people don't think this service matters, but I do. It reveals important details of these individual's character at an important moment in their lives. And as I wrote in the Chicago Tribune, it matters for other reasons too:

President Bush's 30-year-old service record from the Air National Guard is relevant because it shows us something about his willingness to share the same hardships as the soldiers he now commands today from the White House. The issue has never been whether he was guilty of desertion or being AWOL--two slanderous charges leveled without regard for the facts [eRiposte note: I have seen no evidence for the former charge, but clearly there IS evidence for the latter]. The real issue has always been the character of his service, and whether it was good enough to set the example for America's 1.4 million citizens in uniform.
* * *
... these issues boil down to the president's willingness and ability to set the example for the military he now leads as commander in chief. Cumulatively, questions about then-Lt. Bush's drill attendance, evaluation reports, flight status and early discharge add up to questions about the character of his service in the National Guard. Bush did receive an honorable discharge, but such a document is the lowest common denominator of military performance--it takes a lot of bad behavior to earn anything other than an honorable discharge. The American public deserves to know the full truth about the president's military record. It's relevant to his character, and it's relevant to whether he's fit to lead today's military by example.
The great thing about our system is that it lets you be the judge of these men when you vote in November. Every American will come to his or her own conclusion on this issue, and will decide which man is better fit to serve as America's commander-in-chief. For what it's worth, I still haven't made up my mind, and probably won't before November.
Update: Kevin Drum points us towards one key difference in the military records of each man, with respect to their desire for service overseas. (Nice job on the Photoshop and web design, too, by the way.)
For what it's worth, I think this reveals something quite striking about the sense of noblesse oblige within each man upon their graduation from Yale and entry into a life of privilege. Ironically, I see great parallels between the choice of young John Kerry and the choice of young George Herbert Walker Bush (aka Bush 41, the current president's father). Both men, with an eye on their future, made a choice to seek dangerous duty overseas in the service of their nation. I wish that more of America's elite graduating today would follow in these men's footsteps by serving their country in uniform, or in other ways such as the Foreign Service and Peace Corps. Service to country is a fundamental duty of citizenship, and it is one that I respect regardless of political affiliation.

Read Carter's entire post. It is very illuminating.

UPDATE 4/29/04:
Eric Alterman has these pertinent links to posts at Kos:

Confused about the president’s National Guard record?  Take a look at these:

  1. Deception by memo
  2. Personnel file problems
  3. The document dump

They should help clarify.

Also see this useful chart posted by Kicking Ass - comparing Kerry's and Bush's service record.

Not to mention, the excellent David Neiwert's reporting on his blog Orcinus here:

A reminder
As Republicans -- speciously -- try to raise questions about John Kerry's military record, it's probably worth pointing out that many serious questions remain about George W. Bush's military record -- some of them involving potentially criminal matters.
The big question, of course, that lingers is: Why did you skip that flight physical, Mr. Preznit?

He has more here and here (updated 6/27/04).

DailyKos has the last word on the "medals" flak.

UPDATE 8/4/04: Paul Lukasiak hits it out of the park with his incredibly detailed analysis of the Bush National Guard records. The conclusions are well known - AWOL at least and fraud among other things - but the analysis is worth reading.

4/23/04 <link> (UPDATED 4/29/04)
Does Bush's recent bump in the polls show that his position is getting better and that he is really ahead of Kerry? Not quite.
With two recent polls showing Bush jumping to a lead over Kerry in spite of bad news on Iraq and a lackluster Press Conference, we turn to the always insightful Ruy Teixeira at Donkey Rising to see what is happening:

The recent Gallup and ABC News/Washington Post polls have gotten a lot of Democrats worried about how well Bush is apparently doing. I've argued in the last couple of days that these worries are considerably exaggerated and that developments in the last six weeks fundamentally weaken Bush, whether or not some polls show him ahead in the horse race.
Still, I know many are worried that Bush's ads in the battleground states have worked and that, to be doing so well in general, he must be making serious progress in those contested states.
To which I say: wrong! The Annenberg election survey results I reviewed earlier showed that Kerry's favorabilty rating remained unchanged in the battleground states and that persuadable voters were uninclined to drink the Republican Kool-Aid about Kerry flip-flopping, believing Bush, more than Kerry, exhibited that behavior.
And now check out these just-released findings from the same ABC News poll that contributed to Democrats' anguish about Bush being ahead. According to data in The Hotline (I can't find any link yet on a public website, but I'm sure one will eventually appear), Kerry is ahead of Bush by 4 points in the battleground states (50-46). He's even ahead of Bush by 2 points in these states with Nader thrown into the mix and drawing a ridiculous 7 percent.
Note also that Bush's approval rating in the battleground states is 49 percent, 2 points under his national rating and that his approval rating on the economy in these states is just 41 percent, 3 points under his national rating.
Interestingly, if you look closely at recent Gallup poll results, there are also signs of poor recent Bush performance in battleground states (or, as they call them "purple states"). Their latest poll had Bush ahead overall among likely voters by 5 points. But he is only tied with Kerry in the purple states. Moreover, that represents a 6 point decline for Bush in the purple states compared to Gallup's March 26-28 survey.
One must be cautious about these data, of course, because of sample size and other problems (though note that the ABC News battleground states sample is probably 300 or so, which is a pretty decent size). But they do lead me to a hypothesis about Bush's recent improved performance in trial heat questions. Instead of getting more votes where he needs them--in the battleground states--his posturing is mostly driving up his support in the hardcore red states, where he doesn't need them. If that's true, Democrats should definitely not be intimidated by recent poll results. Bush is preaching to the converted--which can make him look better in a national poll--but he's not winning many new converts where it counts.

He has more here.

Ryan Lizza, in this New York Times op-ed, also makes another point, worth remembering:

Mr. Bush's chief campaign strategist bragged that the president had defied the "pundits" with his strong position, while Democrats were crestfallen. If Mr. Kerry can't hold onto a lead during one of the worst stretches of the incumbent's presidency, they whispered, how can he defeat Mr. Bush when things get brighter for the president?
But Democrats should pause before they give up — and Republicans shouldn't celebrate quite yet. President Bush's vulnerabilities remain, even if they were not as apparent in this week's polls as they were in previous surveys; the question is whether Mr. Kerry can exploit them.
In none of the polls this week that purported to show the Bush surge does the president have majority support. Any politician running for re-election sweats when a poll shows him under 51 percent. Voters who say they are undecided almost always end up opposing the incumbent — they know him well, and if they were going to vote for him, they would have already decided. Thus support for Mr. Bush should be seen more as a ceiling, while support for Mr. Kerry, the lesser-known challenger, is more like a floor.
The other numbers that keep presidents awake at night are the so-called "right direction/wrong track" figures, which ask voters about the general direction of the country and often serve as a leading indicator for a politician's overall health. Here, the news must be worrying to the White House. Even as Mr. Bush's numbers against Mr. Kerry and his job approval rating have risen slightly, the percentage of Americans who believe that "things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track" has climbed to 57 percent from 46 percent last April.
Growing concern about Mr. Bush's Iraq policies is also evident. According to one poll, 54 percent of voters disapprove of the way Mr. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, and a record 65 percent believe the level of American casualties in Iraq is "unacceptable."
Why, then, did these same polls record a small increase for Mr. Bush over Mr. Kerry? Mr. Bush's $50 million ad campaign probably had a small impact, as did Americans' tendency to rally to his side during a particularly trying period of the war.

Via Democrats.com, here are some more comments from Dick Morris (a person with a reputation for lying - but I am including his comments since John Zogby seems to concur with these numbers) reproduced at Zogby:

One of the (very few) immutable laws of politics is that the undecided vote almost always goes against the incumbent. Consider the past seven presidential elections in which an incumbent ran (1964, '72, '76, '80, '84, '92, and '96) - that is, look at the final vote versus the last Gallup or Harris polls. My analysis shows that the challengers (Goldwater, McGovern, Carter, Reagan, Mondale, Perot, Clinton, and Dole) got 85 percent of the undecided vote. Even incumbents who won got only 15 percent of those who reported that they were undecided in the final polls.
So . . . when Bush and Kerry are tied, the challenger really has the upper hand.
More bad news for Bush: Democrats usually grow 2-3 points right before Election Day as downscale voters who have not paid much attention to the election, suddenly tune in and "come home" to their traditional Democratic Party moorings. Remember, virtually every poll (except Zogby) showed Bush slightly ahead of Al Gore as the 2000 election approached - yet Gore outpolled Bush by 500,000 votes.
I had thought - and hoped - that Bush could open up a big lead in the two months after Kerry locked up the Democratic nomination. After all, Kerry is, in fact, way too liberal for the average American voter. But Bush's negative ads - though good, plentiful, and on target - lost their impact in April.

Additionally, as I've noted on eRiposte before, if you look at the Gore vs. Bush Jr. polling trends in the year 2000, you will notice that Bush was ahead of Gore for the bulk of that year by an average of about 5% or so - and yet Gore won in the end.

Josh Marshall of Talkingpointsmemo writes what I suspected (in bold below - my emphasis), in this New York Times op-ed:

...The actual shift in the numbers was small — only a matter of a few percentage points, just about the margin of error in the polls. And it might be explained by $50 million worth of President Bush's TV ads or Mr. Kerry's relative absence from the nightly news. But the new numbers do suggest a paradoxical question: could escalating national security crises be bolstering the president's support — even if they are crises of his own making?
Historical precedents are inconclusive. In terms of public opinion, bad news from overseas isn't the same as bad tidings about the economy. Crises abroad almost always rally the country around the commander in chief, providing at least a short-term bump in the polls. What's more, an environment in which national security is of heightened concern to voters has historically tended to help Republicans.
But the war in Iraq is unique. Rarely if ever have a foreign policy and a president's fate been so clearly linked. Former commanders in chief may have faced reverses in prosecuting the cold war — John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs, for example, or Ronald Reagan at Reykjavik. And Vietnam, of course, ended the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.
But these presidents did not choose or create these conflicts. In contrast, America wouldn't be in Iraq today had President Bush not chosen to put us there.
If Americans decide that Iraq is a disaster, why do they not see him as the cause of the problem? Why has support for the president bounced back (up four points in one poll) even as approval of his handling of Iraq has fallen (down three points in the same poll)?
The pattern may not hold, and voters tend to react differently to the outbreak of a crisis than to sustained bad news. Still, there is a theory that might explain these apparently contradictory poll results. In wars abroad, Americans don't want their presidents to fail.
In part that's because a failure for the president is a failure for the nation.
Indeed, the logic may apply with more force in cases like Iraq, in which the president has cast the nation on what is essentially a war of choice. To admit that the president blew it is to say the same of the public that followed him into the conflict. And like its leaders, the public not only doesn't like admitting it was wrong, but it will go to great lengths to avoid doing so.
The danger for President Bush is clear: the public's patience is not unlimited, and eventual failure in Iraq will almost certainly sink his candidacy. (Sometimes the conventional wisdom is actually right.)...

Of course Ruy Teixeira's latest post suggests the last point above perhaps has some merit.

I've been arguing lately that, while the horse race may have been dancing around a bit, the most politically salient change has been the huge doubts that have been raised about Bush's approach to Iraq in particular and to the war on terror in general. Here are some findings from Ipsos-AP that suggest just how serious this damage has been.
First, consider the question of whether the Iraq war was a mistake. You know when more people than not starting thinking a war was a mistake (remember Vietnam!), the incumbent administration is in real trouble. And Ipsos now has the first example of this. They asked the question: "All in all, thinking about how things have gone in Iraq since the United States went to war there in March 2003, do you think the Bush administration made the right decision in going to war in Iraq or made a mistake in going to war in Iraq?" The response: 49 percent mistake/48 percent right decision. When Ipsos asked the same question four months ago, however, they got a lopsidedly positive reply: 67 percent right decision/29 percent mistake. Quite a change.
Note that this question specifically mentions "the Bush administration"; they also asked the same question with "United States" substituted for Bush administration. That question returns a more positive reply: 57 percent right decision/40 percent mistake. Interesting how the specific mention of the Bush administration apparently moves people toward the "mistake" judgement.
Now consider whether the war with Iraq has increased or decreased the threat of terrorism. That one's been headed south for a while, but these are most negative findings I've seen yet. First, the poll finds that 47 percent say the military action in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism in the world, compared to just 25 percent who say it's decreased that threat--almost 2:1 (25 percent say there's been no effect). Four months ago, the increased terrorism and decreased terrorism camps were exactly equal in size (38/38).
But here's the real mind-blower. Given a straight-up choice between whether "in the long term.....there will be more or less terrorism in the United States because the U.S. went to war in Iraq?", the public believes, by 54 percent to 37 percent, that the war will produce more, not less, terrrorism in our country.

In sum, Bush has little to be happy about given the $40M  or so that he has spent already attacking Kerry. However, it is not going to be easy for Kerry and Kerry needs to very quickly define himself clearly, strongly and succinctly to the voting public.

3/10/04 <link>
George W. Bush's flip-flops, broken promises, waffling
With the Bush campaign, laughably, accusing Senator Kerry of being a flip-flopper, it is only appropriate that we examine Bush's record. So, we did - and we are continuing to do so. So far there are 43 instances of Bush flip-flopping or waffling or breaking a promise (a promise made is a promise (un) kept). Take a look!

2/19/04 <link>
What does history say about Bush's chances? One perspective from Gallup (via Billmon)
Billmon provides a link to the latest Gallup Poll results showing how both Kerry and Edwards would easily beat Bush as per the opinion poll if the election were held today. He also provides a link to Gallup's analysis of the polling to-date. Here are some of Gallup's comments (with bold text being my emphasis):

Gallup's most recent trial heat of presidential preferences, from a Jan. 29-Feb. 1 poll, shows President George W. Bush trailing Massachusetts senator and Democratic front-runner John Kerry by a 53% to 46% margin among likely voters. A review of historical trial-heat data from past elections shows it is rare for an incumbent president to be trailing at this stage in a campaign. At the same time, in the eight elections analyzed here, there have been campaigns in which the incumbent led in February but was defeated for re-election in November. As such, it is hard to draw any inferences as to what Bush's current standing means for his re-election prospects.
If history is any guide, Bush's current deficit in the trial-heat polls suggests that he could be in for a tough re-election fight. Four incumbent presidents -- Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Reagan in 1984, and Clinton in 1996 -- never trailed their opponents in the years of their re-election bids, and all four went on to easy re-election victories.

2/18/04 <link> (UPDATED 2/24/04)
A Return to Grassroots?
Ben Chandler defeated Alice Kerr yesterday in the Kentucky House race - a special election for a seat vacated by now-Gov. Ernie Fletcher. This win is significant for different reasons - key among them being the facts that this is the first Democrat to win a GOP-held seat in a special election since 1991 and that Chandler was helped at least partially by the money he raised through left-leaning blogs on the internet. READ MORE...

2/15/04 <link>
Fakery, lies, bias, spin, B.S., and unsubstantiated rumors propagated by mainstream and right-wing/conservative media against John Kerry
An eRiposte feature, that has been updated today (and will continue to be updated).

2/14/04 <link> (UPDATED 2/27/04)
John Kerry and his prospects/electability in Nov 2004 - some early commentary
I thought it might be nice to provide some links to recent commentary by (often) Democrat-friendly and respected columnists on John Kerry, who is one of my favorites, and also happens to be the current front-runner in the Democratic primaries.

Ryan Lizza writes in The New Republic (TNR) about how John Kerry became the front-runner, AGAIN

Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon.com about how John Kerry and his impressive credentials were once considered a threat by, no less than, Richard Nixon -- and on how Nixon attempted, unsuccessfully, to smear him. Clay Risen writes in TNR about how Kerry showed in the early nineties that he could be tough even to campaign contributors, dispelling the "panderer" label some critics are trying to attach to him. This Washington Post editorial (via Atrios and Yasonyacky) is a forceful response on claims that Kerry is beholden to lobbyists (arising in part from a WP article) - which have made it to a misleading Bush ad. political analyst Ruy Teixeira writes in Salon.com on how he thinks Kerry could beat Bush. Joe Conason (Salon.com) has some advice for Kerry - and more here - well worth it.

On the other hand, Peter Beinart writes in TNR asking whether John Kerry is really electable with respect to Bush or not. Jonathan Chait writes in TNR, questioning whether Kerry's electability has really been tested and doubts that he can win in the South in November. Michael Grunwald writes in TNR about parts of Kerry's history that may come back to haunt him, thanks to Karl Rove.  

The GOP's stand-in "media critic" at the Washington Post, conflict-of-interest-prone Howard Kurtz has a column covering the columnists/reporters who are eating crow over their premature predictions of the death of Kerry's campaign. What I also found worth highlighting is the kind of Kerry dislike/hate that many in the Press seem to have, seemingly like their hatred of Al Gore (leading to massive fakery against Gore by the media in Election 2000).

..."Part of it is the boys on the bus and the concept of pack journalism," said Tobe Berkovitz, associate dean of Boston University's College of Communication. "The press became enchanted with the Internet as a political tool and got carried away with that."

When Kerry, the media's original front runner, fired his campaign manager in November, his candidacy was described as "troubled" (The Post); "faltering" (USA Today); "in disarray" (Boston Globe); and "struggling to convince campaign donors and supporters that he has more than a fleeting shot at the party's nomination" (Los Angeles Times). When the senator appeared on "The Tonight Show" and was mocked by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, news organizations pounced on what they cast as the perfect metaphor.

Many journalists, particularly in his home state, "respect the guy but don't particularly care for him," Berkovitz said. "He comes across as aloof and arrogant." The feeling was sometimes mutual; before he got pink-slipped, campaign chief Jim Jordan called the Globe's coverage "distorted, insignificant, irrelevant and vindictive."...

UPDATE: Michael Crowley has an interesting piece in TNR in which he dissects how Kerry consistently won by defying caricatures of him as being a stiff who was out of touch with the working class - by taking recourse to his Vietnam service and with the help of Vietnam veterans.

1/4/04 <link>
The Democratic candidate's prospects for 2004 examined in light of Election 2000. Click here for our quick analysis.

4/29/03 <link>
The Emerging *Democratic* Majority? Or not?
Ruy Teixeira looks at the 2002 election data to say that there is still a case for an emerging Democratic majority, in spite of the 2002 election setback for the Democrats.  A snippet:

Last year, John Judis and I published a book entitled The Emerging Democratic Majority, which argued that a series of economic, demographic, and ideological changes was laying the basis for a new Democratic majority that would materialize by decade's end--not certainly, we argued, but very probably as long as the Democratic Party put forth decent political leadership to challenge the dominant, but dwindling, current Republican majority. Our book arrived in stores last September. Two months later, in the midterm elections, the Republicans surprised nearly everyone by winning control of the Senate and further solidifying their majority in the House, unifying Republican control of the federal government for only the second time in half a century. Needless to say, this wasn't my ideal outcome...evoked a fair amount of understandable ribbing and forced me to think hard about our thesis. So after the election, I pored over survey data, county-by-county voting returns, and a great deal of underlying demographic data and thought long and hard about what the data showed. And as a result, I've decided that ... we're still right!...

First, despite the Republican tsunami described by many media outlets, the actual electoral shift was quite mild. Though politically the election was a landmark, the underlying numbers suggest a continuing partisan balance. Democrats lost two seats in the Senate, six in the House, and gained three governorships. As nonpartisan analyst Charlie Cook has pointed out, "A swing of 94,000 votes out of 75,723,756 cast nationally would have resulted in the Democrats capturing control of the House and retaining a majority in the Senate on Nov. 5. If that had occurred, obituaries would have been written--inevitably and prematurely--about the presidency of George W. Bush. Instead, we are entertained by predictions that the Democratic Party, as we know it, may cease to exist."
Given the very evenness of partisan division in this country, even minor fluctuations in public sentiment can cause sudden lurches in political power. Indeed, the last election differed markedly from 1994, when huge Republican gains (52 House and nine Senate seats, 10 governorships) really did change the partisan balance dramatically..."

4/27/03 <link>
Can Bush II escape Bush I's destiny? Jim Puzzanghera seems to think it is quite possible
Puzzanghera says, among other things:
Despite strong approval ratings, the president indeed faces difficulties in his quest for a second term. Getting the U.S. economy moving again is just one challenge on a long list that also includes defusing the potentially explosive nuclear standoff with North Korea.
But this Bush is no George H.W. And while the president's re-election is hardly assured, he enters the campaign in a much stronger position than his father did.
Consider these differences:
• This President Bush is beloved by his party's conservative base. His father, on the other hand, was so disliked by that same group that, as an incumbent, he faced an unusual primary challenge from conservative commentator Pat Buchanan and lost some disaffected conservatives to Reform Party candidate Ross Perot in the general election.
• Because of Sept. 11, 2001, and the threat of more terrorist attacks, George W. Bush is conducting a true wartime presidency that helps elicit strong support from many Americans and allows him to appeal to voters' patriotism. Bush's father also led the United States through a major military campaign, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, but that threat was much different and the war largely disappeared as an issue in the months after the fighting stopped.
• The younger Bush has a down-to-earth, straight-talking quality that appeals to many average Americans, as well as a great ability to connect with voters on the campaign trail. In all likelihood he will be the most charismatic candidate in the 2004 race, no matter who the Democratic nominee is. His father lacked those political and people skills, a significant shortcoming in his race with the folksy and engaging Bill Clinton.
• The president has continued to focus on the troubled economy while articulating a well-defined and consistent plan to revive it. Whether or not his tax cuts revive the economy, his opponents will have a hard time portraying him as unconcerned or criticizing him for failing to offer a coherent plan, as they did with his father.
``Right now you have a very slow-growth kind of anemic economy, you don't have a recession and you have a president who has a very clear plan about what to do with it,'' said Charles Black, an informal adviser to President Bush who also helped run his father's failed re-election bid. Even if the economy is not much better, Black said, ``The fact that his party base is sound, he's got a plan and is trying to fix the economy gives him a chance to get re-elected.''
In offering a huge tax-cut plan and trying to cash in on his postwar popularity to sell it to skeptical voters -- as he did in Ohio last week and will do in Santa Clara on Friday -- Bush shows that he learned much from the 1992 campaign. He is acutely aware that his father soared to an 89 percent approval rating immediately after Operation Desert Storm in 1991 only to lose re-election because of the widespread perception that he was not doing enough to fix the economy..."

3/17/03 <link>
Reports from the California Democratic Party (CDP) convention featuring Presidential hopefuls
Daily Kos has a few reports - Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV. Overall, as expected Howard Dean came out the swinging favorite, particularly because of his anti-Iraq-war stance. Daily Kos did feel Kerry was good, but the latter's speech was apparently compromised due to factors out of his control (audio problems). John Edwards apparently got booed for his strong pro-Iraq-war stance. Daily Kos reports an interesting conversation with Gray Davis' very capable tactician, who managed to get the Governor re-elected in spite of his toxic standing in California:
But how different is this state (and its "looney Dems") from the rest of the nation? Will an anti-war message truly mean danger for the Dems chances in 2004? No one was happier to advance that theme than Garry South, Gov. Gray Davis' brilliant tactician. Always eager to talk to the media, his words of caution were printed in myriad media outlets this weekend. Particularly, South was critical of Dean and his anti-war rhetoric: 
I don't think it's a winning message. Dems have to be careful of playing to the room and moving too far to the left.
While calling Dean a "credible candidate", South refused to name him to his list of viable candidates (Lieberman, Gephardt, Graham, Edwards and Kerry). His reasoning was predicated on Dean's fundraising abilities, and he might be right about the good' governor's achilles heel.
But ultimately, South was obsessed with the war. In his professional opinion (and one that cannot be easily dismissed), opposition to war will hurt Democrats nationally.
Perhaps. For every argument in support of South's assertions, there's another one that refutes it. Ultimately, we simply cannot know..."

Our view is simple. Howard Dean is correct in that this Iraq war is not justifiable. However, in our opinion, the Democrats will definitely lose in 2004 if they do not strongly take over the mantle of national security and foreign policy (see out two part piece on this post-Elections-2002). That means leaving a strong message to the folks out there that the opposition to the Iraq  war has nothing to do with being soft on terrorism, but the actual opposite - being very thoughtful and calculating about how terrorism will be dealt with. John Edwards or John Kerry may not be right on this topic, but that does not mean we will not consider them in 2004. 

3/5/03 <link>
Liberalism vs. Centrism - How the Democratic Candidates are trying to position themselves so far
Liberal Oasis has some interesting coverage on how the Democratic Presidential candidates are addressing the compartmentalization phrase "liberal" - from the media. Here is what they say:
Part of the mission of LiberalOasis is restoration. To rediscover ways to articulate liberal ideas and philosophy to all corners of America, and to take away the Right’s ability to use “liberal” as a catch-all slur. For the last few days, LiberalOasis had been pondering which presidential candidate would do the best job of realizing that vision, and checked out how some have handled queries about liberalism.

Sen. John Kerry, in the 11/10/02 Boston Globe, after being asked if he was a liberal, said:
On some things. I'm also a conservative on some things. I'm also maybe a Libertarian on a couple of things. Maybe I'm a Green on a few things.
I'm a practical, independent-minded person. I am a Democrat because I believe the Democratic Party fights for working people and fights for the little guy and fights to make opportunity more available to folks.
Politically wise perhaps, and not offensive, but not inspiring either.

While Kerry said he was everything, Sen. John Edwards, responding to a similar question on CNN’s Inside Politics last January, tried to say he was nothing:
I'm a mainstream North Carolinian. I think my views and my values represent the values of most people in this country.
I don't make ideological decisions about anything. I decide about what I think is in the best interest of the regular folks that I grew up with and have fought for all my life, and without regard to where it fits on some ideological spectrum.

It seemed for a little bit as if Gary Hart might be the only candidate willing to position him or herself as a liberal, when he told the NY Times Magazine:
The essential intellectual challenge is how to make liberalism relevant for our time. How do you make the principles of equality and justice and fairness work in a time when everyone's well off?
I struggle with that every day. In my darkest soul, I sometimes wonder if it takes an economic depression.
(Though as the reporter noted, “Hart: It Takes A Depression” is not much of slogan.)

Then Rep. Dennis Kucinich jumped in, openly running as a liberal:
I was told before I started it would be a cold and snowy day in Hell before a liberal Democrat made it back to the White House. Yet the moment I began my campaign last week, sure enough freezing temperatures and blizzard conditions hit from Iowa to Washington DC.
It is the sign we have all been waiting for. I tell you I am ready, so is this party and so is America.
But Kucinich has not yet displayed how he can expand the appeal of liberalism. Merely running as a liberal isn’t good enough.
And the fact that his “cold and snowy day” line implied that Hell is a swath between Iowa and DC, raises the question if he has the skills to do so.

Then this week, Former Gov. Howard Dean stepped up:
The press is all writing about Dean is the big liberal of the race… Well, if being a liberal is balancing the budget that's fine with me. And I'll bet it's fine with most Americans.
If being a liberal is joining Canada and Britain and France and Germany and Japan and Italy and Israel in having universal health insurance for all of its citizens, then you may call me what you want… I'm proud of it.
This is even more surprising, considering last month’s Salon.com report from Jake Tapper:
"Now why would you say that?" Dean bristles, citing his fiscal conservatism and his support for the death penalty. "What makes me a 'big liberal'?" he asks.
I say that I thought he might be arguably the most liberal of the five elected officials who are candidates…He ends up agreeing that calling him the most "un-Bush" candidate is a fair characterization. "I don't mind being characterized as 'liberal,'" he says. "I just don't happen to think it's true."

Since there is a shift in tone and (less so) in substance, some will call this a calculated move to appeal to the base. Maybe it is. But it seems more like Dean had an epiphany.

He appears to have a bold strategy in mind, one the LiberalOasis would love to see implemented. Instead of playing to the base for the primary, then running to the center for the general, Dean is doing both at the same time. That is the best way to re-energize liberalism, showing that it is not the opposite of centrism, but that it is part of the American center.

3/1/03 <link> (UPDATED continuously)
Democratic Presidential Candidate and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean
In the last week and more, we have been hearing some positive buzz about Mr. Dean and thought he was worth covering in our "inaugural" post on Election 2004.

We thought large portions of his speech on Foreign Policy at Drake University were right on the money. He laid out the pros and cons of a war with Iraq, challenged the need to go to war today, highlighted what needs to be done to tackle Al Qaeda and North Korea and preserve our national security, improve energy efficiency and reduce our dependence on oil - while not destroying friendships and relationships built over decades. We think his views in many respects coincide with our own.

His speech to the DNC was interesting in that he not only explicitly calls for the need to balance the budget but also asks why we need tax cuts at a time like this. Although there is a controversial statement on Conferederacy-supporting-Whites, the context of that is clear. "...Let me tell you something else I'm going to do. One of the things I thought was terrific about Bill Clinton was that when he became President in 1992, he said that his Cabinet would look like the rest of America -- and he did it. He did it. I want all of our institutions of higher learning, - our law schools, our medical schools, our best universities - to look like the rest of America. I thought that one of the most despicable moments of this President's Administration was three weeks ago when, on national prime time television, he used the word "quotas" seven times. The University of Michigan does not now have quotas, has never had quotas, and "quota" is a race-loaded word designed to appeal people's fears of losing their jobs. I intend to talk about race during this election in the South. The Republicans have been talking about it since 1968 in order to divide us, and I'm going to bring us together. Because you know what? White folks in the South who drive pick-up trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us because their kids don't have health insurance either, and their kids need better schools too. We're not done yet. Most of you know that six months before my last re-election I signed a bill into law that made Vermont the first state in American to guarantee equal rights to every person under the law - EVERY person under the law. That bill was called the Civil Unions bill. And it said that marriage is between a man and a woman, but same-sex couples are entitled to the exact same legal rights as I have - hospital visitation, insurance, and inheritance rights. All Americans are equal under the law in our state..."

In a more recent speech, he has stated he would link human rights and trade policy. We think that is a good goal, but we also realize how challenging a goal that is going to be.

Note: We recently participated in a Meetup.com meet for Howard Dean. Interestingly, the New York Times just covered how Dean is using the internet and getting the support of forums like Meetup.com.























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