Monday, August 02, 2004

Why I Think Kerry Will Win

As Eddie Izzard once said, in politics, it's "50% how you look, 40% how you sound, and 10% what you say." Regardless of what John Kerry said on Thursday night, he looked and sounded like a Commander-in-Chief. That might be enough to sway the two dozen cow-manure collecters in Ohio who will decide this thing. Those who claim that the election will be a referedum on Bush are missing the point; the majority of the country has already conducted that referendum and voted "No." The election day referendum will be on Kerry as a replacement.

The Boston convention confirmed the elevation of style over substance in modern American politics. It's a sad development, and I could have lots to say about it, but I'll leave it at this: the Bush campaign in 2000, and the Kerry campaign in 2004, as well as any national campaign in the foreseeable future, are the inevitable consequences of 16 years of governance by Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, who loved the cameras, who were loved by them in return, and parlayed that aptitude into two-term presidencies.

So again, why do I think Kerry will win? The polls immediately following the convention had decidedly odd results. A Newsweek poll, in which half of the responses were given before the Kerry speech, and half afterwards, registered a small bounce for Kerry, with the after-speech responses quite a bit more positive than before-speech responses. However, a Gallup poll in which all the respondents had been queried after the speech, registered no bounce whatsoever. Could it have been the shortest bounce in history, Ruy Texeira wonders.

Now consider the results of the non-horse race questions:
Also, just to deepen the mystery, other results from the Gallup poll suggest a good bounce for Kerry in almost all other respects. Compared to their pre-convention poll, Bush's approval rating went down and his disapproval rating went up. By 57-39, the public now agrees that Kerry "has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have" (up from 53/41) and by 52-43, the public now says they agree with Kerry on the issues that matter most to them (up from 49-42).

On who can best handle specific issues, Kerry's lead on the economy has gone from 8 to 11 points; on Iraq, he has gone from -5 to +2; on terrorism, from -18 to -12; on health care from +17 to +21; and on taxes from +2 to +3. Kerry has also regained the lead over Bush on who can manage the government effectively (+1); increased his lead from +8 to +15 on "cares about people like you"; reduced his deficit from -19 to -9 on who is a strong and decisive leader; took the lead over Bush on "is a person you admire" (+2); increased his lead on having an optimistic vision for the future from +3 to +11; took the lead over Bush on being honest and trustworthy (+5); and registered a large lead on "will unite the country, not divide it" (+13).

And how about this one: Kerry is now preferred over Bush, 51-46, as the candidate the public trusts more to handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief of the military. And he has a higher net rating than Bush on being capable (or not) of handling the commander-in-chief resonsibilities (+30 vs. +21).

Heck, Kerry even went up on having a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq, so that his net rating on having a plan (-14) is now actually a little bit better than Bush's (-16). Before the convention, Bush's net rating on this issue (-9) was a great deal better than Kerry's (-23).
As Teixeira says, it must have been a "very strange Saturday." You might recall that Karl Rove underling Matthew Dowd predicted a 15-point bounce for Kerry from the convention, which was quite obviously fanciful considering that 90% of the electorate has their minds firmly made up. It should be interesting to see the Bushies now try to spin the convention as a failure given the fact that it didn't produce the blatant high-balling results they claimed to be anticipating.

Anyway, it's Kerry's inroads on specific questions about his leadership abilities that give me confidence. You can't to bounce on a trampoline made of concrete, nor can you expect wild fluctuations in an electorate that has been producing sclerotic polling results for months. The point is that the sliver of voters who will determine the outcome of the election had been waiting to be sold on Kerry. After the convention and his acceptance speech, I think the sale has been made. Clearly the Bush campaign will do everything in its power to destroy him between now and November, and they may succeed. But for now, I remain "cautiously optimistic," as the saying goes.


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