A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Small Rubber Brain and the Bush Bounce

A couple of weeks ago the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center sent me a small rubber brain. It fits in the palm of the hand, or in the paperclip cup on your desk, and it's there to remind you that McLean Hospital has all the brain tissue samples you could ever need.

I’ve had a lot of fun with my small rubber brain. I’ve shown it off to the young baristas at Starbucks with the sage admonition to always carry a spare. I’ve handed it to my doctor’s triage nurse and complained that it’s a whole lot smaller than it used to be. And I’ve even complained to my computer repair shop that it should have been installed with my last memory upgrade.

I’ve also been feeling a lot of frustration lately with the pundocracy and its endless vapid speculation of whether the Bush Bounce is a double-digit bounce, a single-digit bounce, a bounce that will last, a bounce that won’t, a bounce that will carry him over the top, or a bounce that will end in an abrupt thud. So this morning I took my small rubber brain, held it up to the level of my eyes, and let it drop to the floor. Presto! A five-inch bounce!

However, Roy Teixeira at Donkey Rising is a very good analyst of polls and their meaning, once you get past the cheering for the home team (as in "Kerry, Kerry, quite contrary, how does your Swift Boat float!") He points out that the actual convention "bounce" is the increase in George Bush's individual approval rating as it changes from before to after the convention, rather than the comparative choice of Bush vs. Kerry.

Looked at this way, the bounce itself is actually quite small. But what is noteworthy is the comparative lead over Kerry is definitely larger than the actual bounce.

I would interpret this as the effect of the Republican Convention strategy of constantly attacking Kerry, as opposed to substansively supporting Bush. And the conclusion I would draw from this is that both Bush and Kerry are still highly vulnerable, both to events, and to the post-convention campaign strategies of their rivals.

John Kerry must rebuild his image with the voters. In one sense this is a drawback--an artifact of how effective the entire Republican campaign (including those pesky 527's which the President is soooo opposed to!) has been against him so far. In another sense, however, it means this election is still his to win, while it is Bush's not to lose.

And Bush is quite vulnerable, since it appears that his handlers can't or won't (I think can't) point to anything which will substantially improve the approval rating he already carries. Only an "October surprise", I think, will make George Bush look any better than he does right now.

This is very little cause, really, for Republican celebration, however much the bounce has made for Democratic consternation. Or so my Small Rubber Brain tells me.


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