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.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

George W. Bush and The Big Five-OH

Here it is, all in one package, over at American Prospect Online, by Guy Molyneux

"An incumbent who can’t break 50 percent is in trouble, even if he’s ahead. Not that we’re referring to anyone in particular.

"A careful reading of recent presidential-election polls shows that the race is very close, and that if were held today, the result would likely mirror 2000’s razor-close finish. If you had a different impression, that’s certainly understandable, for nearly all media reporting on these same polls has suggested that George W. Bush enjoys a significant lead and will win comfortably barring a change in the race’s dynamics. However, this media analysis is marred by a failure to take account of a phenomenon well-known to all political pollsters, the “incumbent 50-percent rule.”....

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

"But is it really possible for Kerry to close a 5-point gap, absent some fundamental change in voter preference?....Not only can Kerry close such a gap, it is extremely likely that he will.... In every case, the challenger(s) -- I include Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 -- exceed their final poll result by at least 2 points, and the average gain is 4 points....

"This happens because elections are fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent. The first step in voters’ decision-making process is to answer the question “does he deserve re-election?” Undecided voters have basically answered that question in the negative, and their undecided status reflects the fact that they don’t know enough about the challenger (yet) to feel comfortable stating a public preference.....

"In any case, the net effect is crystal clear: We can expect George W. Bush to receive about the same share of the vote -- or a bit less -- on November 2 as he receives in the final public polls.....The percentage that Bush receives in polls represents his ceiling of support; he may get a little less, but won’t get more....If Bush can get to 50 percent or above in the polls, he should be able to win. At 49 percent -- where he is today -- we’re probably looking at another photo finish, lots of recounts, and narrow state-by-state victories dictating the Electoral College outcome. And below 49 percent, Bush is almost certain to lose.

"You may also have heard that Bush is surging ahead in the crucial “battleground states” that will determine the Electoral College outcome. However, polls in these states actually reveal an even more precarious position for the president....

"Bush falls short of the 49-percent benchmark in nearly every one, including Ohio (47 percent), Florida (47 percent), and Pennsylvania (46 percent). Wisconsin (51 percent) is the only crucial battleground state in which Bush appears to have a fairly solid lead. Bush even fails to clear the 49-percent bar in such 2000 Bush states as West Virginia (47 percent), Missouri (49 percent), and Arkansas (48 percent). This year, it is quite possible that it will be Bush who ends up wishing we had scrapped the Electoral College in favor of a straight popular vote....

"If political journalists interpret poll results in the correct context -- that of an incumbent president seeking re-election -- they will also become better analysts....

"A correct reading of polls would also help prevent journalists from being suckered by strategic feints from the campaigns, such as the Bush team’s proclaimed interest in “expanding the map” by pouring money into states such as New Jersey. Bush isn’t anywhere close to showing enough strength in New Jersey to make the state truly competitive. If Karl Rove wants to repeat his 2000 California mistake by wasting resources this year on the other coast, Democrats will be happy indeed -- but it seems unlikely....

"And there is one final factor to consider that isn’t captured in the polls at all: the ground war. Democratic 527s such as America Coming Together are conducting massive voter-registration and mobilization campaigns that could easily add 2 or 3 percentage points to Kerry’s vote. As the Service Employee International Union’s Andy Stern has observed, this field operation is “the greatest field-goal unit in history” -- if Kerry can keep the race close, voter mobilization will give him the last few points he needs...."

In Ohio we're going to do just that, as I have pointed out here, here, and here.

Thanks to the folks at Donkey Rising.


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