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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How High the Bounce?

Really, who knows? The average bounce from a challenger’s convention is 7 points; if you take out the outlier 1992 Clinton convention, it’s 6 points. But this year there are fewer undecided voters and Kerry’s already doing quite well in the polls, relative to average challenger performance, so it will be harder for him to post big gains.
But if you want a good summary of the things to think about as you listen to Kerry’s speech tonight that may affect the bounce and, more importantly, the campaign in general as we move forward, you should definitely check out Frank Newport’s Gallup analysis of the political context for Kerry’s speech.
Newport makes a number of good points. I particularly liked his questioning of the alleged necessity for Kerry to focus heavily on assuring voters he’d be a strong leader in the fight against terrorism. Newport points out several reasons to be skeptical:

First, most recent polling shows that terrorism is in fact not the single most important issue for voters this year. Terrorism usually falls behind the economy, and in some polls, Iraq, when voters are asked to choose from a list of concerns.
Terrorism is not considered to be the most important problem facing the nation today. The top problems are the economy and Iraq.
More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that while Republicans place the greatest importance on terrorism as a campaign issue, Kerry’s core Democrats and the vitally important independents do not. The latter groups are more interested in domestic issues such as the economy and healthcare.

So, Iraq, the economy and health care are all, arguably, deserving of more attention than the war on terror.
On Iraq, Newport has this to say on Kerry’s handling of the issue:

….it is clear from the available poll data that Kerry has yet to take political advantage of this Bush vulnerability. For example, only 45% think that Bush has a clear plan or handling the situation in Iraq, but an even smaller 33% believe that Kerry has a clear plan for handling the situation there. Furthermore, when asked which of the two major candidates can do a better job handling Iraq, Bush edges Kerry by a 49% to 44% margin.
Thus, the data suggest that Kerry has yet to convince Americans that his approach to Iraq — if elected — would be that much better than Bush’s.

Finally, Newport ticks off three reasons why the political payoff from emphasizing the economy could be high:

The public’s rating of the economy’s direction is significantly worse in states that are considered to be Democratic or battleground states than in states considered to be safe for the Republicans. In other words, the economy has a high probability of being of the most importance in precisely the states Kerry must win in order to become president.
As noted, independent voters are more likely than Republicans to say the economy is the top problem they will consider in their presidential vote.
There is evidence from data analysis from three key showdown states that voters’ perceptions of the economy in their state is related to their propensity to vote for Kerry.

Is this guy right or what? Sure hope the Kerry campaign visits the Gallup website every once in a while.

25 comments on “How High the Bounce?

  1. Nathan on

    I think it is encouraging to see more emphasis placed on Dems’ religious perspectives and how they impact our policy commitments. I noted, for instance, teh Fox News article, “Democrats Are People of Faith, Too.” Do other sthink this is a good sign?

  2. Young Goodman Brown on

    Zogby’s poll today has a very small bounce… Kerry actualyl gained zero and Bush lost three points. The results are all broken down at Polling Report (http://www.pollingreport.com).
    Overall, Kerry-Edwards leads Bush-Cheney 48-43. But geographically, K-E holds a 2 point lead in the South, a 7 point lead in the West, and a 22 point lead in the East. Only in the Midwest does B-C have the edge, and only by 5 points. Either Zogby polled a lot of Midwesterners, the Zogby definition of the Midwest is geographically enormous, or some combination of the two. I’d think that the first possiblity is good for Kerry and the second possibility is good for Bush.
    Do any of you know how Zogby defines the “Midwest”?

  3. Mimiru on

    Place the blame for where it belongs: On the networks for allocating so little time to the convention. At least give it 2 hours, like a made-for-TV movie.

  4. Andy Katz on

    After listening to Kerry’s speech, I think he will equal the average of a 6-7 point bounce, which is huge considering how dug in people’s opinions are. The only criticism I have of the speech is that it was so long, the beginning of Cleland’s introduction did not make prime time network coverage (Kerry had to start at 10:05 so he could finish by 11:00). I think if the networks would have covered Cleland’s moving intro, plus maybe a little of Kerry’s shipmates, then the bounce would be even higher.

  5. BKW on

    I saw that headline for the AP story the other day about how Kerry is trailing in the electoral college votes, and I was suspicious when I first saw it. Sure enough, after the headline and first couple paragraphs, the evidence wasn’t nearly as “cut and dry” as they made it out to be.
    They claim a vote count of 193 for Kerry to 217 for Bush, but I immediately noticed those are both well shy of the 270 needed. What have they done with the rest of the votes that are still up in the air? Simply ignored them, it appears. Toward the end of the article, they admit that 21 states are still “in play”, but they don’t offer any comparisons between the Kerry and Bush vote counts when you consider the way those states are leaning.
    Nick already mentioned electoral-vote.com, which breaks down data by strong Kerry, weak Kerry, barely Kerry, tied, barely Bush, weak Bush, and strong Bush. Including the leaning states, Kerry is currently up 289 to 232. The last time the website had him trailing was for a few days at the end of June. The long-term look has been fairly favorable, with Kerry leading in electoral votes most of the time over the past few months.
    The concern is, we’ve still got a lot of “barely Kerry” states. It’d be nice to see the convention solidfy several of the weak Kerry states into solid territory, and even slide some of the barely Kerry states into the “weak state” category.

  6. Marcus Lindroos on

    > Pat Buchanan: This was an amazing speech. I
    > think he took the populist right. If all I saw was
    > this speech, I would vote for him. Kerry did far
    > far more than I ever thought he could.
    > David Brooks: Kerry has framed the race,. The
    > Republicans will look foolish attacking him
    You can add THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s Jonathan V. Last & Mike Murphy and some NY Post guy (whose name I forgot) to the list of worried conservatives reluctantly impressed by the Demo convention in general and Kerry’s speech in particular.

    I do think Karl Rove has some work to do. First of all because Kerry & co. have more “maneuvering room” with their base (which loathes “Shrub” more than anything), so they can afford to pursue centrist themes. OK, there is Nader, but you know what I mean. The other problem is the Democrats actually managed to put on a reasonably positive, optimistic show in Boston. So how will the incumbent respond to that? By firing away more negative attack ads against Kerry/Edwards? That would further alienate swing voters. Seems like the only option is to run on past accomplishments, except the economy, budget deficits, Iraq etc. really don’t produce that much to brag about…

    Unless the economy improves drastically & unquestionably across the whole spectrum and there is a real series of breakthroughs in the Middle East (Bin Laden captured + solid WMD evidence emerges at last), I think Kerry might win merely by doing “OK” in the debates and on the campaign trail. In that respect, it was probably smart of JFK to avoid being specific about Iraq. He will get a chance to debate the issue with “Shrub” himself on national TV barely a month before the election. I think the pressure will be on the latter rather than the former.

    Finally, isn’t it funny how “Shrub” really is starting snatch defeat from the jaws of victory here?? I mean, without the misguided Iraq fiasco, he would still have his halo intact as “great resolute war leader”. I have always thought his bark was worse than his bite…”all hat and no cattle” as they say in his native Texas. He could have safely basked in the glory of Afghanistan, kept blathering about “axes of evil” while pursuing sabre-rattling neocon policies in his American Enterprise Institute speeches without actually risking anything. The economy and record deficits would still be giving him problems, true, but neither would be as bad because 200 billion dollar’s worth of Iraq-related expenses and insecurities would not be dragging things down. And John F. Kerry would now be doing as badly as Dukakis in 1988. There is no way a stiff, aloof, elitist, liberal Massachusetts senator would win under normal circumstances! But this isn’t business as usual. And for that, we can thank the amazing incompetence of the current incumbent.

  7. Paul C on

    I have tried to judge this speach in light of Ruy’s oft-repeated statement that the challenger has to present himself as a minimally acceptable alternative to the incumbent. Then, people who have decided to “fire” the incumbent can safely decide to vote for the challenger. In this light, Kerry had to satisfy people that he could handle the one issue where they fear for their personal safety, the war against terror. That is why he quite rightly focused on that issue, rather than emphasising the economy. A sufficient number of people have already decided to fire Bush with regard to the economy. Now they have been convinced that they will live to see the better economic times.
    In my view, Kerry hit a home run.
    Paul C

  8. Nate Roberts on

    This is more of a question than a comment, and I’m sorry that it doesn’t pertain to this particular blog entry but rather an appeal to Ruy Teixeira to explain something that has been puzzing me for some time.
    I greatly appreciate Mr. Teixeira’s way of dissecting the polls. There’s nothing else like it. But it seems that all too often he focuses on overall (national-level) data, when what will decide the next presidential race is electoral college votes.
    I have been bouyed along by Mr. Teixeira’s interpretations, and had been feeling quite encouraged. . . until I saw this: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20040725/ap_on_el_pr/cvn_road_to270&cid=694&ncid=716
    which purports to show that whatever the situation with the popular vote, Bush seems to be still leading in projections for the electoral college.
    Why does Mr. Teixeira tend to neglect this area of concern? Is it because most available polling data does not allow for analysis of electoral college votes?
    In any case, it would be wonderful if he could write something soon that would explain and comment upon this seemingly important angle.
    [If this (or the recent AP poll) has already been covered in a previous post which I somehow missed, please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.]
    -Nate Roberts

  9. Don on

    Hmmm, Allan, I remember him saying something about lowering taxes on the middle class and raising taxes on those who make more than $200,000.
    If I made more than $200,000, I guess I’d think twice about voting for Kerry. But I don’t …
    He also said something about taking care of Americans before giving away big tax breaks to companies like Enron.
    The guy’s a populist! I think Bush is in big trouble …

  10. Allan Bartlett on

    Settle down Joe. Can we both agree that Pat Buchanon doesn’t exactly have much credibility? He is the GOP’s Al Sharpton. I myself am more libertarian than conservative. I’m one of the people that thinks Bush is almost as bad as Democrats on spending,oh hell, he is as bad. I guess with the dems,most people come to expect higher taxes and more spending. At least they’re more honest about it. I am glad that Kerry said he would raise taxes though. That should make for a nice contrast. I’m sure that line will go over well with swing voters and people trying to make ends meet. Why do the politicians think we are under taxed in this country? It just boggles my mind. I’m sure the dems will catch a bounce from this convention. Will it last? I doubt it. Enjoy it while you can I guess.

  11. JoeKelley on

    Pat Buchanan liked it. The MSNBC swing-voters focus group liked it. Obviously us partisans liked it.
    You go right ahead and nitpick away. “Oh, he’s sweaty!” “Oh, he loves the French!” “Rove’ll get him!” (You missed the one about how ABC ran a couple of minutes of the Al-Jazeera feed over the speech to “create the association” between Kerry and Arabs: “He’s Bin Laden’s candidate!”–maybe you can include it later on LGF.)
    We don’t mind. This was a *very* strong opening move, and it gave no ground to the despicable torrent of sewage headed his way over the next three months. He did a great job. You, though, are grasping at straws.
    I do agree with you on the “west wing” comment, though. I think it would have been a stronger joke if he’d said “left wing”, too. Better self-deprecation, and more of a contrast to the utter lack of humility, rhetorical or otherwise, in his opponent.

  12. Brandon Claycomb on

    It was a great speech. Very impressive.
    I think it’s Kerry’s election to win or lose, and after tonight I’m betting on the former.

  13. Allan Bartlett on

    I didn’t hear how he would manage the war in Iraq differently than the way it is being run now. Also it’s funny when all you democrats talk about bringing our allies etc. back into the fold. That’s code for France and Germany. We don’t need those ungracious bastards.
    I am the only one that noticed that Kerry was sweating like a pig up there on stage? I thought it was hilarious. They needed to crank up the AC in the arena. I also heard the stage manager curse at the guys in the rafters while watching CNN. He was heard saying “what the fuck are you guys doing up there,drop all the balloons and confetti now!” As for the speech itself, it was Kerry trying to pretend that he was a Republican. He hammered away that he would be a better command-in-chief than Bush. He didn’t really talk about his record in the Senate for the last twenty years, but that’s okay because I’m sure Karl Rove et al will make sure that Kerry’s voting record gets exposed for what it is and that is extremely liberal. I can’t wait for the RNC now. Oh yeah I almost forgot, Kerry says he was born in the “west wing” of the hospital in Colorado. I beg to differ. He was born in the left wing of the hospital :^)

  14. bt on

    Yessssss!!! That was one kickass speech.
    We co-hosted a Convention party tonight in northern Virginia, and *everyone* there was pumped. The marching orders for hosts were as top priority to get at least one or two people to agree to host parties and we surpassed that long before he gave his speech. One of the more skeptical/worried guests, a guy who’s seen lots of conventions over the years, said to me after, big smile on his face, “He’s aliiiiiiive!!” There’s a long way to go–the debates will be huge, events can take wild turns, etc. But right now I’m feeling good. I did not think he could give a speech that good. He went a long way towards helping himself preempt the toughest challenges he faces. And he so obviously seemed to enjoy himself. Yes, I’m feeling good tonight.

  15. John Mcc. on

    Pat Buchanan: This was an amazing speech. I think he took the populist right. If all I saw was this speech, I would vote for him. Kerry did far far more than I ever thought he could.
    David Brooks: Kerry has framed the race,. The Republicans will look foolish attacking him
    How high the bounce?
    7-8 points…
    The deal is sealed wiith the swing voters AND the entire Democratic Party – Zell Miller is fired up too.
    It is back to Crawford time….
    Charlie Cook will no longer tremble at the L word…

  16. tomtom on

    I suspect that the biggest group of votes still up fpr grabs are voters who are still reasonably well disposed to Bush. For the most part those are not independents, who will probably break strongly to Kerry.
    These voters do care a lot about foreign policy and terrorism, and they gove Bush high marks in those areas. That is why Kerry has to make it clear he is just as mean and nasty as any Republican.
    The voters I’m talking about are Perot voters; quite conservative, but not in Bush’s pocket. They are sufficiently alienated so they do not have pro-Republican mojo.

  17. Nick on

    yes, the economy may be the biggest *current* issue in the swing states. But I think Kerry’s “strongman” approach is the best possible way to inoculate himself against the possibility of a terrorist attack before November.
    The knee-jerk reaction if there’s another horror will be to rally ’round the flag…and Kerry can only stay in the conversation at that point if he has tough-guy credentials with the voters. If, instead, he’s spent the entire election talking about health care or jobs programs — then they’ll immediately tune him out when the s*** hits the fan.

  18. bt on

    Ruy, do you have thoughts on what specifically you would want Kerry to offer as his plan for Iraq, prior to his speech tonight? Would it be the proposal offered by O’Hanlon in an article you linked to awhile back?

  19. John Mcc. on

    Deep in my bones I believe Kerry has been sandbaggin this Iraq issue and this strength/terrorism thing…
    Consider ..this is the most tightly scripted Demo convention ever and all signs are pointing to it…a more plan for Iraq and one helluva speech…
    The bars have been lowered, even Charlie Cook says “he just has to be acceptable” and the Republican attack dogs assigned to DNC duty have been snarling about IraQ all week..
    They should be careful what they ask for ….I think they’ll probably get it

  20. Lawrence on

    The man himself will let us know tonite what tack he will take! I look forward to reacting to it with you-all to-morrow…

  21. Frenchfries on

    I’m worried as well about Kerry’s credibility gap on the Iraq issue. But I’m still very anxious about him formulating a specific “plan” for handling the situation. Bush doesn’t formulate one either. He just has the benefit of being there “first”, so to say. He did something, he toppled Saddam. He just messed up afterwards.
    But I really think that every specific proposal coming from Kerry will immediately be exploited by the other side. You can imagine the slogans yourselves.
    Maybe I’m just naive on this, or overly pessimistic. But I think Kerry’s emphasis on “respect” and “alliances” is about as for as you can go proposing actual talks or an Iraq conference, for instance.


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