washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Oh, So Bush Is Going to Lose, Is He?

At least that’s if you believe Matthew Dowd’s assertion that “historical analysis suggests John Kerry should have a lead of more than 15 points coming out of his convention”. That assertion of Dowd’s has been mentioned again and again in recent news stories on the campaign, particularly since Edwards was selected by Kerry and appeared to give the ticket a bounce.
Every time I’ve seen this Dowd prediction, I’ve scratched my head and thought: “that’s completely nuts–it can’t possibly be true that a 15 point lead is normal”. But I’ve been a bit busy and never got around to doing the spadework to show how nuts that prediction is.
And now I don’t have to. Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio has helpfully provided the relevant data in a piece on the National Review website, blasting Dowd for, essentially, predicting Bush is going to lose.
This is because:
1. Since 1960, no incumbent president has come back from being 15 points down at the beginning of August to win re-election. In fact, no incumbent’s come back from being 10 points down to win.
2. The average bounce from an incumbent president’s convention since 1960 is about 6 points. Therefore–contrary to Dowd’s assertion that the Republican convention would even things up–a 15 point lead after the Democratic convention would likely leave Bush still 9 points behind after his convention.
Another interesting angle on the Dowd prediction: given that the average bounce from a challenger’s convention is about 7 points, does that mean Dowd now believes Kerry is up by 8 points–since otherwise how could Kerry come out of his convention with a 15 point lead based on “historical analysis”?
I suppose it’s all about the expectations game: predict some outlandish bad outcome for your candidate and then when it doesn’t occur claim things are going your way. But has it come to this: to make their candidate look good, Republican spinners now have to predict that his situation will soon be hopeless?

20 comments on “Oh, So Bush Is Going to Lose, Is He?

  1. John on

    Beware the October Surprise.
    If the New Republic is right and the Pakistanis produce senior members of Al Quaida to the command of Washington, then all is in play.
    If bin Ladin turns up dead or alive on 30th October, Bush will win. Regardless of how far down in the polls Bush is, I think that would turn it.

  2. zonk on

    I would certainly encourage Mr. Dowd to continue with such predictions….
    It makes getting “there” (if there is down 15 points) all the more easier, but no amount of spinning, ‘pre-planning’, or acting the part of an oracle makes recovering from that 15 point deficit any easier.
    I occasionally enjoy taking a stroll down right-leaning blogs to gauge the right’s reaction to stories, events and what-not… and the reaction to Dowd’s comments have been more or the less the same as mine, though with a GOP face.
    The wheels are truly coming off — we’re starting to get more and more of these “process stories”, these “inside baseball” type pieces focusing on the GOP side of the aisle that then become angry internal wrangling…. not unlike the Dem MO pre-primary season dating back to 2000.
    The key is that the dem surrogates take items like Dowd’s analysis and run with it (piecemeal, of course)…..
    “I think Matthew Dowd is absolutely correct — GWB is doomed to be down 15 points by August.”

  3. Matt McIrvin on

    Have convention bounces increased or decreased over the years? Is there any general trend? It seems to me that since a national party convention is essentially a show for TV, the fragmentation of the viewing audience, the decline of the broadcast networks, and the decreased reluctance to devote lots of time to this sort of thing would render them less relevant over the past decade or so.

  4. frankly0 on

    “One post-Dem convention poll had Dukakis up 17 points; others had Dukakis up by less. The distinction is that George Bush Sr. was not the incumbent, he was the Vice President. The point made in the post is that no incumbent behind by that much has gone on to win.”
    This is putting a tremendous amount of weight on the incumbency factor alone. Given that Bush was the VP, one would expect at least some of the incumbency effect to apply to him. Since there are so few cases anyway of Presidential elections, and fewer still of incumbent Presidents running, I wonder if the Dukakis vs Bush campaign is not at least as much relevant as the absence of any case in which an incumbent President is down by over 10% after the challenger’s convention and still wins.

  5. Angry Bear on

    “I suppose it’s all about the expectations game: predict some outlandish bad outcome for your candidate and then when it doesn’t occur claim things are going your way.”
    Hannity (hey, I was driving home and nothing else was on) was doing just this tonight on his radio show. Only, he said the typical bounce from naming a VP was fifteen points — an odd manipualation of Dowd’s odd number. He went on to say that the failur of this 15 point bounce to occur is a clear sign of the public’s distaste for the ticket with “the numbers 1 and 4 liberals in the senate” on it.

  6. Christopher Brandow on

    about whether “Dowd now believes Kerry is up by 8 points?”, it seems that article that you cited or Dowd’s email points out that the challenger gains ~7 and the incumbent loses 8. And he states that he believes that they are tied.

  7. CADem on

    One post-Dem convention poll had Dukakis up 17 points; others had Dukakis up by less.
    The distinction is that George Bush Sr. was not the incumbent, he was the Vice President. The point made in the post is that no incumbent behind by that much has gone on to win.

  8. frankly0 on

    One question I have: what was Dukakis’ lead over Bush I after the Dem convention?
    I had the impression it was over 10%, maybe well over. Is this not true?

  9. susan on

    isn’t this just more of the “soft bigotry of low expectations?”
    sounds to me like Dowd is trying to skew the CW that if Kerry doesn’t get that 15 point bounce, he’s toast. same thing they did to Gore in the last coup (I mean election).

  10. soup on

    The banality of american electoral politics:
    40% R / 40% D are intransigent. Of the remaining 20%, half are split 50/50, hence the 45-45 poll results. The remaining 10% are in play and the last 3 months of the campaign, including the convention kabuki theater is for their benefit. Who the fuck are these people and why do they get to decide the fate of the country?

  11. Jerome Armstrong on

    I wish someone would go through and catalog the predictions that Dowd has made. It seems he comes out with one of these every few months; usually in the right direction, but with a loaded dice to spin his guys way when it lands.

  12. debra on

    I just came from seeing 3000 women pay money, get up at the crack of dawn to cheer on Kerry and Edwards here in NYC. Biggest event of its kind ever.
    This huge level of enthusiasm is hard to square with the AP poll which is just now on the MSNBC home page which shows Bush ahead by 49-45. Poll taken Monday prior to the announcement and then Tuesday and Wednesday. How can that be?
    And what is the agenda of the home page editor touting this poll when their own NBC poll shows Kerry ahead.
    I hope you write about this. I think polls like the AP can be used to push poll public opinion and set up confusion about the electoral outcome.
    I think people like you need to start defensive debunking.

  13. Billmon on

    What’s depressing is how mindless the media has been about repeating Dowd’s spin – without even stopping to think about, much less check, the facts.
    That’s the great GOP advantage in this election: Their media strategy assumes that journalists are clueless, selfish oafs with the long-term memory of a sea sponge.
    And what do you know – they’re right.

  14. Dave on

    I agree with the last poster. There’s nothing scientific or historical about this. Dowd’s just trying to raise expactations knowing Kerry probably won’t get that high of a bounce, and then Dowd can go back to the press and say the bounce wasn’t as high as expected. However, i do enjoy Fabrizio uptight about Dowd’s comments…

  15. Boulanger on

    Bounce numbers historically fall off at a rate of 1 to 2 points per week after the convention. Perhaps Dowd is figuring that by the time Bush gets his bounce (which I predict will be much less than normal) Kerry’s bounce will be gone or at least in reach.
    Fact is that there is simply not room for a 15 point bounce for Kerry, not enough independents out there. This is an expectations game and Dowd wants Kerry’s 8 or 9 points to look enemic.

  16. dean on

    Has anyone attempted to get Dowd to answer the question “Where did you get the fifteen point number from?” I know it is hard to get a hold of some people, and the speculation is interesting, but maybe Dowd has something to back up the claim.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.