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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Could Everyone Please Just Calm Down Out There?

It’s a full-time job trying to keep Democrats from hyperventilating whenever a new poll comes out! Friday, I tried to calm folks down about the new Time poll; today I’ll try to do the same about the new Newsweek poll, conducted 9/2-3, which has Bush ahead 54-43 among RVs.
Here are some important points to keep in mind about the poll:
1. It is still not a true bounce poll; only one night of the two covered by the poll actually took place after the GOP convention was over. That night is highly likely to be Bush’s best post-convention night, since it was right after his big speech and the huge media splash the next day. And, in fact, Newsweek‘s data show that Bush led by 16 points in their poll on this night and by only 6 the night before. Don’t forget that Kerry did very well in polls the night right after his speech then fell off rapidly in the next few days.
So why do Newsweek and Time insist on doing their bounce polls wrong so they’re almost guaranteed to get misleading results? Simple: their publication schedule. They’ve got to have to data in time to dump it into their print publication. If they waited to do it right the poll would be too old to put in their magazine the subsequent week.
This is especially egregious since even a poll conducted entirely after the convention needs to be viewed with caution. As Charlie Cook points out:

A week or 10 days after the GOP convention, the electorate should have stopped bouncing and settled back down enough for horse race poll results to once again have some real meaning.

2. Aside from the timing, there are other reasons to be skeptical of the Newsweek poll. As has been widely reported in various blogs, the partisan distribution of the RVs in the Newsweek poll is quite startling: 38 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 31 percent independent. This 7 point lead for the GOP on party ID does not comport well with other data on partisan distribution this campaign season–which have consistently shown the Democrats leading by at least several points–and can’t be blamed on a likely voter screen since there was none.
As Chris Bowers of MyDD shows, if you assume a more reasonable distribution of party ID, Bush’s lead is about cut in half. Moreover, if you assume that the differential in partisan support rates in the poll–94-4 for Bush and only 82-14 for Kerry–is, if not overstated now, highly likely to converge toward parity in the near future (as it has been for most of the campaign), even a Bush lead of 5-6 points looks very unstable.
So how did Newsweek manage to pull a sample with a 7 point GOP lead on party ID? It is certainly possible that there has been a sudden, large shift in party ID to the Republicans; the distribution of party ID is not completely stable and does indeed change over time. But a shift of this magnitude so suddenly and so off-trend (which has been toward the Democrats) strikes me as quite unlikely. I find it more plausible that there was differential interest in being interviewed by Democratic and Republican voters over the time period and that produced a skewed distribution of partisan identifiers in their RV sample.
Does that mean I favor polls like this weighting their samples by party ID? No, I don’t, because the distribution of party ID does shift some over time and polls should be able to capture this. What I do favor is release and prominent display of sample compostions by party ID, as well as basic demographics, whenever a poll comes out. Consumers of poll data should not have to ferret out this information from obscure places–it should be given out-front by the polling organizations or sponsors themselves. Then people can use this information to make judgements about whether and to what extent they find the results of the poll plausible.
3. It’s still a long time ’til election day. People should resist the urge to push the panic button and insist that Kerry launch an incendiary campaign against Bush’s and his surrogate’s personal attacks. As John Judis points out, there are interesting similarities between this campaign and the Reagan-Carter campaign of 1980. These similarities suggest that:

….just as Bush might be wise to avoid Carter’s mistakes, Kerry might be wise to consider Reagan’s successes in 1980. He is certainly going to have to answer some of the Bush campaign’s personal attacks, just as Reagan occasionally responded to Carter–although Reagan did so in a disarming manner (“there you go again”) that put the onus of disagreeability directly onto his opponent. But Kerry needs to direct the public’s attention, like Reagan did, to the underlying reality of the economy, the Iraq war, and the threat of Al Qaeda; and he needs to propose ways to deal with each that are at least plausible, if not preferable to those adopted by Bush. If he does that, and if he shows himself to be the equal of Bush in the debates, he could discover, like Reagan did in 1980, that the voters are ready to put someone new in the White House.

Amen. End of sermon.

66 comments on “Could Everyone Please Just Calm Down Out There?

  1. Mencken on

    why I don’t understand is why the not so ephemeral concept of constructive criticism seems to be lost on so many people. the constructive part recognizes a desire that the subject of the criticism improves.
    I see this blog—particularly b/c it deals w/ poll performance—as an opportunity to parse the effectiveness of kerry’s campaign. what we don’t need is mindless cheerleading; if I wanted that I’d go to a rally. instead, I’m here looking for a substantive discussion.
    sure, there’s no shortage of advice for kerry here. some I agree with, others I don’t. but the point is that the advice is evidence of people being engaged in the act of governing themselves. to the standard-bearers of no negative vibes: do you honestly think a representative form of government thrives by stifling discussion?
    I’m always really troubled by dems who argue that critical comments directed at kerry are tantamount to disloyalty. instead, suppression of internal dissent seems to be the operating principle on the right.
    it certainly doesn’t belong in the Democratic Party.
    that said, kerry’s been kicking some serious butt since the campaign and things look good for next Tues.
    fingers crossed.

  2. Bob Oehmen on

    Thank you.
    This is my first time on this site.
    But last weekend, Liberals I knew asked me about the polls, and, as I haven’t been keeping up, I didn’t know.
    It’s wierd too, that some Liberals seem ready to jump all over Kerry. It’s stupid.
    Stop complaining, stay positive and get out there, do some good and volunteer!
    Let’s all remember Truman in 1948 too.

  3. gabby hayes on

    We need better bullsh!t.
    Kerry has to hone his message, use some buzz words, and hammer home the points.
    Jon Stewart’s ponderous parody is sadly accurate.
    1. Better surrogates. Ditch Tad as a spokesman.
    2. Better speeches. Carville, Begala.
    3. Better campaign voice. Joe Lockhart
    4. Hammer on Bush. Make it about BUSH.
    5. Jobs. Deficit. Health care. Prescription drugs. Record profits for OIL companies.

  4. Bel on

    I am not sure that there is any particluar need for direction from the top.. we already know the issues, we know Bush’ failures, we know his strengths, we know his mistakes, we know his military records, we know of his boyhood days, we know how he got into Yale, we know how he got into the air force (or wherever)… we know everything.. what exactly do we need to know from the top to launch a compaign?
    What directions does a group like Move-on get from the top? I dont quite agree Jeff… there is enough direction already out there issued by Bush that can be easily used to point any willing group.

  5. Jeff on

    We need direction. We need to coordinate. That can only be done at the top. Otherwise, what we say turns into noise.
    Kerry’s campaign hasn’t been doing that. If they would come out and give the people direction. I’m sure they will follow.

  6. Bel on

    There is definately no lack of advice on these DEM sites for Kerry. Nearly every DEM site is laced with chatters how have a plethora of ideas, solutions, options, suggestion and whatever else that Kerry should need in his armory to win these elections.
    You know, I visit both repub and dem sites and somehow there has not been all these ideas and solutions for bush when he was behind. These folks on the GOP site concentrated on blasting Kerry to the point where they literally busted his lil 2 point bubble. They cuss and swear every nasty thing about Kerry but they never touch Bush….
    In contrast, dem bloggers pass over bush and come up with just about everything to say about Kerry.. as tho he is the enemy. Bush is the enemy here.. but somehow Kerry gets kicked from his own people. Perplexing.
    Everyone with a brain knew that bush’s ads were lies.. but every GOP blog stuck with them till they ran to their logical conclusion. I am thankful that Kerry is not looking to some of these Kerry support sites for inspiration and hope and encouragement. I am sure that when Bush reads his bloggers, he thinks that he is the best thing that ever happened to the US.. Kerry cant get that feeling when he reads his support sites. Why does it have to be this way anyhow? Why is it so difficult for Kerry supporters to bond and simply support? Why can the GOPs do it and win, while the DEMS have to fight among themselves like a family of wolves?
    There are so many ideas and thoughts and options and suggestions thrown around here, that maybe it time that this group take these ideas, form a kerry support program and launch some ads.
    I wonder what would happen if this group was formed. Maybe there would be the same criticism which Kerry now gets. Maybe the group would fall victim to its own supporters just as Kerry does. Maybe it wont have the courage to really air these smear ads… maybe there would be power struggles in the group to determine whose perspective on an ad would fly.. maybe the group would never get off the ground.
    Do we have any visionaries here who are willing to put up and get the smear ads running? Is there any in the group willing to get the ads going on the economy and away from Iraq? Are there a few willing souls here who will rise up and form the new Kerry support group and simply stick it to Bush with agressive advertising and nail him on his performance?
    Its sooooooooo easy to say what move-on and Kerry and the likes should do.. but it takes sooooooooooo much more to get up and do it the way you see it.
    Its time to start singing from the same hymn sheet and singing the song to its logical conclusion and winning this thing.. Quit this internal harrassment and start supporting the candidates.
    Most of all, start pounding on Bush.. start making him vulnerable… start making his nervous… start highlighting his short coming on this site.. start analysing his every word and showing his mistakes.. start showing his failures… right here on this site.. and support Kerry.

  7. Jeff on

    Please do not think that I am one of those who believe we are far behind or worse that the election is lost. I believe neither.
    Surprisingly, the new Gallup poll gave me much comfort today.
    It’s funny. Bush is doing only two percent better in this poll among likely voters after his convention as he was doing immediately after ours.
    Remember that Gallup had Bush up by 5% after our convention. Now it’s 7%.
    Among “registered voters” Bush is up by 1%.
    Rassmussen has a new poll showing about the same. Bush ahead by 1%.
    After the shitty month of August. Where we were outspent 10 to 1. Where we had to deal with wall-to-wall coverage about swift boats. Where we had to deal with the Republican National Convention. The best Bush can do is 1 or 2%.
    Also, the fundementals are unchanged. That is, that his approval rating is below 50% and those who want change is about 50%. We’re okay on issues.
    Now if only the Kerry campaign would finally get it’s head out of its ass and talk about domestic issues – CONSISTENLY.

  8. Jeff on

    Menchen is right.
    I am not “freaking out” as some suggest, but pointing out the obvious, which I have been saying since the convention.
    Which is that Kerry has to get off talking about foreign affairs. Kerry can only benefit by NOT talking about it.
    To all the DLC-types who believe that what we should do is embrace the Bush foreign policy agenda – you have lost. The Republicans will not abandon Bush over this. The left will vote against him all together. The middle are so sick of the subject.
    The economy is what will win us this election.
    Kerry makes some inroads on this every now again. Then, all of a sudden, it’s back to foreign affairs and fucking Vietnam.
    Case in point – today,
    Kerry: Iraq was wrong war against wrong enemy at wrong time.
    LATimes: Kerry supporters attack Bush’s Vietnam record.
    Bush comes back and blasts Kerry a new one.
    His supporters are unmoved. The undecided more frustrated by Kerry’s lack of focus on their issues.
    Kerry ends up preaching to the choir and misses YET ANOTHER opportunity to gain traction.
    Christ, if there is one person I would love to slap it would be whoever is in charge of Kerry’s campaign.
    The best Kerry has done this whole year on foreign affairs, Iraq and terrorism is a tie. He is not wrong on these issues (maybe somewhat wrong on Iraq), it’s just that this ISN’T WHAT WILL MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO VOTE FOR HIM.
    If anyone reading this is associated with the campaign at all please understand: that what you guys are losing is “defining” what this election is about.
    We can have a rock solid argument against Iraq. Most smart people would agree with it. History will agree with it. But in this election cycle, Bush will come out in two seconds and talk about Saddam being a terrorist. And voila, the chickenshit newsmedia will start saying Saddam was a terrorist. It’s just a difference of opinion. Then we are back to the 50/50 split.
    It’s an argument we might tie (in terms of convincing people we are right), but will never win outright. We just don’t have the numbers.
    However, a campaign about the economy. About jobs. About health care. About the deficit. About our future. This is a debate we can win. HANDILY.
    Kerry should stop running these puppy dog ads and start running vicious killers.
    But about the Bush economy.
    He should have some mean sounding music and a mean announcer overdubbing it.
    There should be gritty pictures of:
    Shops closing, with a graphic: 1,000,000 lost jobs. A dispirited family with the graphic: family incomes falling. Maybe some real life people…etc.
    Then we could show images of Bush’s rich friends and how well they are doing.
    We run these ads on everything:
    He should get his surrogates out there talking about how shitty the economy is. The dangers of Bush’s philosophy regarding the economy.
    We should have people like Robert Rubin and others talking about the serious need to reverse course and give Kerry’s plan an endorsement.
    That’s how we will win BIG. Because here, we do have the numbers.

  9. tony on

    Has Kerry lost any ground? Let’s do an apple to apple comparison, or a few, using the new Gallup data.
    Right after the Democratic convention, Bush was ahead of Kerry 51-45% among likely voters. Right after the Republican convention, he’s shown as ahead 52%-45%. Not much of a change between those two. [To be as scrupulously fair as I can be, Bush was up only 48-46% in the two polls between the conventions. That would suggest a 5% Bush bounce from the convention.]
    What about registered voters? Right after the Democratic convention, Bush was ahead of Kerry 48%-47%. Now, right after the Republican convention, he’s shown as ahead 48%-46%. Not much change between these two, either. In the poll right before the convention, it was a 46-46% tie. That would suggest a 2% Bush bounce.
    So…by the Gallup poll, in the last month, Bush gained 1% among likely voters and registered voters. From right before the convention, he gained 5% among likely voters, 2% among registered voters.
    That’s hardly the sort of shift for us to be tearing our hair out. It’ll be interesting to see how the other polls turn out.

  10. Mencken on

    I still don’t think ruy’s post does much more than beg the question. granted the race isn’t over and kerry can still pull off a win, but only—and this seems to be what most of the “calm down” analyses miss—if kerry tightens up his campaign.
    as to what exactly kerry needs to do, that’s been covered in detail here and on other left-leaning web sites. the point is, though, kerry ran a crappola campaign last month. a campaign that, even granting ruy’s assesment of flawed GOP convention polling data, frittered away august.
    I only read ruy’s post quickly, so I may be misunderstanding his argument, but it still seems that no matter how the numbers are explained, kerry has lost a fair amount of ground. the question is how much.
    frankly, I’m really getting tired of having critiques of the kerry campaign being dismissed as the whining of fair-weather dems. j’accusing the campaign of being underwhelming is a fair read of the facts. w/ the exception of a couple of bright spots (the selection of edwards probably being the highpoint), the campaign has done a lackluster job over the last year. moreover, the democratic party—in ’80,’84,’88, and ’00—-has a long track record of ineffectual campaigning.
    I think it’s this historical knowledge and the fear that kerry is going to go down as yet another feckless democrat skewered by the GOP Bund that’s causing the consternation being characterized as weak-kneed dem kvetching.
    while it’s possible and porbably likely that Bush’s numbers are artificially and temporarily inflated,a kerry victory on Nov.2 isn’t just going to happen as the fulfillment of ancient prophecy. I think too often we democrats overestimate voters’ receptiveness to well-made and well-grounded policy arguments, but we’re not going to win by being right. we stop bush only if we fight smarter and harder.
    kerry has less than 60 days to smarten up.

  11. Gabby Hayes on

    Today there is an updated CNN/TIME/Gallup poll that shows it 52 Bush and 45 Kerry.
    Two weeks ago, the same poll had it 50 Bush 47 Kerry.
    Three days ago, they had it Bush 52 Kerry 41, based upon the spike after the first two nights of the RNC.
    Rasmussen calls it 4-5 points in his notes today, although I think he’s shilling a little to his Pub base. His actual poll shows it 48-47 Bush, and I think the week will end within two points.

  12. old grizzly on

    I don’t allow myself to get caught up in too much number-crunching and poll watching. I’m inclined to focus on a state-by-state approach. Let’s just think of this election in contrast to 2000, and make sure that Bush doesn’t pick up any new states, and that Kerry wins a few that Gore didn’t.

  13. Charlie T. on

    Please see article entitled “Bush Is Up By Four” at the mydd web address for Chris Bowers’ take (referencing Scott Rasmussen’s piece from earlier today) on the race. It seems that Bush is up by 4 points once you take all the noise out of the numbers from Time, Newsweek and Rasmussen.

  14. reignman on

    Kerrty got a bump, we can’t Bush get one?
    After his bump erodes (like Kerry’s did BEFORE the RNC) it’ll be time for the debates–time for Kerry to nuke Dubya.

  15. demtom on

    I’ve been away from this site for over a week (like most sensible New Yorkers, I vacated my city for the elephant invasion, and had no access to the internet, or, really, much television). I’m not surprised at the level of hysteria being exhibited because, at here and other sites, it’s clear most people haven’t lived through the ups and down of many presidential campaigns — they don’t remember Clinton’s 17-point deficit in Spring ’92, or the CNN poll that had him only 1 point up on Bush a week or two prior to Election Day. There are poll vagaries that you just have to learn to live through — and none moreso than the illusory “convention bounce”. This has always been the phoniest number of the political season. I heard one pollster analogize it to taking someone’s blood pressure just after they’ve run up a steep hill: technically, it’s a true reading, but it sure doesn’t tell much about the patient’s general health.
    The Time number in particular — concentrating on the most pro-Bush days imaginable, then using their “likely” filter (which has tilted Bush all year) — was guaranteed to paint the race as pro-GOP as possible. And what did they get? Bush barely over 50%. That’s Bush’s high water mark; it’s not even real. Yet it persuades anxious headline writers — and milquetoast Dems — that Kerry is “toast”. Nonsense. Carter led Reagan right after his convention in 1980 (Ruy references a 3-point lead, but I recently saw a Gallup story that mentioned a 49-42 Carter margin — almost precisely the Time RV numbers). Clinton and Reagan, on the other hand, had healthy double-digit leads AFTER the convention period had passed. Obviously we’d all be happier if Kerry were ahead by plenty, but it’s not that kind of election year — Bush’s approval (his likely Election Day number) hasn’t dipped lower that 44-45, and could be as high as 49-50. Given that some will always show up as undecided, it’s very unlikely any poll will show a clear lead right up till Election Day. The range of possible outcomes for this election, though, I think is clear: there’s a bare chance of a 50-51% win for Bush (which might even be reversed by the Electoral College); more likely, Kerry will win somewhere from 50-54%.
    DIGGRESSIONARY BREAKING NEWS: Gallup’s number just came on TV — 52-45 Bush LV, 49-48 Bush RV. Barely a budge from Gallup’s already pro-Bush numbers. And even that will likely fade in a day or two, especially if Iraq continues to blow up.
    Back on-topic: The most irritating thing, apart from the panic here, is the continued willingness of Congressional Dems to carp about Kerry’s campaign in the press. Nagourney’s been writing a variation of that “Dems are freaking out” article monthly since Spring — even when Kerry was leading substantially. Dems ought to learn to be more like GOPers in one respect only: keep their mouths shut.

  16. Charlie T. on

    “anyone know when any other polls are due to come out? We’ve kinda had a blackout since the Newsweek poll.
    Posted by Allan Bartlett at September 6, 2004 12:47 PM”
    The Rasmussen daily tracking poll is once again showing only a one point Bush lead, 47.6 to 46.5.
    As detailed by Ruy and by some of the others posting comments here, the Time and Newsweek polls were both flawed and the illusory double digit lead for Bush will be short-lived. I’m just pissed that the corporate media and their talk shows played up the results so much over the weekend without putting them in proper context, etc. Hopefully, the rank-and-file hasn’t gotten too discouraged.
    I’m not sure when other polls will be coming out, but I assume that several will be released over the next day or so in an effort to measure the “bounce” for Bush during the weekend after the convention.
    Meanwhile, as probably a lot of you already know, the NY Times reports today that it (thankfully) looks like Carville and Begala will be joining the Kerry campaign. A better strategy and some message discipline should now follow as the gloves come off. It’s time to rock and roll!

  17. Jeff on

    This election is apt to 1980.
    Carter ran a very negative campaign. That was one of the main issues of the campaign: “Carter’s mean streak.”
    It was an election where Carter argued that the economy wasn’t as bad as the Republicans were making out. Unemployment wasn’t that much higher. Unlike Bush, there was a positive jobs gain. Carter would go off and explain how there really wasn’t a recession.
    Carter had had success in the Middle East – notwithstanding the hostage crisis. Reagan was seen as a Goldwater-type. Goldwater had the distinction of having suffered the worst election defeat in US history.
    Everyone thought Reagan was a stupid actor with dangerous rhetoric that would get us involved in a war against Russia. They thought he was very beatable, like Goldwater.
    Reagan and Carter were tied throughout 1980. The lead switching back and forth throughout the year.
    Then Reagan won a landslide.

  18. Tamara Beinlich on

    Those pollters called me. I’m sick of them asking me if I’m a Dem or Rep. When I say I’m a Dem they ALWAYS hang up. What’s up with that? I say leaning, leaning and more leaning. Time and Newsweek are a bunch of liars. Zogby is the only poll that really gets my attention!

  19. John Mcc. on

    Another HUGELY Helpful Hint
    Better like an A- is better than a B+
    Better like a 2.1 ERA is better than a 2.65???
    Better than seven touchdaons are to six???
    Trash that sucker now

  20. John Mcc. on

    William Saletan spent more time on THruday’s speech than I did just now…
    A more detailed developent of the obvious at
    Now it is not Saletan’s job to recall to memory what most already know..Bush ia a liar, a flim flam man, and a failure soup to nuts..Al Qaaed to Medicare…Baghdad to Bugtussle…
    THAT is plenty of cause for those “hysterics” at Demo>com..these guys live Bush, eat Bush have been since 11/99 and they may just know that when a challenger’s campaign becomes the issue and poll numbers begin to drop, the trend will tend to accellerate of its own force.
    To know Bush is to know that Kerry shouldn’t be behind oir on the defensive

  21. John Mcc. on

    Now that we have heard the Sermon..
    The Holy Gospel According to Me and a Frustrated Kerry Advisor…
    Keep it simple stupid:
    The notion that the campaign was settling on a new message for the fall came as news to some senior staff members.
    “That’s really groundbreaking,” one senior aide said sarcastically when told about the focus on Mr. Bush’s policies outlined by Mr. Johnson. “I think our negative frame should be that George Bush is a liar. He misled the country on Iraq. And then everything else that he lies about, bring it back to that.”
    Give the man a Moon Pie and an RC Cola
    The apple is ready to fall folks and the campaign must take those double fleece lined kid gloves off!
    To illustrate the obvious consider the last five days
    Two HUGE gifts, at least three lines of attack off the top of my empty head..
    Bush promised today that he would bring prinicple to policies..
    Bush promised on Thursday nite to bring heatlh care costs down
    On Friday morning he announced an unprecedented 17% increase in Medicare premiums…
    Bush promised Congressmen who balked at his feed the rich drug benefit that it was affordable and at the very moment threatened to fire the SSA actuary who was prepared to testify to a 150 Billion buck lie
    Call a spade a spade a liar and incompetent, a lying incompetent..doi it with fact and do it with great relish…
    These poll numbers are cause for serious concern but not panic…
    Not yet

  22. Bob H on

    When these polls start telling you that Bush is ahead by a couple of points such things as “jobs”, you know they are complete bullshit. Why, then, are so many media commentators taking up time talking about them?

  23. Gabby Hayes on

    Anyone know which poll is out next?
    I know Rasmussen will have his update today at 11, and I also know that holiday weekends catch more Dems than Pubs at home for polls, so I expect that may play a role. If we hold at 1.2 points back in Rasmussen’s today, I’ll be happy.

  24. Gabby Hayes on

    Kerry’s message has been too spread out, too wordy, and too diverse. He has to settle in on some easy buzz words, some catch phrases:
    FOUR YEARS AGO … America was respected
    FOUR YEARS AGO … America had good jobs
    FOUR YEARS AGO … America had a surplus
    yada yada yada
    The Republicans kick our ass in marketing because being reasonable, we tend to want to explain things, instead of simply selling.
    What do you want in a commercial?
    (a) two women fighting in water over beer
    (b) a guy explaining hops
    They are kicking our ass with simple messages repeated ad nauseam. FLIP FLOP. TAX AND SPEND. STUNT.
    They have no shame, and will use any word that sells, irrespective of its nonapplicability to what they do.
    The message must be narrowed, the words must be narrowed, and buzz words/themes must be used. Would that it were not so, but it is.

  25. frankly0 on

    My own concept of a successful campaign for Kerry would be a three-pronged one:
    One prong would be economic issues, another would be security issues, and the final prong would be an explicit counterattack against Bush designed to blunt the effect of the smears of Kerry, AND go directly at Bush’s own personal vulnerabilities.
    I’d give each of these prongs equal weight, adjusting over time as appropriate.

  26. frankly0 on

    I think that the comparison to Reagan’s run against Carter is not apt, for a very basic reason: the type of negative campaigning Carter may have directed at Reagan was NOTHING like the type of smears being directed at Kerry. The smears against Kerry are systematic, extremely personal, and VERY damaging if accepted even in a small fractions of the entire big lie.
    The strategy of Bush and Rove is clear, to get that small, but lethal, fraction into the systems of many American voters. Both Dole and Bush Sr. have tried to do this in their typically ugly way, by saying, well the Swifties can’t all be lying, right? And what they say has to have SOME grain of truth in it, right?
    It seems to me that a major prong of Kerry’s campaign MUST be to counterattack Bush on the smear campaign, and also to raise doubts on Bush himself, which can counteract any damage to Kerry’s reputation for integrity and honor.
    Reagan might have been able to be more appealing than Carter because he was so much sunnier. But Carter was not going directly after Reagan’s integrity and honor with a relentless stream of smears.
    It’s important to remember the differences.

  27. Gabby Hayes on

    Someone posted a link to here at NEWHOUNDS, who are the researchers who worked with Greenwald on OUTFOXED.
    Ruy, I am very impressed with your work. Get the hook on Tad Devine, and get you out there.
    My passion for American History and great Democrats requires me to correct the following story, however:
    Remember this: Andrew Jackson was once in this duel with this man who hated him. The man was so angry with Jackson that he challenged him to this duel. Each man took their ten steps, or whatever, and then the man took a shot at the future President. He missed. Being someone of “honor” he bowed his head and recognized that he had taken his best shot at his antagonist but had missed him. Fate would allow Jackson to live. He turned to Jackson and said, “well done sir.”
    Jackson turned back to the man and said, “hold on sir. Now it’s my turn.”
    Posted by Jeff at September 5, 2004 07:09 PM
    The man who fired at Jackson did not miss. He hit Jackson in the chest, and Jackson stood, after having been hit, and then fired his shot after taking slow and deliberate aim.
    The man who fired at Jackson was a bit of a cad, who had bragged he would shoot Jackson through the heart, and gave demonstrations using playing cards. Jackson had challenged him to a duel because said scoundrel had maligned Mrs. Jackson, a DIVORCEE, back when that meant something terrible. He suggested that Andy Jackson’s wife was a FAST woman, using a horse analogy.
    Jackson had a jacket altered especially for this duel, which jacket would sit to one side, and be off center. He knew the duel would take place in the morning, when poor visibility compounded by early morning haze would help him. The illusion was effective, and the shot did not kill Jackson.
    Jackson then took aim and fired, killing the man.
    Andy Jackson carried that bullet with him all his life, and he had to sleep sitting up because the bullet interfered with his breathing.
    He was truly a great, great man. The first REAL Democrat.
    Hell yes, I’m a yellow dog Democrat!

  28. eb on

    Thanks for the injection of sanity and reason. I visited Democratic Underground recently where hysteria reigns. I don’t think too many of the posters have lived through a presidential campaign–and, even if they have, they watched from the sidelines. I can’t see wasting your time posting thousands of times in that unhealthy, airless echo chamber. Thanks to all here who are out there working for Kerry. I’ve been to my local headquarters but am thinking of going to a swing state (mine is solidly blue).

  29. PrahaPartizan on

    Allan Bartlett posted at September 6, 2004 12:37 AM:
    “I’m just wondering what is so bad about a 5.4% jobless rate. I don’t have it handy, but what was the average jobless rate during Bill Clinton’s tenure in office?”
    The problem isn’t just the jobless rate compared to an earlier period. Dubya has seen a significant drop in the adult participation rate in the work during his time in office. So, while this jobless rate at the end of his administration is marginally higher than the jobless rate at the end of Clinton’s tenure, it’s low number is based on a much lower participation. Dubya needed something like another 5 million jobs created on his watch to make the jobless rate comparable. His “stimulus” package didn’t work and never could have worked. Instead, it’s saddled the nation today and in the future with a debt of staggering proportions. Dubya’s policies have been unequivocal failures.

  30. Joe Zainea on

    Allan: If you’re really interested in what’s so bad about a 5.6% unemployment rate, I have the following points for you to consider. The rate itself isn’t good but its not terribly bad either. Used to be that we thought in this country that anything below 5% was something close to full employment.
    Trouble is that the unemployment isn’t spread evenly across the country but rather is concentrated in a few places making life in those communities very difficult for working Americans.
    Another point is that the 5.6% rate isn’t totally accurate because long term unemployed (and there’s many of them) are no longer counted because they have exhausted their benefits and have therefore become invisible.
    Finally, it takes about 150,000 new jobs per month just to keep up with growth in the pool of new workers. Last month’s growth of 144,000 new jobs therefore means that about 6,000 new workers are finding nothing.
    If this keeps up (and it certianly will) the number of the unemployed will continue to grow even if the rate doesn’t, simply because the number of long term unemployed continues to expand, making them invisible as they become discouraged and leave the job market.
    Obviously, these are points John Kerry isn’t about to dwell on in front of a campaign audience if he wants them to stay awake. But he and others need to keep hammering away at the failure of the Bush administration to come to grips with the jobs problem. And while they’re at it, point out the bald face lies being told to the American people about the economy.
    This will all be on the final exam.

  31. ira on

    Kerry Enlisting Clinton Aides in Effort to Refocus Campaign
    Published: September 6, 2004
    Former President Bill Clinton, in a 90-minute telephone conversation from his hospital room, offered John Kerry detailed advice on Saturday night on how to reinvigorate his candidacy, as Mr. Kerry enlisted more Clinton advisers to help shape his strategy and message for the remainder of the campaign.
    In an expansive conversation, Mr. Clinton told Mr. Kerry that he should move away from talking about Vietnam, which had been the central theme of his candidacy, and focus instead on drawing contrasts with President Bush on job creation and health care policies, officials with knowledge of the conversation said.
    The conversation and the recruitment of old Clinton hands came amid rising concern among Democrats about the state of Mr. Kerry’s campaign and criticism that he had been too slow to respond to attacks on his military record or to engage Mr. Bush on domestic policy. Among the better-known former Clinton aides who are expected to play an increasingly prominent role are James Carville, Paul Begala and Stanley Greenberg, campaign aides said.

  32. Joe Zainea on

    Kerry does need to hammer away at Bush on the economy. He needs to talk about the anemic jobs picture and he needs to talk about the higher debt being rung up by this free beer administration. Then he has to talk about jobs again.
    Why the focus on jobs? Because in early October, there will be another jobs reprt and it won’t be pretty. Look for the big three automakers to start laying off workers in Sept. due to large inventories. The high price of gas is causing change in buyer habits and consumer debt burden is restraining car buying.
    The layoffs will be felt widely across the nation but the upper mid-west will take the biggest hit. It seems to me if the auto industry is telegraphing this move, Kerry ought to anticipate the foreseeable results of October for his message of September.

  33. standa on

    Why are Kerry/Edwards drawing campaign crowds of more than 20,000 in Akron, Ohio , 25,000 in Tacoma WA, 50,000 in Portland and Bush/Cheney can only draw campaign crowds of a couple thousand tops ?
    Do the local news and media in the Battleground States have a better depiction of the REAL story on this election ?
    How much longer can the US mainstream news and some major polls put up a facade ?
    Bush has been avoiding discussing the REAL issues up to now but the coward can no longer hide.
    Kerry was saving his end game for right after the RNC. In fact, both Kerry and Edwards are great closers.
    The pounding of the Bushie Boy has begun at precisely the right time !
    Watch and Learn…
    There is NO WAY that the American electorate will be DUPED by the more of the same of Bush/Cheney misleading of the public, distorting fact, and contriving false realities on virtually every major issue since we have already experienced 4 years of LACK of TRUST with ABYSMAL PERFORMANCE..
    Kerry/Edwards will win on Nov 2.

  34. Carla on

    I’ll probably get flamed for writing this….but I’m going to take my chances and hope you’re all not emailing me nastygrams after reading…
    I don’t care if these polls are right or if they’re wrong. We need to push like the Newsweek/Time polls are dead on correct. We need to work our butts off hard…every day. We don’t let polls demoralize us…we use them to make us work harder. And somebody needs to shut up the Democrats who give interviews doubting Kerry’s strategies. When a Democrat can get an interview on a TV show…their job should be to talk about what a lousy president Bush has been and what a great President Kerry will be. Period.
    This isn’t just for the sake of our country. I have a son who will be draft age around the end of Bush’s second term, should he be reelected. So do a lot of other mothers.
    This is serious business.

  35. ChristianPinko on

    Thanks for your words of calm and wisdom, Ruy.
    I’ve been wondering whether Democrats suffer from a ‘toughness gap,’ as Jon Alter put it in Newsweek, so much as a discipline gap. Exhibit A: What is up with that Democrat who was quoted in the NYT today about how worried he was that Kerry is not communicating his message? For fuck’s sake, can’t Democrats KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT when necessary? There’s absolutely no excuse, at all, for Democrats to convey fear and weakness in this election. I hope to God that somebody in the Democratic party metes out swift and harsh discipline to this self-centered bozo.
    On a related topic: I know that some people (e.g., Kevin Drum) are unhappy that Kerry is going to focus on the economy and not Iraq, but think on this. When Karl Rove announces a message, the whole right-wing network gets busy repeating it eleventy-fuck times, until it comes to dominate the media. What if, instead of blogging about how Kerry needs to get tough, and he should focus on Iraq, and he needs to respond right away to attacks, blah blah, all the liberal bloggers out there got busy repeating the Kerry campaign’s message? Again, it’s discipline: Kerry’s our leader until at least Nov. 2, and we need to follow him, not tell him what to do.

  36. Mimiru on

    Dear Jeff
    Andy Jackson dear founder of our party also ignored supreme court rulings and slaughtered many many many native americans.
    And once again Ruy (damn you! post in the comments!) you fail to understand, we are not the people that need to be reasurred. That needs to be done with people like my parents who are hardcore dems and have been all their lives but today at church confided to me they believe Bush will win.

  37. Jemes Decker on

    Kerry does not have to launch a vicious attack on Bush.
    But Moveon should.
    The “resolute” leader is a fraud.
    The “compassionate conservative” is a fraud.
    e.g. Bush’s refusal to extend unemployment benefits during the recession (which would also have created more jobs)
    The war on Iraq has increased terrorism worldwide and is the result of a president unable to think for himself to avoid manipulation by those around him with their own agendas.
    We are not doing a good enough job defining Bush.

  38. jake on

    BUT wait! Can’t this all work to Kerry’s advantage? I’ve read in this string people stating the media is slipping into the “Bush has the mojo” story line. Well…what’s their story going to be his numbers slip back into the tie race? They’ll be forced to sing a new song, and I’d be willing to bet, given their propencity for loving a twisting plot, it’ll sound like Bush can’t “keep it up” and needs political Viagra of some form. There could be tons of “like-father-like-son” statements. Couldn’t THIS be the shifting of the meme?

  39. abc on

    Since you raise the Judis article, the flaw there is that Carter was essentially accusing Reagan of being an unstable warmonger, so Reagan’s correct response was to come across as restrained and reasonable.
    If Bush were accusing Kerry of being too aggressive, then the analogy would hold. But it’s the opposite now…
    That said, Ruy being restrained and reasonable is exactly what’s needed….

  40. jake on

    Thank you, sir. I hadn’t thought of the publications’ print run schedule in all of this. Made me have a “Duh!” moment. Still not hand-flappin’ and screeching into the sleepless night over this, but was confounded as to how stupid we must be as a people to be falling for all the GOP’s switcheroos of truth and logic.
    I’m really enjoying your perspective. More ammo to use in my watercooler debates.

  41. Arpad on

    I like that Ruy wants us to look at the big picture. I do appreciate his poly sci view on things. But, I also agree with Mark. Bring in Carville. He has the kryptonite for SuperRove. Plus, he’s the only Dem “con pelotas” that can even play on the Repubs court. This Swift Boat fiasco would have been dealt with weeks ago via a nice 30 second bit on Bush going AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard. Call it negative, but it works.

  42. Young Turk on

    I seem to recall Both Newsweek and Time having similar polls about Howard Dean and how he was “not electable”.
    Remember who owns these magazines and take this with a grain of salt. Newsweek in particular was very anti-Dean?
    First, they raised him up and then they quashed him like a bug.

  43. Bel on

    “Democrats said the agenda Bush outlined in his convention speech for a second term – including private Social Security investment accounts and tax-free health and retirement plans – would push the nearly $400 billion federal deficit further in the red.
    Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona agreed, and said Bush should propose offsetting spending cuts to help pay for those programs and continuing expenses in Iraq.
    “We’re going to be in Iraq for a long time. Here’s a little straight talk. And it’s going to be expensive and we’ve got to factor that into any budgetary plans,” McCain told ABC. ”
    McCain is in a quandry and I doubt his buddy bush will help him solve it.. poor child.

  44. infoshaman on

    Thanks to you who have spent the weekend canvassing for K/E. Your stories are encouraging.
    My son who just went off to college reports that his dormmates are discouraged about the inevitability of Bush winning. It seems that 19 year olds remember only 2-term presidents (actually only a single 2-termer, Clinton). So they cannot imagine beating an incumbent. I’m glad I know (and believe) better…..

  45. Bel on

    Ruy has a tremendous job on this site.. first he has to do the analysis.. and then he has to come right back and babysit. gee..
    Its really good to notice that many of you are actually going out and canvassing and registering voters and beating the path… do you think Bush can really win this thing with all the effort you are making? Impossible.
    You just need to raise the intensity of your efforts and bush would be toast… burnt toast too. Dont leave it all up to Kerry…. he is working really hard and making a galant effort, even if its not the best effort.. give him your support and lets get some new linens in the whitehouse.. soon……Pleassssssse…!!!!

  46. Mikeindc on

    I spent my day on Saturday ID-ing voters by phone at the Democratic Headquarters in Martinsburg, WV. I was there for seven hours. The three counties of the Eastern Panhandle all went for Bush in 2000 against Gore. Of course, most people were not home or at least did not pick of their phones, but in this small sample, there was a four-to-one trend for Kerry over Bush. No one declared for Nadir. I had one guy who planned to vote Libertarian (after swallowing his daughter’s live goldfish despite her plaintiff tears.)

  47. Dave in DC on

    Thanks Ruy. Whatever else may be said, Kerry is still in the best position of any challenger to an incumbent president since Reagan in 80′. And there are still a lot of weapons in the arsenal that haven’t been touched, much less used. One is to turn the guns back on Bush on the “flip flop” charge. As all of us in the blogosphere have seen, there are enough major Bush flip flops out there to fill many weeks worth of 30 second spots. I dream of Bush raising this in a debate and Kerry turning to Bush and saying “Being called a flip flopper by you is like being called ugly by a frog.” I believe the relentless emphasis of the flip flop charge, and the complementary assertion that Bush “means what he says” is a big fat hanging curve ball just sitting over the plate waiting to be knocked out of the park.
    I am also waiting for someone to come up with a videotape of Cheney as Secretary of Defense at a press conference or testifying before Congress chiding Congress for not cutting more out of the defense budget. Wouldn’t that make a great spot to go with the charges that Kerry voted to cut all those weapons systems?
    Dave in DC

  48. mark on

    I am nonetheless quite concerned with the dynamic of macho and lack thereof in the race. I am afraid that it will keep K from getting his message out. See Frank Rich’s piece in the NYT today to see what I mean. K needs to get good and tough good and fast and I fear that he does not understand this. I hope I am wrong.

  49. Jeff on

    This is nothing like 1988. In 1988, the Democrats were ahead by a lot and then suddenly (after the GOP convention) were down by a lot. This number held until election day.
    Already you are seeing the convention bounce slip back into a tie situation.
    Assuming that Bush has a small 3% lead at this point. Which is exactly what Carter had. Consider all our positives now:
    1) We survived the “guns of August” and are still within the margin of error. The Bush campaign outspent us 10 to 1 in August. The vast majority of those ads were negative.
    2) The Swift Boat thing. This got national attention for two solid weeks. I still don’t think it damaged us too much. But it did take away much of our momentum.
    3) The overty negative Republican convention. This may have pleased many die-hard republicans, but I think it may have turned off swing votes in the long run. There is no doubt in people’s minds about the negativity of the Bush campaign.
    4) The Bush economy still sucks. The economy, the war and almost everything else Bush has attempted has turned to shit. The one advantage that the smears gave us is that it gives us licence to blast Bush’s ass to ground on these domestic issues he is vulnerable on.
    So you see. After outspending us 10 to 1. After an effective smear. After their convention. We are still in it. Only down by a bit.
    Remember this: Andrew Jackson was once in this duel with this man who hated him. The man was so angry with Jackson that he challenged him to this duel. Each man took their ten steps, or whatever, and then the man took a shot at the future President. He missed. Being someone of “honor” he bowed his head and recognized that he had taken his best shot at his antagonist but had missed him. Fate would allow Jackson to live. He turned to Jackson and said, “well done sir.”
    Jackson turned back to the man and said, “hold on sir. Now it’s my turn.”

  50. Ed on

    I agree with mark alan, James Carville would be the man that could do it. He was on Tim Russert this morning and he dosen’t let any thing get by he has a quick response to all the crap the righties put out. I think there a lot of good ideas the people on here suggest and I think they would work, to bad Kerry dosen’t start using some of them. It just seems that the DNC dosen’t have the spokes-persons that are as sharp as the RNC.

  51. Sky on

    My wife and I canvassed on behalf of KE today as an antidote to panic. We came across: 15 strong KE households, 20 not home, and 2 BC supports. We live in Denver, by the way, and were canvassing in a heavily Democratic neighborhood, obviously. I encourage all of you to invest your time in voter contact (many of us did nothing in ’00 and Gore still won), we can get the energy focused on voter contact and get out the vote, this election will suprise many of you (I hope). It’s also a great cure for sleepless nights. Remember Florida!

  52. warp resident on

    Nice of you to take time out of your weekend to respond to this hysteria, Ruy. You seem to be giving Newsweek the benefit of the doubt, but looking at their methodology doesn’t it seem that this is more than a little negligent. As Armando has pointed out on various blogs both Newsweek and Time polls PUSHED leaners to choose a candidate, which wasn’t done during the DNC. Furthermore, 31% independents further skews the results from reality. The true fraction of independents in the electorate is nowhere near that number. And did you notice the high proportion (over 40%) of military families in the Newsweek survey. We all know military favor republicans. What’s with that? Anyway the echo chamber is in full resonance. “Clear double digit lead” is the headline in many major dailys around the country. And Dems are in full panic mode. I smell a skunk.

  53. mark alan on

    Ruy, I appreciate your analysis and thoughts. But….regarding panic, let me explain why. While the 1980 campaign is all well and good(and I hope it is true) This reminds me more of the 1988 race, where Shrum the looser did nothing against Willie horton, and the smears. And who is heading Kerry’s campaign.. yes Shrum, who would of guessed!
    Think about it, Shrum screwed Dukkais and Gore. Now who has won national democratic campaigns?? Only Carville! Since 1976 only one man, James Carville, who has the vision, the balls and the smarts has run winning national democratic campaigns.
    How does he do it? He has a war room, he fights fire with fire, he responds rappidly, his candidate has a vision and a plan.
    Think about it…. has Kerry done any of this?
    Finally, regarding the polls. I believe in your analysis, but the truth is that the media reports these polls as truth, which fires up Bush supporters and demoralizes us, and sends the idea to independants that Bush is unbeatable and has the mojo.

  54. howard on

    I don’t know the extent to which Judis goes into this (don’t have time to click through right now), but i’ve been pointing out to friends that, as best as i can remember (ruy, can you help out here?), that reagan, with all kinds of natural advantages in 1980 (already well known to the electorate, deep loyalty in the republican party, widely disliked president without the emotional support that bush has from his base, the rise of the modern conservative movement), reagan didn’t move decisively ahead until the final week of the campaign.
    I think the reason that dems panic – beyond a natural cravenness! – is that many of us can’t imagine that anyone can see bush as worthy of re-election, and so when the numbers suggest a serious disconnect between that perception and how the public is behaving….However, now that we’re through the hatefest, now that the bushies have had to resort to the swifty lies this early, i think there’s a pretty fair chance that the public will, again, think seriously about how the country is going and whether bush really should be kept in office….

  55. DaveInFlorida on

    Today’s Rassmusen (9-5) has Bush ahead by less than two points: 47.6 to 46.4. Calm down everybody and listen to Ruy. Kerry has most of the ammo in his corner. I’ll admit its very close but Kerry has the facts on his side. Once again: RELAX and go register some voters. Call your relatives in Ohio and here in Florida. Please don’t get discouraged. Things are not that bad!

  56. Tony on

    Thanks, Ruy.
    I was thinking it was time for JFK to pull out “there they go again” on the trail. Mock them a bit for trying to do what they’ve done before to McCain and Cleland, and then make his case.


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