Kerry's Hope.

Kerry's Hope.

Kerry's Hope.

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 25 2004 12:47 PM

The Spotlight Flickers

Kerry's hope--he might not get his message out!

Chris Suellentrop suggests Kerry should be worried if he pulls ahead, because under Ron Brownstein's "spotlight" theory that's the kiss of death. Why? The polite way to phrase the Spotlight thesis is, as Suellentrop writes:

Given that a slight majority of the electorate doesn't want Bush, and that a different but similarly slight majority doesn't want Kerry, the winning candidate will be the one who manages to keep the spotlight on his opponent's flaws, rather than his own.

The less polite way to phrase it is:

When voters see a lot of either one of these candidates, they don't like that candidate. They don't like Bush because they don't like the results of his policies. They don't like Kerry because they don't like Kerry.


I think Kerry might hold on to any new lead, however, because the Spotlight Theory may no longer operate in the final two weeks of the campaign. The reason: there's too much news for either of the candidates to really break through and alienate the electorate the way they did earlier. In the cacophany and clutter of battleground scene-setting and electoral vote gaming and Florida nightmare scenarios and prepackaged Neutral Story Line take-outs on new voters or Hispanics or local issues, each candidate now gets only a few seconds every day to deliver some iconic, cartoonish statement about how he is guided by faith or is going to kill terrorists or lower taxes or protect moms, etc. Voters can't possibly get to know these men in these brief snapshots. That should be good news for Kerry. He's the candidate with the least appealing personality. How off-putting can he be in four seconds, even if he dresses up in camouflage? ... In other words, just when he may be poised to blow his final lead of the year, the end-of-race crowding-out effect should start working to prevent him from self-destructing. ...

Caveat: There is, however, one way to cut through end-of-race clutter--paid media. In what appears to be a desperate, last ditch attempt to lose the election, Kerry's genius strategists have chosen to end their campaign with three official paid ads featuring the flawed, unappealing standard-bearer himself, talking directly to the audience!  Nothing less, apparently, would do the job. In one of these spots Kerry is actually pretty good. But the other two (here and here) show the more familiar stiff, unlikeable Kerry. If the Spotlight theory holds, they could go a long way toward taking the Senator's momentum and turning it around! ... 1:55 A.M.

The Hunt for Tora Bora Criticism: Alert kf critic J.H. emails that:

At an event my organization (NJDC) cosponsored at the DNC, Hillary stated, for what it's worth, that Kerry gave her contemporaneous criticism in the Senate cloak room. 


Hillary is not exactly an unbiased source when it comes to Kerry [Which way?-ed]. But it would at least be some evidence. If anybody has a transcript of this event, please send it. Thanks. ... Update: A second earwitness confirms that Hillary said this. But no transcript yet. ...  12:12 A.M.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Prof. Hasen suggests that Sixth Circuit reversal on Ohio's provisional ballots averts chaos, rather than creates it, because the state Dems have decided not to appeal it--a seemingly public-spirited move that maybe will set some sort of positive precedent. [Public spirited? The Dems have already gotten their base-motivating mileage out of the suit--accusing GOP state officials of trying to hold down the vote, etc.--ed. At least they recognize the bad PR of unrestrained disruptive litigation.] 11:31 P.M.

Hit Parade: I'm generally biased in favor of late-in-the-game press hits--not on the day before election day, maybe, but certainly as late as the weekend before. The closing days is when the truth often comes out (e.g., the LAT's Schwarzengroping story, the DUI charge that Bush had foolishly hoped would not surface in 2000). Voters have shown an ability to put these things in perspective, and the Feiler Faster Principle--now available in  academic form!--suggests they're getting better at it as the info cycle speeds up.  This late-inning anti-Bush story seems worth following up on--why, exactly, was Bush doing what looked an awful lot like some mandatory sort of community service in 1973? I'm not saying voters should be that concerned with the possibly-whitewashed resume of a four-year incumbent, as opposed to a pig-in-the-pokish challenger. And Bush appears to have been good at the charity work--see the closing quotes. (e.g.: "`43' did more good being in trouble than a lot of people not in trouble. The guy knew he needed to change his life, and he did.") One day maybe it will all make for a moving film starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. But right now it's worth following up on. ... [via TalkLeft ] .. Update: Here's an extremely vague hint about a possible final-week anti-Kerry hit. But:  "It's not huge ... " 1:07 P.M. 


Update: In Nevada yesterday, Kerry said, of the Tora Bora bust:

"Can you imagine trusting them when you have your 10th Mountain Division, the United States Marine Corps, when you had all the power and ability of the best-trained military in the world? ... I would have used our military and we would have gone after and captured or killed Osama bin Laden. That's tough."

Hmmm. As noted earlier, here's what Kerry said at the time, and I haven't seen any contrary evidence indicating he had contemporaneous qualms about Gen. Franks' reliance on Afghan proxies. ... Good Closing, or Opportunistic Hindsight? You make the call! ... [ Tora Bora was a mistake, right?  Presidents are responsible for their mistakes. It's not so unfair to subject them to opportunistic second-guessing--ed. Why can't Kerry accurately say "Bush should have ...," instead of implausbily claiming "I would have"? When do you shift into pro-Kerry mode?-ed. Soon, soon.] ... Update 2: There's also the lively possibility that Osama's dead, of course, whether or not we killed him at Tora Bora. See this seemingly not uninformed post  on Roger Simon's blog. ...  12:20 A.M.

Friday, October 22, 2004


Even if Bush is giving up on Ohio  (!), why would he want to make it so obvious? ... Maybe Howell Raines was right! ... 3:44 A.M

Is Kerry Really That Smart?--Part II:

"Does anyone in America doubt that Kerry has a higher IQ than Bush?"--Howell Raines, WaPo, August 27, 2004

Er, yes, someone does! [What makes him so sure?-ed He's got proof!] 3:02 A.M.


Robin Wright has a very good reputation, but her pieces since joining WaPo seem to me to be suffused with seething Foggy-Bottomy anti-Bush animus. Today, she writes as if it would be a disaster  if religious parties "win the largest share of votes" in Iraqi elections in January:

Within the Bush administration, a victory by Iraq's religious parties is viewed as the worst-case scenario.

Worst-case scenario? I'd guess that, er, victory by Zarqawi and the insurgents would be the worst-case scenario. Actually holding fair elections in January in which religious leaders (including Sadr) participate in the political process would be one of the better-case scenarios, no? Given where the coalition is now, it seems like Wright's "worst case" would be a huge success. ... P.S.: Wright also gives us pessimistic Iraq quotes from 1) "a U.S. official" and 2) "a Congressional staff member."  Wow, she got a pithy quote from a Congressional staff member! ("It's all trending the wrong way ...") In Washington, "Congressional staff member" translates roughly as "one of every three people walking down the street, except with an axe to grind."  She couldn't get an anti-war quote anyone with an actual name, or at least an i.d. that was more impressive? ... Update: More on what Wright left out in Today's Papers. ... 2:37 A.M.

WaPo on Kerry's cabinet: What, no Steve Rattner?2:12 A.M.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Mayflower Hill has Kerry advisor Richard Holbrooke saying some anti-cut-and-runnish things  about Iraq at a foreign policy gabber today in NYC. Specifically:

"Whether you agree or disagree with the original decision to go to war, we're in it now and if we pulled out it would result in extreme chaos and instability in the region."

Has Kerry been that clear? Or is he scared of offending the left? ... 8:25 P.M.

Prodigal star Nation columnist Christopher Hitchens has returned to that magazine's pages with a short essay on why he would "slightly prefer" that President Bush win the election. But just try to find it on The Nation's home page. ... P.S.: I hear the Hitchens piece was a Victor Navasky project that his PC staff is burying. ...  5:33 P.M.

R Readers R R Reporters! Veteran kf correspondent P.M.--on the ground in Monona, Wisconsin!--notes the prediction of huge 80-85% Milwaukee turnout by nonpartisan state election board director Kevin Kennedy. P.M. concludes: "If, as Kennedy suggests, Milwaukee County turnout is up, and Madison city turnout is up, Bush is in trouble in Wisconsin." ... P.S.: Nader won 3.6% of the Wisconsin vote in 2000. But P.M. reports "unlike in '00, Nader has absolutely no visible presence or campaign here in Madison (a good place to judge his efforts -- Madison is ground center for the left-of-left-of-center vote in Wisconsin)." ... 12:52 P.M.

Pollapalooza: Can Bush win if the final pre-election polls show him leading, but with only 47% of the vote? The CW--following the venerable "Incumbent Rule"--says no! ... Yet, Mystery Pollster notes, in 2002 several state incumbents did substantially better than their final preelection numbers, including such unpopular officeholders as California Gov. Gray Davis. Doesn't that augur well for Bush's chance of similarly defying the Incumbent Rule this year? MP ponders and says ... still no! ...

P.S.: Into the Weeds! If you can understand this in-depth twin-blogger discussion of the alternative Harris Poll likely-voter screen assumptions, you are doing better than I am. The question seems to be: Could there possibly be as many new voters on Nov. 2 as it would take to produce the results in the relatively pro-Kerry Harris Poll (which shows a virtual tie nationwide)? The answer seems to be "no"--except in swing states, where the answer is "maybe!" ...

P.P.S.: The counter to the anti-Bush "Incumbent Rule" is the phenomenon picked up by this now-famous, paranoid  U.S.S. Clueless chart of charts  and by Michael "Mr. October" Barone--the 2004 default trend in periods of "normal" campaigning (e.g.,not dominated by big events like debates or conventions) is that Bush slowly grinds Kerry down. ... But are there any more periods of "normal" campaigning left? I tend to think the media clutter of the final two weeks precludes it. (Today's WaPo tracking poll suggests the "default" pattern is reasserting itself, but it could also be a Teresa gaffe-blip.) ...  2:44 A.M.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

File this  under "Anything to Distract Attention in This News Cycle from Teresa's 'Laura-Didn't-Work' Snipe," which may still kill off  Kerry's latest mini-momentum. ... 5:17 P.M.

Was Kerry for Tora Bora before he was against it?  I'd always figured Kerry was on relatively strong ground criticizing the "outsourced" approach at Tora Bora because he must have criticized it at the time. But Tom Maguire of JustOneMinute has come up with a transcript of a "Larry King Live"  broadcast on Dec. 14, 2001, during  the month-long battle, in which (responding to a question about why we weren't up in the caves using "napalm or flamethrowers"**) Kerry appears to actually endorse a play-it-safe, minimize-U.S.-casualties approach:

But for the moment, what we are doing, I think, is having its impact and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way. [Emphasis added]

Perhaps Kerry was only referring here to the failure to use flamethrowers (though his language can just as easily be read more broadly). But earlier in the same interview-- in response to the question "how goes it so far in Afghanistan, in your opinion?"-- Kerry strongly praises the U.S.'s strategy, which even as he spoke was relying heavily on proxies:

"I think we have been smart, I think the administration leadership has done it well and we are on right track."  [Emphasis added]

Kerry certainly isn't critical of the "outsourcing."  Nor was this interview at the beginning of the Tora Bora seige, when its contours were unclear. It was in the battle's final days, more than a week after bin Laden (by some accounts) had already escaped, at a time when even Donald Rumsfeld was having public doubts about our likely success. ... P.S.: If anyone has evidence of real-time Kerry criticism of the Tora Bora strategy (which may well exist) I'll be glad to reference it. Update: Silence. ... Update: Zilch. ... P.P.S.: There were good, Kerryesque reasons for relying on local proxies in Afghanistan--e.g., not wanting to seem to be an occupying foreign power, not wanting to upset Pakistanis, etc. It turned out to be a mistake.   But it's highly implausible to think that a President Kerry would have been less sensitive to these concerns and instead have poured in U.S. troops. ... ["mistake" link via TPM ]

**: Slate's Scott Shuger had argued for considering flamethrowers a month and a half earlier.  1:44 P.M.

Rhymes with 'Cupid!': Teresa is less quirkily charming than expected in a USAT interview. The Kerrys are now two apologies in the hole. ... Update: One down, one to go. They got Teresa to grovel impressively quickly. Not simply in the same news cycle--almost in the same Drudge cycle!  ... The release is all the more effectively self-abasing, as Michael Kinsley might point out, because of its patent phoniness ("there couldn't be a more important job than teaching our children"). ... But does Teresa mean to suggest (as she does) that if Laura Bush hadn't been a schoolteacher, it wouldn't have been a ... how to put it ... snotty, bitchy thing to say? 12:21 P.M.

Those dueling Ohio polls are reconciled here. They're actually "amazingly consistent," says the now-famous Mystery Pollster. His quite convincing explanation is not an auspicious one for President Bush. ... Meanwhile, look at these results of the Survey USA robo-poll. Isn't Kerry shockingly close in presumed Bush states like Virginia (50-46) and North Carolina (50-47)? That's much closer than Kerry's lead in allegedly in-play states like Pennsylvania (51-45) and New Jersey (51-43) ... [You're starting to sound like Ruy Teixeira.--ed I'll lie down until it goes away.] ... 1:46 P.M.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

If Bush's support among African-Americans really has doubled--from 9% to 18%, as reported in a pre-election  Joint Center poll--that would be a potential disaster for Kerry. As the WSJ's Taranto notes, it also provides powerful support for the "cynical" interpretation of the Edwards/Kerry Mary Cheney references as an attempt to sour older and Christian conservative anti-gay-marriage blacks on the Bush ticket. ... 2:02 P.M.

After looking at a state poll, Hardcore Chris argues Bill Clinton really could help Kerry take Arkansas. ... 2:24 A.M.

Bring back the Department of Wellness: Now he's actually  speaking French. ... 1:29 A.M.

Not so fast: The Mystery Pollster surveys the survey landscape and concludes there hasn't been much gain by Bush over the past week. ... Update: Two subsequent polls show Bush edging up nationally (ABC/WaPo  and Fox) but the same two outfits show contrasting results for Ohio (ABC  vs. Fox). The MP has his work cut out for him. ... 1:16 A.M.

Monday, October 18, 2004

You have to look at the print edition photo that accompanies Elisabeth Bumiller's story, but isn't it obvious that the bulge under Bush's jacket (which reappeared in the third debate) is a bulletproof vest? The White House would have a clear security interest in not admitting that. ... The line going down Bush's back would be the seam where the thing cinches up. ... P.S.: Unless it's just a corset! ... 4:29 P.M.

It takes a John Kerry to lose to an incumbent with a 44% approval rating! (Thanks, Iowa.) But even Kerry may not be up to the job, despite his impressively dreary post-debate 39% favorable/43% unfavorable ratio. ... P.S: Here's CBS' write-up of its joint poll with the NYT. As alert reader K.B. notes:

Nagourney should have no trouble writing this one up with that approval number and the right track/wrong track numbers.

It practically writes itself! ... Maybe A.N. will go for a medal and not even mention the (mildly) pro-Bush horse-race numbers until after the jump. ... Update: The joint CBS-NYT poll is, as always, a Rashomon-like tale! The NYT's Nagourney and Elder in fact bury the most pro-Bush numbers--the three-way likely voter results CBS emphasizes in reporting Bush's "narrow lead"--and instead proclaim the race a tie based on two-way results. 4:12 P.M.

I didn't believe it when Slate's election scorecard claimed that

Bush can win without Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin

but they're right! He'd have to win: Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and all of Colorado (i.e. without the vote-splitting amendment). ... 10:59 A.M.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Slate's Chris Suellentrop notes this non-trivial piece of heartening news for Kerry, buried in a WaPo article on the negative reaction to Kerry/Mary:

... Kerry continues to claim a large lead in key battleground states. In these 13 states, Kerry held a 53 percent to 43 percent advantage among likely voters.

It's hard to believe Kerry is doing that well in battlegrounds even while his national polling heads South. (Sorry, Andrew!) But if the WaPo nugget is accurate, it might be because the vulgar Shrumian us-against-them populism Kerry stressed in the last two debates plays well in one part of the country, the industrial Midwest--which happens to be the main battleground this year.  Even Michael Dukakis started moving up in those states, if I remember right, when as a last resort in the waning days of the 1988 campaign he proclaimed himself a liberal and started giving I'm-on-your-side-y speeches. ... P.S.: Suellentrop also writes:

Despite winning all three debates according to opinion polls, Kerry hasn't taken the horse-race lead in a single [national] poll that's been released since the third debate, and he seems to be trending the wrong way.

Maybe that's because, for most of the country, Kerry didn't win the third debate! (Sorry, Will!8:56 P.M.

It Gets Worse When They Try to Be Maureen Dowd Dept: The NYT's Adam Nagourney writes, about the Kerry-Mary comment:

Mr. Kerry invoked Ms. Cheney at the debate in Arizona last Wednesday in arguing that homosexuality was not a choice. Mr. Bush dodged the same question ... [Emphasis added]

What Bush said was "I don't know." That's not dodging the question. It's answering the question. The answer was that Bush doesn't know. (When John McCain said he didn't know about something, during Q & A's in the 2000 race, reader M.S. notes, wasn't that treated as a refreshing dose of candor?) ... Actually dodging the question might involve referring only to the views of others without ever really stating your own opinion. See, e.g., Kerry's answer. ... 8:42 P.M.

Up to a point: It looks as if the much-discussed 10/11 L.A. Times front page scoop reporting that

The Bush administration plans to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November ...

was ... how to put it ...  wrong. [Couldn't the administration have shifted course in response to the LAT story?-ed. Possibly, but the story was weak on its face. All the LAT's blind sources actually said was that the administration hadn't yet signed off on some offensives, not that they planned to delay them. If the Times story encouraged the Bushies to stop dithering--as opposed to reversing "plans" to "delay"--the story was still wrong. ... P.S.: And if you were Bush and were thinking politically, which course would you choose: a) sitting and waiting while the press reports a steady, dispiriting drip drip of casualties up until Election Day, or b) having coalition forces in action, taking the offensive against their adversaries? The LAT story never made much sense. ... 7:54 P.M.

Best case: Of the explanations of the Kerry-Mary debacle I've heard, this is the one that's most favorable to Kerry (from reader C.H.):

the Mary Cheney remark was just off the cuff, the REAL problem is that most of America didn't know that Dick Cheney's daughter was a lesbian.  So instead of Kerry making a pretty decent point, many Americans thought he had OUTED her.

But do you really believe that 1) the remark was unplanned, even though Edwards had made a similar remark a week earlier; 2) Kerry didn't know that many Americans didn't know Dick Cheney had a daughter who was gay (i.e.; that he'd be informing them she was gay, out of the closet or not); 3) Kerry didn't know that many Americans would not like that she was gay even if they knew she was out of the closet; and 4) viewers would have thought Kerry's remark appropriate if they knew Mary Cheney was out of the closet? If Kerry had informed them in the same breath that she was out of the closet? That seems like a lot to swallow. ...

More:  Suppose that--as C.H. and others contend--Kerry innocently made what he thought was a generous and supportive point about the Cheneys. Wouldn't he then, on finding out he had offended, have said, "Oh, I didn't mean to be hurtful or innapropriate, my apologies"? Heck, that's what he should have said even if it was a cynical, non-innocent comment. ... [Thanks to reader M.] 12:40 A.M.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Goodbye "permanent Republican majority:" If Karl Rove wins now it will be by the skin of his teeth--by turning out the base, not by nurturing new GOP constituences,  argues WaPo's Mike Allen. That will become completely clear if Bush exploits the unpopularity of Kerry's "earned legalization" immigration proposal--which might win Bush the election while losing Republicans the always-emerging Hispanic vote. ... P.S.: I'm not completely convinced that Bush's presidency has been as base-pleasing (and non-bipartisan) as the press claims. It takes two to not tango! Nor is it clear a lasting party majority is even possibile in a fluid, 50-50 era. (If Rove did succeed in capturing, say, 55% of the vote, the Democrats would just change their positions to win some of those voters back.) But Allen's article is a good place to start thinking about these things. Another piece that's too smart for the New York Times! ... 11:16 P.M.

The Landslide Faction: Might the normal tendency of voters to 'go with the winner' be magnified this year because many voters who don't feel strongly about the candidates do feel strongly that they don't want it to be a close election with all the attendant Florida style recount madness. They will cast their vote to try to give the front-runner a 5 percent win instead of a 1 percent win. ... This makes the pre-election polls, and the media spin on the polls, more significant than ever, of course. (At some point, a lead by either Bush or Kerry might reach a tipping point at which it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.) It also militates against fancy incumbents-lose-the-undecided and Democrats-win-on-turnout theories that say Kerry is in good shape if he's less than 3 down going into Election Day. That might have put him in good shape in previous elections. But in this election, it could cost him the Landslide Voters, who (unaware of fancy theories) will look at Bush's 3 percent lead and decide to help the president win big. That may be one reason why the Kerry camp is working so hard to combat the sense that Bush is even slightly ahead in the polls. ...

Of course, if Kerry is three points ahead in the polls on Election Day, he should get both the traditional anti-incumbent skew and the new Landslide faction. That would explain why some commentators on the left are so intent on discrediting polls altogether--an 'I don't believe polls" sentiment is win-win for Kerry. If voters disbelieve polls showing Bush is ahead, it might save Kerry by confusing the Landlsiders. But ifKerry's ahead in the polls on election day, he probably has it won anyway even if nobody believes those polls (and hence there is no landslide vote). ...

P.S.: Note that while the traditional go-with-the-winner impulse is mindless, the new don't-make-it-close impulse is completely rational. A voter could quite plausibly think that the Florida fight contributed to the poisoning of American politics, and that a repeat would be disastrous.  The difference between how Bush and Kerry would actually govern for the next four years, the argument would go, isn't as big as the difference between a country with calmer politics and a country even more polarized than it is now, with another not-100%-legitimate president picked by lawyers and the courts. I'm not saying voters consciously run through this complicated thought process. But they may intuitively think, "It looks like X is the guy," and decide to vote for him and feel comfortable about it, where in previous years they might have reacted against the prospect of an X victory (pre-purchase buyer's remorse). ...

P.P.S.: Of course, to be completely rational Landlsiders would have to vote for the likely winner in their states. But I'm not sure voters pay that much attention to state polls. ... It's also possible that the voters' sense of the likely winner is largely divorced from the ongoing polls--which would make the ABC finding  that voters by a 56-33 margin expect Bush to win especially troubling to the Kerry campaign. 10:14 P.M.

WaPo tracking: The 'fastest growing' segment of the electorate? ... Nader voters! Yikes. ... 2:59 P.M.

Newsweek plays down its likely-voter results ** (showing a 6-pt Bush lead) and finds:

Bush has a clear advantage with women, who prefer him 49 percent to 43 percent. Kerry has a slight edge with men, 50 percent to 46 percent.

Which country did they poll again? ... If this Newsweek poll is accurate, something more than Security Momming would seem to be required to explain the 10 point reverse gender gap. (The poll followed a debate on domestic policy, after all.) Maybe something about how Kerry reminds women .... not of their first husband so much as of a guy who never got to be their first husband because he bored them on their first date so he never got a second one. Meanwhile, for men, Kerry actually out-machos Bush in debate if you turn off the sound (and maybe even if you don't). ... Backfill: Alert reader J.G. notes that in this CBS poll--conducted between debates 2 and 3--Kerry also led among men and trailed among women, though the reverse gender gap was not quite as large. ... But the ABC-WaPo tracking poll released the very next day  showed a gender gap in the traditional direction, with Kerry leading by 12 percent among women (in a poll that was tied overall). [Why do we care which way the gender gap goes?-ed Because if it's wacky maybe the whole poll is wacky. If all the polls contradict each other on this issue, maybe-- as the Kerryites contend--we shouldn't trust any of them.]

**: "Too Close to Call" is another reliable newsweekly Neutral Story Line. ... But if Kerry seemed to be nosing ahead among likely voters, would they still have run with that hed?  PatioPundit  says no! As does  Cubs Now! (which also gagged on the reverse gender gap).  ... 1:41 P.M.

Just one more Kerry/Mary theory please please please? Baseball Crank and Pat Caddell, who I think are different people, both speculate that Kerry's gratuitous Mary Cheney mention wasn't a cynical ploy aimed at conservative Republicans but rather a cynical ploy aimed at Democratic,church-going, gay-marriage-opposing African-Americans, whom Kerry desperately needs but who have been troubled by Bush's stronger stand against same-sex unions. Johnny Dollar picks up the Caddell quotes. ... 12:54 A.M.

Will cell phones save the Democrats? Or, rather, will the young cell-phone users that telephone pollsters miss show up on Nov. 2 and make the final outcome much more Kerry-friendly than the current polls indicate? Arianna says yes. Mystery Pollster (who also seems to be a bit of a Mystery Speller) says not this year. ... Update: Kerry skeptic Robert Musil enters the fray and sides with ... Arianna, speculating on the growing importance not of cell-only voters but of "five factor households." I'm one of them and (following Kaus' First Rule of Journalism) suspect Musil has a powerful point. It's all about Caller ID. Do you answer your phone? ... See Celinda Lake's comments in this CNN piece. ... 12:16 A.M.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Yet another theory of Kerry's Mary Cheney comment (from the hot, hot Impleader): Kerry wasn't trying to tar Bush and Cheney. He was just trying to straddle the question! ... (After all, why couldn't he have said, "I don't think homosexuality is a matter of choice?" That would be too straightforward! Too exposed. So he instinctively looked around for someone else to whom he could attribute this view so he wouldn't have to explicitly embrace it himself. Fatefully, he hit on ... [Why not Governor McGreevey?-ed Mary Cheney is more popular in New Jersey!] ) ... P.S.: I don't actually think Impleader's theory is what explains the comment. I think it was a clumsy little shiv job. But Kerry also was perhaps reflexively avoiding saying what he himself thought. ... 4:51 P.M.

Flail Watch: When Bush and his adviser Karl Rove take the unusual step of making themselves accessible to reporters, it's a sign of "anxiety" and "jitters." But when Kerry adviser Bob Shrum takes the unusual step of making himself accessible to reporters, it's a sign of confidence--a "victory lap"!  ... Those two things could both be true, of course. But you'd want more evidence than the LAT's forced quote from Newt Gingrich that

"If you don't have some anxiety you are not in touch with reality."

[But the Times also had a "senior Republican strategist not affiliated with the campaign" saying he thinks "the Bush camp might be nervous"!-ed Well there you go! Case closed! You don't think the LAT could have gotten an "unaffiliated senior Democratic strategist" to say the Kerry camp might be nervous? Why are Bush's sharpened attacks "flailing" but Kerry's sharpened attacks--e.g., reviving himself formerly-semi-unrespectable fears of a military draft--not flailing?] 2:02 P.M.

Special MSM Professional Standards Edition: Impleaderbusts ABC's The Note (or, rather, its Noted Now spinoff) for turning a mildly anti-Kerry quote from Gov. Schwarzenegger into a pro-Kerry quote. Schwarzenegger criticized Kerry for evasiveness, but through skillful (or jarringly incompetent) use of ellipses Noted Now falsely makes it sound as if Schwarzenegger was praising Kerry for his straightforward answers! ... P.S.: On NBC Nightly News last night, Tom Brokaw said that N.M. Gov. Bill Richardson was "born in Mexico." No he wasn't. [An ad lib mistake?-ed No. Brokaw's piece was taped.] ... Update: Impleader Gets Results!Noted Now has now posted a prominent correction. Update: Not so prominent three hours later. But it's still there. ...1:42 A.M.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Wonder how this line of attack will focus group ...

"He's worse than Nixon in his vulgarity. He looks like he shops at Wal-Mart. That's not what the president is supposed to be."-- Oliver Stone, in Playboy, on George W. Bush.

And some ideologues  say Hollywood is out of touch! [At least Stone knows what Wal-Mart is-ed. OK. He's in touch. But he has some "class issues."]3:44 A.M.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Debate #3: 'Did I mention that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter?'

1) kf's line: A technical draw that helps Bush more than Kerry. Why? a) The trend was against Bush going in to the debate; b) It's two hours after the event. I don't remember many specifics. I do remember that Bush was personable, upbeat, human and articulate (he seemed to have gained about 20 IQ points since debate #1) while Kerry was near-funereal. He even looked like a mortician. Where's the Man Tan when you need it? c) The CW going in had Kerry's campaign appealing to swing voters while Bush mobilized his base. But in the debate both moved to the center--Bush just did a better job of getting there, talking about education for minorities while Kerry was stuck defending racial set-asides.  Ron Brownstein speculated  , pre-debate, that Kerry's biggest task was "untying himself from big government." Will Marshall of the DLC said he needed to "belie the claim that he is some kind of pre-Clinton liberal." If Kerry did either of these things, I missed it. d) My gut tells me that, contrary to voluminous polling data, many voters are looking for reassurance that it's OK to reelect Bush. If so, I think he gave them that reassurance.

2) The CW held that a debate on domestic issues played to Kerry's strengths. Wrong! A debate on domestic issues helps Bush because it excludes the subject of Iraq, Bush's bleeding wound. Duh! Kerry's best line of the night, to my ears, was his pledge to "calm the waters of a troubled world." He should have said that about ten times--but in a domestic debate he was lucky to get it in once.

3) When I criticized John Edwards for gratuitously mentioning Dick Cheney's gay daughter, I got lots of email suggesting that Edwards was simply being nice. Sorry, that won't fly after Kerry bizarrely, needlessly and explicitly raised the subject again ("I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, ....")  There must be some Machiavellian strategy behind the Democratic urge to keep bringing this up--most likely it's a poll-tested attempt to cost Bush and Cheney the votes of demographic groups (like Reagan Dems, or fundamentalists) who are hostile to homosexuality or gay culture or who just don't want to have to think about it. Or maybe Kerry was just trying to throw Bush off stride. In either case, the fake embrace was even creepier coming from Kerry than it was coming from Edwards--Edwards had at least been debating Cheney at the time. After the debate, Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said Cheney's daughter was "fair game." Fair game? Who was being attacked? (It was supposed to be a discussion of whether homosexuality is a "choice" or innate. Bush had said he didn't know.) ... P.S.: If Kerry was being Machiavellian, he went way too far in the culturally liberal direction by talking about friends who "finally sort of broke out"--e.g. came out. (With the support of their wives!) Why "finally"? Is liberation from sexual repression a priority item for Kerry's first term? Of course not, but Kerry's language can't have made socially conservative voters comfortable--negating the effect of the Cheney mention, if that was supposed to make them uncomfortable with Bush.  ... Update: Here's some evidence (in a NYT "undecided" panel) of Kerry's Mary Cheney mention backfiring ("a low blow"). ... More: Kerry was puncturing the "hypocrisy" of Bush's position, as some Kerry defenders claim, only if the sole reason to oppose gay marriage is homophobia. I support the idea of experimenting with gay marriage, but surely it's possible to be a non-bigot and be reluctant to immediately tinker with such a venerable social institution (even if modern monogamous marriage is itself a tinkering with the much longer-standing human tradition of polygyny). Once you admit this possibility of non-bigoted reluctance, then Kerry's move looks less like hypocrisy-puncturing and more like a straight appeal to homophobia.  As such, it does no credit to Kerry.  ... Perilous race analogy: What if Kerry were debating a conservative on affirmative action, and that conservative had a black wife, and Kerry gratuitously brought that up in an attempt to cost his opponent the racist vote? Would Andrew Sullivan  approve? I don't think so. ...

4) Finally, a Pedro Martinez moment: Excellent Kerry move to thank Bush for his leadership  "in those days after 9/11." Good job, George. I'll take the ball now. ... P.S.: Of course, Kerry had to be prodded into this cunning graciousness by moderator Bob Schieffer's set-up. ... Note: As alert, channel-surfing reader E.C. notes, Martinez himself was re-dramatizing the point on Fox even as Kerry spoke. ..

5) Schieffer's next question (about being "surrounded by very strong women") was another set-up for Kerry, allowing him some desperately needed self-humanization. When Kerry talked about his mother, he suddenly became a person again! Maybe he should think about his mother, like a method actor, before every debate. ... Too bad his mother anecdote was lame, and the debate was already almost over. ... P.S.: At least his (also human) Teresa joke will make it into the sound-bite rotation. Theresa didn't look too pleased--but then, she rarely does. ...

6) While Bush tried to be moderate in general, he wisely posed as a conservative on immigration, casting his own plan in the toughest possible light. He said he opposed an "amnesty" because he doesn't want to "reward illegal behavior," but missed a huge opportunity by failing to cast Kerry's plan for "earned legalization" (of illegal aliens already here) as just such a de facto amnesty. ...

7) Kerry's missed opportunity came on Social Security I thought. He scored by characterizing Bush's plan as an "invitation to disaster." If he'd hit Bush even harder--arguing that $2 trillion in added transition costs would kill the program, "end Social Security as we know it"--he might have gotten a debate-dominating, Johnson-vs- Goldwater moment out of it. (Bush, meanwhile, missed a demagogic moment by failing to jump on Kerry's lingering support for partially means-testing benefits. If Kerry gets through the whole campaign without this position becoming a liability, it will be a new day for us means-testers.)

8) Kerry's summary of his health care plan was very appealing:

We take over Medicaid children from the states so that every child in America is covered. And in exchange, if the states want to -- they're not forced to, they can choose to -- they cover individuals up to 300 percent of poverty. It's their choice.

I think they'll choose it, because it's a net plus of $5 billion to them.

We allow you -- if you choose to, you don't have to -- but we give you broader competition to allow you to buy into the same health care plan that senators and congressmen give themselves. If it's good enough for us, it's good enough for every American. I believe that your health care is just as important as any politician in Washington, D.C.

You want to buy into it, you can. We give you broader competition. That helps lower prices.

In addition to that, we're going to allow people 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare early.

More: Polipundit gets a little carried away. ... The quickie polls give Kerry an edge. (Gallup, CBS, ABC). Mystery Pollster doesn't find much fault with them, except to note that the "independent" voters who tune in may be disproportionately Kerry-leaning. ... 9:31 P.M.

Mini-mo? WaPo tracking now has Kerry ahead among likely voters as well as registered voters. ... Maybe the excitable Andrew Sullivan was unaccountably right. ... 3:01 P.M.

A surprising number of Democrats I meet don't like John Edwards after having been exposed to his TV presence during the campaign. ... 3:07 A.M.

Ruy Vey! Why are ABC's results from the ABC/WaPo tracking poll slightly different from WaPo's results from the ABC/WaPo tracking poll? Mystery Pollster explains why--and catches Ruy Teixeira in another gruesome cocooner's hypocrisy:

For the last month, Ruy Teixeira and his correspondent, Alan Abramowitz have been loudly urging pollsters to weight by party identification to correct arguably flaws they perceive in likely voter models. I am sympathetic to some of their critiques of likely voter screening. However, they are now attacking the "silly" ABC/Washington Post likely voter model and suggesting that their "registered voter results are probably a better indicator of the actual standing of the race." Perhaps. But, as we now know, ABC weights its likely voter numbers by party, but not its samples of registered voters. So is the problem about the lack of weighting or the result?

1:34 A.M.

A couple of decades ago I read an article--by Norman Podhoretz, I think--that clued me in to the overriding importance of broken families when it came to explaining poverty statistics. Years later, Podhoretz's thesis became conventional wisdom. Now Robert Samuelson has written a similar column explaining that "the increase in poverty in recent decades stems mainly from immigration."  Key paragraph:

[F]or 2003, the Census Bureau estimated that 35.9 million Americans had incomes below the poverty line; that was about $12,000 for a two-person household and $19,000 for a four-person household. Since 2000, poverty has risen among most racial and ethnic groups. Again, that's the recession and its after-math. But over longer periods, Hispanics account for most of the increase in poverty. Compared with 1990, there were actually 700,000 fewer non-Hispanic whites in poverty last year. Among blacks, the drop since 1990 is between 700,000 and 1 million, and the poverty rate—though still appallingly high—has declined from 32 percent to 24 percent. ... Meanwhile, the number of poor Hispanics is up by 3 million since 1990. [Emphasis added]

Don't expect the left--which likes to cite with horror rising poverty numbers--to explain that the rise is largely due to the continuing influx of poor Hispanics from abroad. Don't expect the Bush administration to point this out either, at least while it's engaged in Karl Rove's Great Hispander Project. But at some point after November 3 this truth will become the new CW--faster than the truth about broken homes, I predict. ...  P.S.: Samuelson is also good debunking the idea that incomes have been stagnant:

Mostly, the middle class is getting richer. Consider: in 2003, 44 percent of U.S. households had before-tax incomes exceeding $50,000; about 15 percent had incomes of more than $100,000 (they're also included in the 44 percent). In 1990 the comparable figures were 40 percent and 10 percent. In 1980 they were 35 percent and 6 percent. All comparisons are adjusted for inflation.

1:16 A.M.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Here comes ... : Tomorrow's N.Y. Sun supposedly has a big Kerry/honorable discharge story. ...Update: Here's  the article. ... Polipundit, of all people, comes to Kerry's defense. Beldar does not. ... Isn't it clear that if Kerry got a less than honorable discharge, it was for his post-Nam anti-war activities, which everyone already knows about. So how is this story damaging? [The coverup-ed. But it can't be worse than the crime itself!] 9:59 P.M.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Should Kerry take a dive in Colorado? Ron Brownstein notes that as Kerry becomes competitive in the state, Colorado Democrats are tempted to vote against the state initiative that would award Kerry a proportional share of Colorado's nine electoral votes even if he loses. After all, why should Dems settle for a proportional share if they can win all nine? But that's a risky calculation: If the initiative passes and is upheld, Kerry would almost certainly get four of the nine electoral votes even if he loses the state. If the initiative fails--in part because Dems think Kerry might win--but then Kerry loses the state by a hair, he winds up with zero. It could theoretically be smarter for him to settle for a sure 4 --losing to Bush in the state but winning the initiative--than to go for all 9. ... Of course, Kerry would have to factor in uncertainty about whether the initiative will be upheld in court. The "sure 4" wouldn't be all that sure. Prof. Hasen explains why here and here. ... Update: Vodkapundit says the initiative is now going down, and this poll seems to support him. ... P.S.: They don't like it much over at Daily KOS. ... [Thanks to alert reader P.M.] 4:52 P.M.

Kerry puts on the strait-jacket: Kerry's no-tax-increase-for-people-making-less-than-$200,000 pledge on Friday was more significant, in terms of boxing Kerry in should he win, than has been reflected in the press coverage. USAT's Walter Shapiro points this out:

Now that the Democratic nominee is so locked in, every discussion of the budget deficit, tax reform, Social Security or Medicare in a Kerry White House will pivot around the pledge.

A prime example is that some projected reforms designed to assure the solvency of Social Security include significantly lifting the ceiling on earnings that are subject to the payroll tax, which is currently $87,900 and is only adjusted for inflation. That notion is now permanently off the table unless President Kerry wants to become the Democratic equivalent of George H.W. Bush, who violated his own "Read my lips: No new taxes" 1988 campaign promise.

If I weren't such an ardent Kerry supporter I might also note that Kerry's insta-pledge reflected a potentially disastrous instinctive willingness to pander now and waffle later. But it's getting too close to the election to say things like that. ... P.S.: How will Kerry get out of it? First, he could say he was only talking about income taxes (though the pledge was "I am not going to raise taxes" in response to a question about the entire "tax burden," not just income taxes). Then he could blame his staff! ... Update: Reader C.H. suggests President Kerry could lower some other under-$200,000 taxes to compensate for raising the payroll tax ceiling. I'm not sure that would work--it would be hard to offset the burden for every individual under-$200,000 taxpayer, as opposed to the "under $200,000" group as a whole. But it's a promising potential wriggle-hole. ...

Update: Only kf gives you Walter Shapiro's esprit de l'escalier today! Walter Shapiro emails with a key point:

What I didn't say (mostly because I was writing in a hotel room in
Florida worrying about catching planes, etc.) is that after this pledge, the real debate in a Kerry White House would be between abandoning any domestic spending agenda ... (the only way to make any progress on the defict given Kerry's tax strait-jacket) and abandoning [the] fig leaf of being better than the Republicans on fiscal sanity. [Emphasis added]

11:54 A.M.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Kausfiles, Island of Calm ... Andrew Sullivan's a friend of mine, but he's too excitable! He was too quick to urge the U.S. to go to war with Iraq and too quick to declare that the war he'd urged on us was heading down the tubes. Now he's too quick ("Kerry's Momentum: Can Bush Stop It?")  to see a big Kerry win:

Presidential campaigns have issues; and they have candidates; and they have polls. But they also have something intangible called momentum. And that's what John Kerry has right now.

In the eight days since the first debate, you can feel the Democrat slowly gaining what the first president Bush called the "Big Mo."

I agree Kerry did well in both debates. I agree the Bremer admission on troop strength was damaging. I hope Kerry wins. I just don't see the supposed Big New Mo for Kerry showing up in actual polls. Take this one, for instance. It would seem to be going in the wrong direction. I fear Sullivan's British readers have been misinformed. 11:14 P.M.

After almost year on the job, New York Times ombudsman Dan Okrent has finally been pummeled by reader criticism into a useless, angry defensive institutional crouch. The left complains--but hey, the right complains too! "[E]very judgment, it appears, offends someone." So screw all of you! Okrent denies that "because charges of bias come from both liberals and conservatives, the paper must therefore be doing things right"--but that doesn't stop him from using complaints from left and right to balance each other out and conclude the Times isn't "systematically biased toward either candidate." Might there be other large systemic biases, or biases within various departments?** And if there are only specific screw-ups, what are they? Aren't some of them pretty big? Okrent says

There are plenty of press critics in print and on the Web, so I'll cede the general criticism to them.

Er, what was Okrent's job again? Defender of the Times against the Public? Something like that. ... What's the use of an ombudsman who doesn't think his paper ever screws up, who is shy about naming names when it comes to finding fault, and who seems to hate those who complain to him? ... P.S.: Okrent does criticize the Times for overuse of anonymous quotes. Now there's a bold stand! Decrying anonymous sources in news stories is the Neutral Story Line of press criticism. It offends nobody and seems substantive. But another definition of "anonymous quote" is "the only interesting part of the typical NYT political piece." Even Okrent seems to think they're OK if the piece is tagged "Political Memo.") ...

**: For example, when I criticized Adam Nagourney for one of his egregious screwups in poll stories (all of which favored Democrats), I got back messages from friends of "Adam" saying it wasn't his fault, you had to understand the constraints Times reporters are under when they cover polls. Times readers might want to know about those constraints. What goes on in the polling department? If Okrent has written about this, I missed it. ...   4:26 P.M. 



Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk