Friday, July 23, 2004

Presidential Race is a Dead-Heat

Despite months and months of the most biased television coverage in the history of presidential politics, despite the unending promotion and publication of anti-Bush books (there are so many now it is impossible to get an accurate count, during a recent trip to a bookstore there were 34 books with anti-Bush titles on one table), despite the complete suppression by the media of any good news from Iraq, despite the suppression by the media of good news about the economy (a recent poll found that 51% of Democrats believe we are in a recession), despite the fact that the Democrats are benefiting from millions of dollars of negative advertising from 527 groups such as Moveon.org, despite the unending publicity for the "crockumentary" Fahrenheit 9/11, and despite the media fawning over the selection of and every subsequent word spoken by John Edwards, the presidential race is a tie at this point. The expected poll bounce for John Kerry after his selection of John Edwards never materialized. Almost every poll shows the two candidates within one or two points, well within the margin of error.

Democrats say publicly that they are in a good position with a challenger that is tied with an incumbent, but that is based more on a pre-convention high than anything else. Other candidates have gone into their convention with a lead and have emerged with a stronger lead. The Democrats and the Republicans were expecting Kerry to have up to a double digit lead at this point, which would be in line with past presidential races. At about this point in the '88 campaign Dukakis held a 14 point lead over the first President Bush, and Bill Clinton went into his convention with a lead over the incumbent and emerged with a 24 point lead over the first President Bush. He went on to win, but by a narrow margin. Some polls have Kerry behind by two, others have him ahead by two, but either way he is not in as good a shape as the most recent Democratic challengers have been. President Bush is vulnerable, but his major opponent in this election is the press. John Kerry is not likeable, his base support is far less solid than the president's, he is still double digits behind the president on national security matters, and the economy is improving and is set to keep improving and creating jobs through next year. Unlike the 1992 election where the economy turned the corner much too late to help the incumbent, this economy turned around last year and the job growth has been phenomenal with approximately 1.5 million jobs added. Kerry may very well emerge from the media attention the convention brings with a lead. If he does it will not surprise anyone, but if he does not come out with a lead it may be a sign that he is in real trouble.

This election is likely to turnin the final few weeks or even days of the campaign. Many people do not pay attention until after labor day, so the entirety of their information comes from newspaper headlines and morning shows that go out of their way to portray the President in a negative light. This may very well be the most event driven campaign history. This is the first presidential election since September 11th, and many of the old markers by which a race is judged are out the window. If the economy continues to improve and the situation in Iraq conitues to stabilize the President will be in good shape on election day. The capture of Zarqawi or Bin laden would have an immediate impact on the race, as would another terrorist strike in the US. The polls will drift up and down, but the American people may have to wait until election day to see a victor emerge.

For analysis of all recent polls, refer to RealClearPolitics.com