September 6, 2004


Labor Day Polls (The Associated Press, 9/01/04)

A look at where presidential candidates stood around Labor Day in elections over the past 50 years and outcome of the election. Data is from the Gallup Poll. Where results don't come close to 100 percent, it may be because of the presence a third-party candidate.

The results are more devastating to Mr. Kerry's hopes than you may realize.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 6, 2004 6:42 AM

Do you want to point it out for those of us who are still clearing the cobwebs out of our brains at this time of the morning on a holiday? I get that at no time since 1948 has any candidate who's been leading in the polls at this point _ever_ lost a general election. What else am I missing?

Posted by: Joe at September 6, 2004 8:09 AM

That "ever" seems compelling enough, no? For all the high drama attached to debates and stuff the races settle pretty early.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 8:15 AM

1948 was a peculiar year. Wallace's third party vote was significant and Truman won as that evaporated as Democrats 'came home.'

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 9:05 AM

What strikes me are the numbers for the incumbents who lost (Ford-39; Carter-39; Bush-40). That really brings home the power of incumbency; the incumbent has to be way down to be denied reelection.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 6, 2004 10:23 AM

It is quite simple. There is 'the devil you know vs. the devil you don't know factor.' Most people will opt for the status quo even if they are mildly unhappy with it, over picking what's behind Door #2.

All campaigns go through stages, first it is anybody but the incumbent vs. the incumbent, so the incumbent always looks weak at the polls unless there is widespread approval of him. Then, when the attention starts to focus on his possible replacement, people realize that the replacement could really suck. That is where we are now.

The next stage will show a Kerry bounce back of at least a few points unless he collapses completely, and then it will be a rout of Mondale, McGovern and Landon proportions. People who don't like either may poll for Kerry because they dislike Bush more at that moment. However, for those people the likely choice is either stay home or vote for Bush on election day, because they know with Bush what they get.

I said when it became clear that Kerry was the nominee that Bush would win 52-48 or 53-47, a clear but not overwhelming win, and I stick by that prediction today.

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 10:34 AM

Bart -- Don't forget Nader. He's probably good for 2 points, bringing us to 53-45-2. But if Kerry really collapses, leaving the left free to vote its heart, we could see 53-42-5.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 6, 2004 10:39 AM

OJ: Are you still sticking with your 60-40 prediction (or clarion call)?

(I am.)

Posted by: at September 6, 2004 10:56 AM


"first it is anybody but the incumbent..."

Just like the second string quarterback is the most popular player on the team. Until he gets in for a couple of games.

Posted by: Rick T. at September 6, 2004 11:55 AM

I'm not surprised by these polls - in spite of the media's desire to cover the election as though it were a horse race, most of the factors that has determine the outcome of the election have already been determined well before the voting takes place.

Allen Lichtman came up with a model, "The 13 Keys for the Presidency" that analyzes elections going back to 1864 in terms of 13 different variables. His hypothesis is that each election is a referendum on the incumbent party. If more than five of these variables are against the incumbent, the incumbent party loses. Otherwise, the incumbent party is re-elected.

See here for more details:

Posted by: Caius Marcius at September 6, 2004 4:59 PM

I don't think Bush can get to 60 (56% max), but I do think that after party switches in the Senate the GOP could be at 60.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 5:32 PM


He ran unopposed.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 5:49 PM


What do you mean? Truman had Wallace attacking him from the nitwit left, Strom Thurmond attacking him for wanting to treat Blacks like human beings, and the smarmy Tom Dewey opposing him for not sucking up to Wall Street enough.

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 10:34 PM


Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 10:42 PM

For some reason, the linked site omits mention of the 2000 race. As I recall, Al Gore had a non-trivial lead in September that he began to lose only after the first October debate.

Posted by: rds at September 7, 2004 1:29 AM


And he won.

Posted by: oj at September 7, 2004 7:16 AM