September 6, 2004


What Matters Now (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 9/05/04, NY Times)

This presidential campaign has been marked by a succession of what were considered Big Moments, anticipated by both sides as a way of unlocking a stubbornly deadlocked contest. And while the verdict is out on Mr. Bush's convention - beware polls taken over the Labor Day weekend, which can be quite unreliable - it seems safe to say that at least going into last week, none of these once reliable big moments have proved to be very big at all.

Even some Republicans were conceding that Mr. Bush's convention - described by Republicans and Democrats alike as a success - might not ultimately make that much of a difference.

"When it comes to actually affecting undecided voters, conventions are probably a draw for both parties," said Scott Reed, a Republican consultant who managed Bob Dole's 1996 campaign.

CNN/Time Poll: Gore, Bush tied; 1 in 5 voters undecided (Keating Holland, September 8, 2000, CNN)
Al Gore and George W. Bush are virtually tied in the latest CNN/Time poll, and with one in five likely voters saying they could change their minds between now and November, this race is wide open.

Gore has erased the double-digit lead Bush held this summer by using the Democratic convention and his campaign in the subsequent weeks to convince voters he's a strong and decisive leader who agrees with them on the issues. [...]

The CNN/Time Poll, conducted September 6-7, 2000, consisted of interviews with 1,275 adult Americans, including 735 likely voters.

September 6-7

Suppose that the presidential election were being held today, and it included Al Gore and Joe Lieberman as the Democratic candidates, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as the Republican candidates, Pat Buchanan and Ezola Foster as the Reform Party candidates and Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke as the Green Party candidates. For whom would you vote?

Gore 47%

Bush 46

Nader 4

Buchanan 1

Sampling error: +/-3.5% pts

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 6, 2004 6:27 AM

When you think about it, you see that Gore bungled even worse in 2000 than Kerry is blowing it this year, because Gore _should_ have won; the two traditional benchmarks of peace and prosperity were solidly in his favor. Kerry has a much tougher row to hoe this year, in truth.

Posted by: Joe at September 6, 2004 9:24 AM

The 2000 poll cited also came just before The New York Times unleashed its barrage of claims about the Bush's campaign's subliminal advertising -- the "DemocRATS" controversy (that was actually reported first 10 days earlier by Fox News, but treated as a joke by Brit Hume & Co.). It helped add several points onto Gore's lead later in the month, but that turned around when the first debate arrived and Al gave Howard Dean his template on how to run his 2004 campaign.

I fully expect the Times and other outlets to come up with some other insubstantial claim that they'll try and blow up into a major controversy in the upcoming days in another effort to drive down Bush's pre-debate numbers. The problem is that unlike 2000, Bush is a known quantity to the American public; the issues surrounding this election are far more life-and-death than what the public could perceive in 2000, and even if they do stir up a kerfuffle about nothing, John Kerry's still going to have to defend his senate records at some time during the debates, which even the Times' edtiorial writers haven't made the effort to defend in the wake of 9/11.

Posted by: John at September 6, 2004 9:36 AM

Is there any support for Nagourney's assertion that Labor Day weekend polls are 'quite unreliable'? I understood that weekend polls tended to overstate Democratic input, but why would this make the TIME/Newsweek poll results showing a Bush lead unreliable?

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 6, 2004 10:34 AM

Labor Day polling is thought to have inherent unreliability because voters, especially more affluent ones, are away. Traditionally, they have polled more Democratic.

Maybe, Labor Day is big on Fire Island this year so Nagourney thinks that enough of his rump-rustler cohorts aren't being polled(over the phone anyway)?

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 5:00 PM