September 29, 2003

DEMOCRATS CHOOSE A TARGET:

Bush '04 Readying for One Democrat, Not 10 (RICHARD W. STEVENSON and ADAM NAGOURNEY, 9/29/03)

President Bush's political advisers have set in motion an aggressive re-election machine, building a national network of get-out-the-vote workers and amassing a pile of cash for a blanket advertising campaign expected to begin around the time Democrats settle on their candidate early next year, party officials said.

Mr. Bush's senior advisers, in interviews last week, repeatedly described the Democratic field as unusually weak and divided, providing an important if temporary cushion for Mr. Bush. [...]

The decision to delay the start of advertising until about the time the Democrats settle on a nominee is a rejection of what had been a central element of President Bill Clinton's re-election campaign. Mr. Clinton began advertising 16 months before Election Day, in an effort to define the election before the Republicans chose an opponent.

Republicans said that would be a waste of money, given the battle taking place among the Democrats. Instead, aides to Mr. Bush said, their campaign would begin spending when a Democratic nominee starts to emerge from the primary battle, probably battered and very likely almost broke.


The biggest difference between the positions of Mr. Bush now and Mr. Clinton then is that, especially in light of the 1994 midterm, the latter could barely be certain of holding together as much of his Democratic coalition as had voted for him in '96, whereas no one who voted for George W. Bush in '00 is going anywhere. He can fight the re-election out on the Democrats' turf.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2003 9:36 AM
Comments

Agree it doesn't make sense for Bush to go after the Dems when it isn't clear who the nominee will be (Dean?, Clark?, Gephardt?). But it would be nice if he pushed the positive Iraq and economic news more to blunt some of their attacks.

Posted by: AWW at September 29, 2003 10:37 AM

Pushing positive Iraq news too hard would allow him to get dragged into a debate that the other side is not going to engage in good faith.

Posted by: some random person at September 29, 2003 10:53 AM

Agree 100% with AWW. Read Novak's "W in Trouble". Sure it is alarmist, but just remember that not too long ago oj's 50 and 60 scenario could have been debated within the bounds of sanity. Now, Novak says Republicans are worried about whether he can be re-elected! W. will (should?) not be in trouble come the Summer of '04, but the Administration should be doing a better job of NOT (a) alowing their momentum to dissipate and (b) allowing the Democratic machine to pick it up (I say machine, because partisan Dems will not care who in the crowd of candidates capitalizes on it). They could be doing a more effective job of getting the good news on the economy, Iraq, and the War on Terror out; and (for Heaven's sake) they must do a better job NOT to confuse incremental (and controversial) requests for funding in Iraq with baseline (and non-controversial) requests ($20bn vs $20bn + $67bn = 87bn.

Better a wake up call now than in Sept '04...

Posted by: at September 29, 2003 10:56 AM

The economy and Iraq will come without pushing, so why waste the capital. Novak opposed the war (as he opposes anything that negatively impacts Arab dictators), so he wants to think it is causing trouble. Bush will win very close to 50 and the GOP will get within striking distance of 60 in the Senate.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 11:11 AM

If 40-42 counts as "very close to fifty," I agree. Bush just lost too many states by double-digits last time around (CA, CT, DE, HI, IL, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI) to get into the 45+ range.

The crack about Novak is unfortunately deserved, though I would make it a little stronger. Novak likes any anti-Israel dictatorship. It doesn't have to be Arab.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 29, 2003 11:35 AM

Casey:

Since 2000, CA, CT, HI, MD, MA, NY & RI will have elected or re-elected GOP governors, meaning that they are all at least in play. No incumbent who has not faced a serious challenge from within his own party has failed to be re-elected since the start of the 20th century. Nixon ond Reagan, both just as divisive, ran up 49. 50 is certainly doable, though obviously not a certainty. 45+ is certain.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 11:42 AM

Bush wins 49? Get real. There's no way he wins New York (lost by 25 points last time), Rhode Island (lost by 29), or Massachsetts (lost by 27). Hawaii (lost by 18) and Connecticut (lost by 17) look next to impossible.

So what if these states elected Republicans, Democrats or Vegetarians to other offices? They sure didn't elect Bush to the presidency, and they're real unlikely to do it the next time around.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 29, 2003 12:23 PM

States, like RI, with large Catholic populations are especially aberrant because of the Bob Jones kerfuffle, which no one even recalls any more.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 12:27 PM

"...whereas no one who voted for George W. Bush in '00 is going anywhere" is the most telling part of this Post. Some of Gore's voters will vote for Bush due to September 11. Bush lost New Mexico by 500, Iowa by 4000 and Oregon by 7000. He can't pick up that number? And, will there be a OMVI conviction revealed the weekend before the vote this time?

Posted by: Bob at September 29, 2003 12:31 PM

I love your thinking OJ but, if memory serves, you predicted the republicans would further lose the senate and maybe the house in the 2002 election.

Here's hoping your accuracy is enhanced by positive visions for republicans instead of negative.

Posted by: NKR at September 29, 2003 12:44 PM

In 1984 Reagan only had to turn around a handful of states, none of which he lost by enormous margins in 1980.

In 1972 Nixon had to turn around more states, but his vote in 1968 was severely depressed by the Wallace third-party candidacy, which drained away many right-wing voters. Wallace was removed from the scene (violently) in 1972, and the Democrats nominated a doofus who couldn't even investigate his veep selection properly. Both made the rerun much easier for the Trickster in 1972.

Bush starts from an actual loss in the popular vote and faces many more difficult turnaround states than either Reagan or Nixon. But he should still win. With a misery index around eight and falling, he should record the same kind of popular-vote victory as Clinton did in 1996 with similar economic numbers: 8-10 points.

That doesn't translate to 49 states. Bush will still get more than Clinton's 31 states, though, thanks to wins in many low-population flyover states.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 29, 2003 1:31 PM

Well, except for the fact that he got more votes in 2000 than Clinton did in '96. Let's assume that he only gets as miuch of an incumbency bounce as Clinton did and that gets him to something like 56%, which will produce an electoral landslide of historic proportions.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 1:35 PM

In 2000 Bush got a lower percentage of the popular vote than Clinton did in 1996, by a point and a half. And even that comparison is skewed in Bush's favor, because Perot was still pulling votes (more than eight points) in 1996.

Sure, the absolute number of votes was higher in 2000 than in 1996. That's because (duh!) there were more voters in 2000. But on a percentage basis, which is what counts, Bush did not do particularly well in 2000.

Bumping a half-point loss in 2000 to an 8-10 point win in 2004 will be tough enough. Clinton could only go from a six-point win in 1992 to an eight-point victory in 1996, despite good economic numbers.

Clinton faced one big disadvantage that Bush does not have to worry about, though: the country is trending Republican. As the Slickster found out with great pain in 1994, the Repubs are verging on majority-party status. The electoral college, which overweights those low-population flyover states, also favors the GOP. Demographic trends, which are sending more folks to Repub-leaning southern and western states, will give Bush another boost.

So he should do about as well as Clinton did in 1996, though he starts from a significantly worse position in his previous election.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 29, 2003 2:08 PM

He starts from a worse position than Clinton did in '96?

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 2:16 PM

How many voters who pulled for Perot in 1996 would have voted for Clinton? Very few, probably even fewer (as a percentage) than those who pulled for Perot in '92.

Once Clinton smacked Gingrich in late '95 over the govt. shutdown, there was no way he would lose (especially to Dole), and if there is any change in the jobs data between now and January 15, Bush will have that same position. Once the White House begins responding to the Hive on the Left (and they probably won't until Jan. 1), the Dems. will never get closer than 8 or 10 points, no matter what the CNN/NYT/LAT polls say. And Bush could win in NY - Reagan did it twice.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 29, 2003 3:05 PM

Now that you mention it, Bush sure does start from a worse position than Clinton did in 1996. He certainly didn't win the popular vote by eight points in 2000, as Clinton did in 1996.

But I was contrasting the ways Bush and Clinton are approaching their re-election runs, based on how they did in their first elections. Clinton started from a six-point win in 1992 and went to an eight-point win in 1996. He really didn't improve much at all, but managed to hold most of his states while picking off a few new ones.

Bush is going to have to improve a lot over his 2000 showing (a half-point loss) to get to the 40-42 state win I project. I think he can do it because the economic numbers should look pretty decent (and improving) by November, 2004. They don't look that bad now.

FWIW, I think Iraq will be pretty much irrelevant, either as a plus or a minus for Bush, by Nov 2004.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 29, 2003 3:43 PM

To respond to the other post, I think it's a pipe dream that Bush can go from a 25-point loss in NY in 2000 to even a remotely competitive race in the state in 2004. He should be happy if he only loses the state by 10-15 points. That will mean he's improved enough to jump from a half-point loss countrywide in 2000 to an 8-10 point win in 2004.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 29, 2003 3:48 PM

Casey --

Your's is the smart bet, but OJ's scenario, at least when it comes to NY, is not impossible.

Even now, polling shows that New York, while still a long shot, is not an impossible get. With a 44% approval rating, 32 percent of New Yorkers say they will vote for reelection, while 48 say that they won't. The expected increase in approval ratings over the next six months, along with the emergence of a Democratic nominee (in New York, hypothetical Dem will always beat actual Rep), should put New York in play.

I think New York is winnable for the following reasons: 9/11 happened in New York; the President will be renominated in New York; and Rudy Giulliani should work hard for the President in New York. These may be enough, but there is another wild card out there. The Dems know that they can't let Al Sharpton be front and center at the convention without alienating the moderate electorate. But if they ignore him at the convention, or don't kowtow to him in the hundred other ways he'll demand, will he just take it and shut up? No, he won't. Maybe his one effective political threat is to depress black turnout in New York. As the Dems can't win New York without the black vote and can't win the Presidency without New York, this is both an exquisite dilemma for them and a real opportunity for W.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2003 4:09 PM

Casey:

Clinton had won by 8 points going into 1996?

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 4:13 PM

David:

The facts actually don't matter. Incumbent presidents just win everywhere if they're even moderately popular. George W. Bush is more popular than either Nixon or Reagan were and he'll have a better economy and war status by next November. In those situations people vote for the winner, not for their own party.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 4:18 PM

OJ -- You're right and the Bushies know it. After all, they'd played this card brilliantly at the end of the last election and the Gore campaign, maybe for turnout reasons, let them.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2003 4:21 PM

I don't mind repeating myself. Clinton won by six in 1992 and improved slightly to eight in 1996. Bush starts with a half-point loss in 2000. If he improves as much as Clinton did, he'll win in a squeaker.

But incumbents running with a misery index under ten don't win in squeakers. They win easy, often huge. So I think Bush will improve more than Clinton did, and win by 8-10 points in 2004 - instead of the two-point improvement that Clinton showed his second time around.

If you want another repeat of this analysis, you'll have to pay for it.

As for New York, I still don't see how Bush even makes the state close. The 32-48 result cited above would actually be a significant improvement over his 25-point drubbing in 2000. If Bush only loses NY by 16, he should be able to win the country by my predicted 8-10.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 29, 2003 4:40 PM

Casey:

So he wins with 56%, as stated above and that gives him everything. After all, he's not going to improve his margins in the 30 Red states that much is he?

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 5:13 PM

I still think that New York is possible, but let's face it: 2000 proves that the margin of victory doesn't mean much.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2003 5:47 PM

Well, you got that right, I might not be going anywhere (to vote.) Estrada was the final nail and I wrote the RNC and Bush-Cheney '04 that on the donation letters I received.

Posted by: Sandy P. at September 29, 2003 6:33 PM

I don't think Bush gets to 56% in 2004. I look for something like 53-45, with two points scattered among fringies. In other words, something very close to his daddy's win in 1988: 53-46 with 40 states.

Convincing but hardly historic.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 29, 2003 8:38 PM

New York's chances of being in play probably depend both on the economy and on what type of convention the Democrats run up in Boston prior to the Republicans' affair in NYC.

A Democratic convention and candidate who trivializes the war on terror in August of 2004 is just asking to have a fight on their hands in New York that November. They might still win, but New York is not a state where Democrats need to be spending their campaign cash (espeically the uber-costly NYC TV market) if they expect to win in the general election.

Posted by: John at September 29, 2003 9:23 PM

Casey:

Except that his father wasn'yt an incumbent, won CA, and W has to favored to win as many as 5 of the ten his father lost regardless of the Democrat nominee.

Posted by: OJ at September 29, 2003 9:29 PM

John's point is a good one and explains how New York can be a strategic win, even if W doesn't take the state.

Sandy -- I'm not going to defend the Reps' handling of the Estrada nomination, but I also don't think we can condemn them yet either. I want to see what they do with Estrada in the general. I want to see Spanish language ads saying, in effect, here is a hard-working brilliant Latino nominated by the President and who would have won confirmation in the Senate, but who was denied a vote by Latino hating, anti-Catholic bigots in the Democratic Party. Call Senator Whozit or Representative Whatsit, who is running for reelection, and ask him or her why he or she hates Latinos.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 29, 2003 9:50 PM

Casey,

How many times do you think New Yorker's will see GWII with the bullhorn on the rubble pile at the WTC in 2004? Do you think any "Iraq is the wrong war at the wrong time fought in the wrong way" Dem will out poll him?

When Arnold wins in California next week it's going to set up some grand photo ops. This ain't brain surgery folks.

Posted by: RDB at September 29, 2003 11:28 PM

NKR:

That's a tool I use when I'm nervous--I kept predicting McCain would win in order to jinx him too. But in this case, history accords with our wishes. Unchallenged incumbents win landslides.

Posted by: oj at September 29, 2003 11:31 PM

One of the nice things about David Leip's superb historical site on presidential elections is that it's easy to analyze down to state level.

Daddy Bush lost ten states in 1988: HI IA MA MN NY OR RI WA WV WI. Bush Jr. will almost certainly lose four of these in 2004: HI MA NY RI.

Bush Sr. also won a number of states close (less than 5%): CA CT IL MD MO NM PA VT. Demographic changes since 1988 (and Bush Jr.'s own performance in 2000) make it pretty likely that Bush Jr. will lose CA CT MD VT out of this bunch.

Based on the 2000 results, DE and NJ are also looking iffy for Bush Jr., though Bush Sr. carried them relatively easily.

So those are my ten most likely suspects to go against Bush in 2004: CA CT DE HI MD MA NJ NY RI VT. The District of Columbia, of course, is hopeless for any Repub.

Which would give Bush Jr. a nice 410-128 electoral vote majority. No hanging chads here.

Of course, we'll all be able to check my forecast for the California recall pretty soon. If I screw up there, you might not want to take my word for the 2004 presidential election.

Posted by: Casey Abell at September 30, 2003 10:15 AM

Casey -

Strong analysis. Couple of points
MA - In '88 Dukakis was the Dem nominee so of course he won MA. Unless the nominee is Kerry MA may not be a lock - Romney and the anti-tax sentiment are doing well right now.
CA - I agree with the others that if Arnold wins and gets things going again in CA it may lead to an anti-Dem vote in CA, especially with a northeastern liberal.
NY - Agree with OJ - NY is conservative upstate which is overshadowed by the liberal NYC area. Bush from 9/11 and the GOP convention in NYC may be able to offset that.

Posted by: AWW at September 30, 2003 12:46 PM

Casey (10:15),

Good analysis, I think that NY remains in play though. The WTC hole in the skyline is a daily reminder of a very sensitive security issue.

Posted by: RDB at September 30, 2003 1:05 PM
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