Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Two weeks out

I wanted to take a few minutes to give my thoughts on the upcoming presidential election. I’ve stated in recent days that I felt George W. Bush would manage to win on November 2. In some ways, that’s a lot like some of my football picks. George W. Bush vs. John Kerry is a lot like this week’s game between the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. I had no clue who was going to win, but in the end you have to type out a pick. So I picked the Titans, but ended up losing. Enough with the sports analogy.

I’ll keep this as simple as possible. I don’t have the energy to look up every poll and statistic. I’ll briefly give me thoughts on a number of issues surrounding the election.

1) Undecided voters: Different polls yield different percentages of undecided voters. For instance, John Zogby’s polling continues to show 7 % undecided. That happens because he doesn’t include “leaners”, or voters who have a slight preference towards a certain candidate. Election models pointing towards a Kerry win speculate that 65 % of the undecided voters will break for the challenger. I’m not sure if this relates to presidential elections. Late deciders often times focus less on issues and more on personality and likeability. Polls show Bush with an edge in that area. Kerry should be energized with a recent poll saying that only 21 % of undecided voters approve of Bush’s job performance as president. The bottom line: Undecided voters will break to some degree for Kerry. The difference between 51 and 65 % might be the difference between victory and defeat.

2) Get out the vote: I’m having a tough time gauging which party will get out their vote. In 2002, Gore won by orchestrating a tremendous GOTV efforts. Karl Rove has had four years to correct his mistakes. The GOP has practiced their efforts in congressional and gubernatorial races in 2002 and 2003. Democratic groups like Move On and America Coming Together have spent over $100 million in registering new voters. The big question is whether these newly registered voters will actually make it to the polls. History suggests that these voters are unlikely to vote in great numbers. It’s the focus of these independent groups to get as many of them to vote as possible. Bottom line: More than anything, this is the single most important element of this election. As long as the race stays within a few points, GOTV will be a deciding factor.

3) Bush’s approval: That’s the number that will most drive the election. If Bush’s approval rating is under 50 %, then Kerry has a real chance to win. Typically, the approval rating the weekend before the election closely mirrors the percentage of the popular vote garnered by the incumbent. That’s why I get scared when any poll puts Bush above 50 % job approval. The bottom line: Don’t follow all the horserace polling. Closely monitor Bush’s approval rating. Unless historical trends are altered dramatically, that will drive Bush’s total percentage won on Nov. 2.

4) Swing states: I’m not a big fan on focusing too much on these select states. I believe that the states will trend whichever way the national as a whole does leading up to the election. State polls can be unreliable, especially if they are done by non-reputable pollsters. John Kerry and Bush both need to win two out of these three states- Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. Considering today’s visit to the Sunshine State, it looks like Kerry believes he can take Florida’s 27 electoral votes. Honestly, the swing states deserve a post all to themselves. I can’t justify it in such a brief format. The bottom line: I don’t believe this race will be decided by electoral college votes. One candidate will break out and win this election by 2 or 3 %.

Finally, one last word of caution about polls. In 2000, 39 of 43 national polls showed George W. Bush winning the popular vote, prior to the last weekend before the election. Basically, polls can be wrong in close races. For this election, I advise everyone to pay attention to likely voters vs. registered voters. All these polls have two results. One is for registered voters, and the other is for likely voters. They use a formula to try and discern whether a person will actually vote in the election. With registered voters, Democrats tend to poll much better. When the likely voters model is put in place, Republicans usually gain a few percentage points. What does all this mean? The higher the turnout is on Election Day, especially in swing states, the better it is for the Democrats. Don’t be fooled by these polls showing Bush with a lead outside the margin of error. When registered voters are polled, the race is dead even and sometimes favoring Kerry.

Of course, I’ll write some more as the election draws closer. These are only a few of a myriad of factors affecting the election. My prediction is to say that I just don’t know who will win this thing. I have a slight lean towards Bush, but any slight change in momentum could propel Kerry or Bush ahead. If anybody asks your opinion about who wins, answer it this way: John Kerry can win this election provided everybody who supports him actually votes on Election Day. Try to get everybody who leans towards Kerry, or just plain doesn’t like Bush, to make the commitment to vote on November 2 or earlier.


Blogger Alisa said...

I think that it usually goes like this: Those who are behind in the polls are ahead in the real race...

October 19, 2004 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger Eric Cioffoletti said...

Yeah I think that it is very important to try and sway as many people as you can to vote for Kerry.

Janel (raised a Republican) will now most likely vote for Kerry. Two things caused this change: firstly her brother going back to Iraq again. But secondly, ever since I became her boyfriend, I have been pushing Kerry's ideals over on her whenever I have had the chance. I would like to think I have made a difference.

Other people that you know in your life are probably on the fence. As a Kerry supporter, I think it is critical that you (or anybody for that matter) "spread the word" about your candidate and remind everyone to vote on election day. And if they can't, remind them of early voting or absentee ballots.

I agree with your analysis. It will be very close. And there are a number of factors.

October 19, 2004 at 1:17 AM  

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