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10/31/2004 Archived Entry: "Heavy Election Prediction 2004"
It's time to put it down in writing - my predictions for the 2004 Election. Personally, I believe that Kerry will win. With only two days to go before the election, both the Zogby and Washington Post polls have the race tied at 48 (Washington Post has Kerry up 48-47 among registered voters). Most significantly, Gallup is tracking a dead tie at 49% in their final poll - the first time this has happened in Gallup history. Half a dozen other pollsters are also tracking similar numbers - AND - while some give Bush a slight edge (well within the MOE), Kerry is doing better in state-to-state polls.
In many ways these numbers are breaking in similar fashion to 2000 so it may be easy to conclude that little in the country has changed, yet I think we are headed toward a real October surprise. I mentioned that Kerry is doing better in the battleground states than he is nationally. Yesterday, when the Rasmussen poll showed a national tie, Kerry held a significant lead among the 16-state battleground polls. Furthermore, nearly all the polls that show a tied race are reporting the intentions of "likely voters." As 2000 and many other elections have made clear, the truth lies somewhere between the polls of likely voters and registered voters, thus the MOE (margin of error) warps into an electoral margin that favors Kerry.
More important, I think that "The Incumbent Rule" will come to play a major role as the "undecideds" show their real colors for the challenger - as is their propensity to do so. Take into account that the surge of new voters - mostly aged 18 to 24 and most (by a significant margin) favor Kerry. So, if the incumbent isn't showing a clear margin of victory (better than 47%) by this time, the challenger stands a much better chance of winning.
Having finally posted this, I also see three possible (likely) scenarios come post-November 3:
The Sox-Effect: The Bambino Lives in the Polls
The Boston Red Sox aren't the only ones trying to break a curse. Kerry now stands an even chance of shattering the political mantra that only moderate Democratic governors from Southern states (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton) can win modern-day Presidential elections. No senator, Democratic or Republican, has won the White House since John F. Kennedy in 1960. This scenario will play out only if the Democrat base turns out in record numbers resulting in a "BAM" out of the ballpark victory that includes Gore states plus Ohio, New Hampshire, and Florida. It would be the statistical equivalent to the hat trick pulled by the Red Sox this year, but it's possible.
The Other Shoe
What if the Democratic turnout is strong, but not spectacular? Following historical stats, most undecideds (by a 8 - 10% margin) vote for the challenger Kerry. Meanwhile, the Republicans are successful in their GOTV efforts and Bush picks up more voter support in populous states like Pennsylvania, New York, California, Illinois, and Michigan than he did in 2000. Call it the post-911 sympathy vote. In any case, while the effort tightens the popular vote, it still isn't enough to swing the electoral count. So, Bush, who lost the popular vote by 500,000 votes, wins a plurality this go-round, but Kerry wins in the Electoral College by narrowly adding Ohio and/or Florida. But there will be hell to pay and no hot pitch. Expect court challenges, angry recriminations, protests - a replay of 2000 but possibly worse. I can hear the angry ultracon chainsaws revving up already - Republicans will be sore losers. And it'll be one helluva fight if the Supreme Court weighs in against Kerry.
Something happens in the closing days of the campaign - e.g., the recent "Hi, Still Here" video from Osama-Mama - that leaves voters feeling unsafe. It could be anything, really; Americans are feeling more vulnerable than ever. End result, the electorate recalls how Bush conducted himself after the fall of the World Trade Towers and reject Kerry - on a massive scale. Bush wins on a real landslide with more than a 10% margin. There will be no second-guessing on this one - it'll be a clean victory in Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and possibly Democratic strongholds Minnesota and Hawaii as well.
What is likely to happen is another squeaker - like a 271-267 win in the Electoral College as happened four years ago. Without the mandate of a big win and long coattails (with strong party wins in both Houses), the victor has his work cut out for him with another four years of riding log-jams - and us along with him. -HP
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