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Where Are We?

Thursday, October 28, 2004
All non-election topics are going to have to be postponed until after November 2nd. In the current climate, no one will read them anyway. But I do have a series of posts cooking about the intellectual foundations of conservativism: libertarianism, fundamentalism, neoliberalism, and corporatism. I also am going to write about objectivism, and what I think a sane conservatism would look like. And any other -isms I can think of.

As for the election, I have waded through the mass of stories in an attempt to discover what the dynamics of this race are in the last week. The first question is, who has the issues advantage? On the level of political debate, it appears Kerry has been advantaged by the story of the missing 380 pounds of explosives. His campaign should be able to tie this to the general pattern of Republican incompetence, but it is crucial that Kerry segues it back to domestic policy. That is the Democrat's bread and butter. Reminding voters of what is wrong with our economy and health care system is crucial if we are to win the "security moms." It's hard to tell how long the explosives story will last. The Bushies are spinning as fast as they can, but is unclear as of yet that they will be effective. But as long as the story keeps going, Bush will be unable to communicate his message.

There have been a ton of articles about the behavior of major constituencies. Are religious voters and white males falling away from Bush? Will Kerry do as well as he needs to with Blacks, Women, and Jews? The best guess is that there will be surprises and these groups will vote as they always have. But you never know, which is giving everyone acid reflux.

Where is the electoral college? Almost all of the national tracking polls show a tight race, with perhaps a slight movement in Kerry's direction. At the state level, there has been a lot of discussion about Hawaii and New Jersey, but we see this every year. There is a wacky poll in a state and everyone freaks out, and on election day the state performs just like we all thought it would in the first place. I expect the same to happen this time. Among the key battlegrounds, it looks like Kerry is ahead in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and has a chance in Colorado and Arkansas (I'm not sure if I believe the last). Meanwhile, Bush seems to be overperforming in Wisconsin and Iowa, which is worrisome. Florida is tight again. Who knows where that state is going?

The Democrats appear more worried about election fraud than Bush. The Bush campaign is actively engaged in voter suppression. A lot of Dems think that Kerry can't rely on Florida because Jeb will find a way to steal it. The fact that the Republicans are trying to project the voter fraud issue onto Democrats is only more confirming evidence that their key strategy is to keep blacks and new voters from voting. There is also the question about the voting machines. Scary stuff.

Perhaps neutralizing this phenomenon, and partly explaining it, is the question of Democratic turnout. All the polls suggest that turnout will be very high, and that the increased turnout will favor Democrats. There is extraordinary anti-Bush sentiment, and new voters appear to share it. If turnout, particularly minority and youth turnout, reaches record levels, it will certainly give Kerry the national popular vote. The question is, will it be enough to win the electoral college? If the spread is more than a point or so, I would say the electoral college is safe. Any less and things get dicey.

Finally, will there be an October Suprise? There is an "Al Quaeda" message that ABC is sitting on which looks suspicious. Will they publish it? I would guess that this missive will evantually get released- there will be too much pressure from Fox & Co., who will advance the story. There will then be another terror warning. I'm not sure if it will really have any impact, though- they've cried wolf one time too many.

So, as I began, where are we? It looks like Kerry has a bit of an edge. The Republicans are relying on distraction and voter suppression to cancel out high Democratic turnout and an issues advantage. Hmm. No wonder they look a little desperate.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:04 PM
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