October 29, 2004


For months I've been hollering that it was imperative that Kerry focus on the economy in the closing weeks of his campaign--he didn't. In fact, all this week, he's been making the key point in every speech the issue of the missing Iraqi explosives. Yet this is not a clean shot in media terms--there have been conflicting stories, reports contradicting the initial account in the New York Times, and so all the chatter on the little screen has been about the veracity of the initial report. That's not a smart way to try to win this election--voters want to know what you're going to do for them when you're elected, in concrete terms. A campaign close consisting primarily of negativism about Bush, on this one, very narrow issue of the missing explosives, runs counter to the established notion that voters want to hear a positive message from their presidential candidates, especially when they're being asked to evict an incumbent in the middle of a "war." (Of course, on the economy, Kerry hasn't had a distintive message).

Well, two new polls out today show the voters top concerns are economic. From today's National Journal "Polltrack newsletter:

"Heading into the final days before the election, new data from the Annenberg Public Policy Center suggests the plurality of registered voters consider the economy and unemployment to be the top issue facing the nation. Twenty-two percent made that assessment. Iraq came in second with 16 percent, terrorism was third with 13 percent, health care was fourth with 10 percent, and lack of moral and family values was fifth with 5 percent.

"Among Bush voters, 24 percent ranked terrorism as the top issue -- twice the number that ranked the economy as most important. Among Kerry voters, 30 percent rated the economy as the top issue, while Iraq was their second-place issue with 22 percent. And among 'persuadable' voters, 30 percent said the economy was most important, with Iraq running second at 18 percent.

"Annenberg defines persuadable voters as 'those who said they are undecided or said they have a preference between George W. Bush, John Kerry or Ralph Nader but there was a 'good chance' they could change their minds."

According to analysis by Annenberg pollsters: "For the nation as a whole, polling over the last year shows that concern about the economy rose through March and then declined to a point slightly below where it was a year ago. Worry about Iraq dropped last winter, then more than doubled in the spring, and has now receded... to about where it was last November."

A new survey by the Winston Group (R) also showed the economy as the top issue. Eighteen percent of registered voters said it would be the most important issue in determining their vote for Congress. The No. 2 issue was defense and foreign affairs, cited by 16 percent.

These numbers help explain why there appears to be a shift to Bush in a number of states in the last 48 hours, Bush's 2-point lead in the national "poll of poll" --which combines a half-dozen major national surveys--has today ticked up to 3 points.

There is still a slim hope that, on Tuesday night, we will be able to celebrate the eviction of Bush "with joyous shout and beaming cheer, with laughing song and merry dance"--as the chorus sings in The Mikado. But it is a shrinking hope, given Kerry's refusal to focus on the economy. I think Kerry is blowing it....

ANOTHER INDICATOR OF BAD NEWS: The latest Denver Post poll shows that Ken Salazar--the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate against Republican gazillionaire brewery heir Pete Coors--has lost the comfortable lead he had a couple of weeks ago. Why? Well, since the last state-wide poll, Kerry came into the state and, for the first time, campaigned with Salazar. And now Salazar's identification has leveld out the support he once had. The Senate race is now, apparently, linked inextricably to the national ticket--and if that holds true across the board, in other conservative-leaning states like North Carolina and Florida, that's bad news for Democratic chances of holding down the damage to its Senate ranks. Not to mention that this opinion shift in Colorado is bad news for Kerry.

Posted by Direland at 12:07 PM | Permalink


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