War is Peace - Freedom is Slavery - Ignorance is Strength

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Real Presidential Race

With the first presidential debate only two days away the bullshit flowing from the political press is reaching feverish heights in both volume and inaccuracy.

A recurring theme of late, which is being espoused by both right-wing drones and democratic naysayers, is that Kerry is somehow already sunk. Seemingly before his ship ever left the dock. This, my friends, is totally absurd.

Let us review the facts. Before the Democratic Convention Kerry was consistently ahead in the national polls, and leading in most of the battleground states. If the election had been held then - according to the polls - he would have won, both popularly and electorally. [I said "orally"] This is the reason that he didn't get much of a bump in the polls from the convention. Simply put, if your numbers already reflect the support of your base, plus a majority of swing voters, there simply is nowhere else you can get points from except for the other candidate's base, which in this case happens to be rabidly pro-bush, and totally unassailable.

Yet, despite the obvious fact that the only way Kerry could get a substantial gain in the polls coming out of Boston would be if he revealed in his acceptance speech that he was in fact the embodiment of the second-coming of the risen savior, the political punditry dwelled on this non-event for some time, acting all along as if it was an indicator of some massive failure of the Democratic Convention. It wasn't. The Democratic Convention may have been as boring as Vanilla Ice Cream, but it was still Ice Cream, not the shit-popsicle that all of the hand-wringing in the press would make you believe.

Following the convention, Kerry - now the official nominee of the Democratic Party - was for the first time bound by the statutory spending limits that came with his acceptance of public financing for his presidential campaign. Until the Republican Convention a month later, Bush was still free to spend as much money as he pleased. This is a story that was covered pretty well before the Democratic Convention, but was never mentioned (that I heard) during the month that followed, despite the fact that the reduction in the Kerry campaign's spending must have surely affected its ability to operate as before.

Meanwhile the Kerry campaign spent the entire month facing airwaves that were saturated with both official "I'm President Bush, and I approved this Message" attack ads, and unpaid media coverage of a Texas hatchet group called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Why the media gave the coverage that it did to these people is beyond the scope of this article, but the fact that they did it was a disgrace.

Against this backdrop of a campaign operating with reduced spending capacity, fighting off both an opposing campaign not confined by the same financial strictures, and an onslaught of negative press coverage, you saw Bush gain a few points in some national polls, and an increase in negative perceptions of Kerry. But if the election had been held then - according to the polls - Kerry still would have won, both popularly and electorally.

Now, given this situation where Kerry is leading Bush in the polls, Bush obviously has the opportunity - if he gives a successful performance at his convention - to get more of a bounce from it then Kerry did at his. Bush, like Kerry, did a reasonably good job, and the convention, while bland, was basically a success, and Bush did exactly that. He got a good bounce, one that was never even a possibility for Kerry, and as a result pundits started asking whether or not the race was already over. WTF?!?

Nothing of any import has really happened since the Republican convention, and as a result the two candidates have drifted back to within the margin of error in national polls, with Bush still leading, and Bush also leading electorally. These numbers, like the numbers 1-2 months ago that showed Kerry in the same position Bush is now, are meaningless. The election isn't today, its in November, which may seem like a weirdly simplistic and rhetorical thing to say, but it is apparently something that you have to forget, if anything being said by so called political experts is going to make any sense to you.

What the numbers do show is that we are in a close race, and that there are no demonstrable trends within those numbers that give any conclusive evidence as to how the vote will actually come down on November 2. And the numbers have been showing that exact same thing for about half-a-year now, so it shouldn't be a supprise to people. Kerry isn't losing, Bush isn't winning, the race isn't over. For most of the people in the country all of the occurrences along the campaign trail during the past months have gone in one ear and out the other, with the exception of the party conventions, and for a few, the public appearances of John Kerry, or John Edwards. For most people, their final voting decision will be based, first and foremost on party affiliation, and secondly on the performances of the candidates in the presidential debates.

All of the TV ads, sideshows, talking heads, and even the war in Iraq and the state of the Economy, are essentially subordinate to the simple fact that for a majority of voters party affiliation is the only thing that affects their voting decision. For the rest of the voters, those who do actively make decisions without regard to party affiliation, the way they will make that decision is by watching the two candidates stand side-by-side on stage, and make their case for why they should be president. And so, in reality, the Real Presidential Race is only just about to begin.

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