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Kerry's Backward Bounce


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Kerry's Backward Bounce

Joel Mowbray (archive)

August 3, 2004 | Print | Send

For very good reason, the rule of thumb is that a presidential candidate gains ground following his party’s convention: It almost always happens.

It happened four years ago, despite Al Gore’s nearly incoherent rant. It happened in 1984, after Walter Mondale reaffirmed his pledge to raise taxes. It even happened for Jimmy Carter in 1980 after a brutal civil war with Ted Kennedy.

But it didn’t happen for John Kerry.

According to the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, conducted Friday and Saturday, Kerry lost a total swing of 5 points from the week before, head-to-head against Bush. Kerry declined 1 point, from 47% to 46%, and Bush bumped up 4 points, from 46% to 50%.

Heading into the convention, fully one-third of voters told pollsters that they didn’t know enough about Kerry. After a week of exposure to him and the Democratic Party, voters clearly didn’t like what they saw.

Despite the glittering pronouncements of greatness from the chattering class while the auditorium was still packed (Howard Kurtz covers this well), the poll results should hardly be surprising.

The speech stunk.

Any number of Democrats I chatted with Thursday night in Boston roughly held the same view: The speech was garbage, yet the delivery was decent—for Kerry. Not even the party faithful were revved by Kerry’s address.

Who could blame them, though? What it lacked in subtlety and organization, it made up for with pomposity and bloviating.

Before the audience had even had time to sit down, Kerry had already reminded us how literate he is, never mind that he bastardized the very meaning of Thomas Wolfe’s classic. There was also the pearl of wisdom where he reminded folks, “That flag up there. We call her Old Glory.†Thank you, John Kerry.

Without any thematic structure to tie together many disparate points, Kerry’s meandering 55-minute address felt impossibly longer. It veered from autobiography to targeted digs at Bush to a detailed recitation of policy prescriptions.

Weirdest was his at attempt at humanizing himself. Never has someone recounting personal details felt so impersonal. The entire section was overtly mechanical, an offensively obvious ploy to portray himself as just another American. He was a Cub Scout, his mother a Girl Scout, and his father a State Department diplomat. Yep, John Kerry, average Joe.

His mother, he told us, “[W]as the rock of our family, as so many mothers are.†His father, as it happens, “did the things that a boy remembers.†And for good measure, the young diplomat’s son, “like all children, found the world full of wonders and mysteries.â€

That normal kid, we soon learned, grew up to become a “young prosecutor†who “made prosecuting violence against women a priority.†And as a Senator, he “fought to put 100,000 police officers on the streets of America.â€

And lest we forget he served in Vietnam. Then again, how could we with well over a dozen references to it?

Toward the end of his marathon speech, Kerry mixed Clinton-style biographies of suffering Americans with an insufferable laundry list of specific policy priorities.

Recalling McGovern and LBJ, rather than Clinton or JFK, Kerry’s policy agenda consisted of making America “respected in the world,†curtailing free trade, nationalizing health care, raising taxes, building fewer prisons, spending more on Head Start, and two separate calls for shelling out more for after-school programs.

Somehow absent was any reference to the liberation of Iraqis or Afghans, the prospect of freedom in the Arab world, or even a coherent vision for executing the war on terror.

It was all too much to bear. I’m not speaking of ordinary people or curious voters. I’m talking about Democrats at the Fleet Center who were kept out of the auditorium for crowd control reasons.

Sitting in radio row during Kerry’s speech—I was doing running commentary on WABC during the long applauses, which got fewer and fewer as the speech wore on—I witnessed a group crowded around a television about thirty feet away.

At the speech’s start, the group of 20 or so party activists were hooping and hollering. They were ecstatic. Thirty minutes in, at least one-third of them had wandered off and the excitement level had waned to the occasional smattering of applause. Moments before the pundits were instantly hailing Kerry’s supposedly brilliant speech, more than half of the hard-core Democrats had vanished.

That Kerry thinks he can keep a non-captive audience at attention for 55 dreary minutes is indicative of his incredible self-worth and provides more than a glimpse of his immense unlikeability.

One wonders if his dreadful post-convention poll numbers will be enough to pierce Kerry’s arrogance. If the numbers alone don’t, maybe he should consider this: the last Democrat to get no “bounce†from a convention was George McGovern in 1972.

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A Baby Bounce?

Kerry’s lead over Bush widens, though not substantially. But the Democrat makes big gains by other measures


By Brian Braiker


Updated: 4:53 p.m. ET July 31, 2004

July 31 - Coming out of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Sen. John Kerry now holds a seven-point lead over President George W. Bush (49 percent to 42 percent) in a three-way race with independent Ralph Nader (3 percent), according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll The poll was taken over two nights, both before and after Kerry's acceptance speech. Respondents who were queried after Kerry's Thursday night speech gave the Democrat a ten-point lead over Bush. Three weeks ago, Kerry’s lead was three points.

Kerry’s four-point “bounce†is the smallest in the history of the NEWSWEEK poll. There are several factors that may have contributed to the limited surge, including the timing of the poll. On Thursday, Kerry had just a two-point lead over Bush (47 percent to 45 percent), suggesting that his Friday night speech had a significant impact. Additionally, Kerry’s decision to announce his vice-presidential choice of John Edwards three weeks before the convention may have blunted the gathering’s impact. And limited coverage by the three major networks also may have hurt Kerry.

Still, Kerry and Edwards have gained ground on several key election issues. For the first time in the NEWSWEEK poll, as many voters strongly back Kerry as strongly back Bush (31 percent to 30 percent). In an election expected to be decided by a small number of unaffiliated voters, independents now lean toward Kerry by a margin of 45 percent to 39 percent, with Nader pulling 7 percent. And voters are becoming more likely to predict a Kerry victory in November: Forty-four percent say Kerry will win vs. 43 percent who predict Bush.

Voters are deadlocked at 46 percent over who they would trust more with handling the situation in Iraq (Bush had enjoyed a 15 point lead in March). They also just barely prefer Bush to Kerry (48 percent to 43 percent) on handling terror and homeland security, issues on which they had preferred the president by 21 points in March. This is significant because the top issues among voters are terrorism (21 percent), the economy (19 percent), Iraq (18 percent) and health care (15 percent).

Kerry gets higher ratings as someone who can be trusted “to make the right decisions during an international crisis†(53 percent Kerry versus 48 percent Bush). Six in 10 voters (58 percent) are dissatisfied with the direction the country is headed and, domestically, more voters believe Bush’s policies have hurt (43 percent) rather than helped (33 percent) the economy. Voters also feel they would far more trust Kerry (55 percent) than Bush (32 percent) with issues pertaining to health care and Medicare.

Meanwhile, Bush’s own approval ratings continue to slip. Forty-five percent say they approve of the job the president is doing vs. 49 percent who disapprove. Three weeks ago, Bush’s approval rating was 48 percent; his high was 82 percent in the week after the September 11 attacks.

The best news the Bush campaign gets out of the NEWSWEEK poll is that Kerry’s stance on the gay marriage issue lies outside of the mainstream. Voters choose Bush’s less permissive stance on gay marriage by a wide margin (46 percent to 33 percent) as the position that best reflects their own views. However, this potential wedge issue may be tempered by the fact that voters vastly prefer Kerry’s progressive stance on stem cell research by a margin of 53 percent to 26 percent.

On the heels of a star-studded week—which featured unequivocal support for Kerry from former president Bill Clinton; Ron Reagan, the son of a beloved Republican president; rising star Barack Obama and Vietnam vet Sen. Max Cleland—the Democratic Party’s nominee now boasts stronger ratings than the president on being “personally likeable†(67 percent agree with that description of Kerry, 62 percent of the president); on being someone who cares about “someone like you†(57 percent feel this describes Kerry, 44 percent Bush); and on having “strong leadership qualities†(31 percent don’t see these in Kerry whereas 38 percent don’t see them in Bush).

With the major networks broadcasting very little of the actual convention in prime time, registered voters did not watch very much of it. Just half the voters (48 percent) said they watched at least some of the convention, with 41 percent of those who did watch walking away with a more favorable view of candidate. About a quarter (24 percent) of all viewers felt less favorable.

For the NEWSWEEK poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewed 1,010 adults aged 18 and older July 29 and July 30 by telephone. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

© 2004 Newsweek, Inc.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5568072/site/newsweek/

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Poll: No boost for Kerry after convention

By Susan Page, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Convention boosted voters' perceptions of John Kerry's leadership on critical issues, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds. But it failed to give him the expected bump in the head-to-head race against President Bush.

In the survey, taken Friday and Saturday, the Democratic ticket of Kerry and John Edwards trailed the Republican ticket of Bush and Dick Cheney 50% to 46% among likely voters, with independent candidate Ralph Nader at 2%.

Before the convention, the two were essentially tied, with Kerry at 47%, Bush at 46%.

The change in support was within the poll's margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points in the sample of 763 likely voters. But it was nonetheless a stunning result, the first time in the Gallup Poll since the 1972 Democratic convention that a candidate seemed to lose ground at his convention.

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Looking for Bounce

Jay Bryant (archive)

August 2, 2004 | Print | Send

When I was a kid I had a beagle named Bounce.

Even before that, there was a hit record by Benny Goodman called "Jersey Bounce," a name which I have always assumed had a scatological subtext, especially since at the time, the peak of feminine pulchritude was encapsulated in the phrase "sweater girl."

Bounce is a laundry product you can put in your dryer to make your clothes soft; it also has several non-standard uses, such as rolling the little sheets up and stuffing them into your sneakers to keep them smelling fresh. No, not while you're actually wearing the sneakers.

When a basketball player bounces a ball, it's called dribbling. When a football player bounces a ball, it's called a fumble. When a baseball player bounces a ball, it's called an error.

In political parlance, a bounce is a quick upswing in the polls occasioned by some particular event or cause, such as your party's national convention. Convention bounces don't necessarily last, but they almost always happen. Michael Dukakis had a convention bounce of something like fifteen points in 1988.

After the convention, Dukakis did his tank suit thing and his bounce tanked. John Kerry did his NASA bunny suit thing before his convention. Whatever else you can say about the bunny suit photo, it's bad staff work. In the post-Dukakis era, no advance man worth his walkie-talkie would have allowed it. Whoever did should be, and perhaps has been, fired. Bunnies do bounce, though, although the phrase "hippity-hop" is more generally used. (Kerry's attempt to cozy up to the Hip Hop crowd at the convention went over like a lead balloon when he couldn't name any Hip Hop artists. Let the record show I'm with him on this one.) Anyway, it's unlikely the silly bunny suit photo was the cause of Kerry's failure to get any bounce at all from last week's Boston "D" party.

No bounce at all. Zero. Zip. Nada. Within the margin of error in all the polls. Up two-to-four in the Newsweek poll. Margin of error. Down four in the CNN-USA Today poll. Also margin of error, but seriously, down four??? A negative bounce is when your lead balloons crash through the floor of the Fleet Center and land in the basement.

Why oh why did this happen?

One theory is that voters this year are so rigidly set in their ways, filled with venom and hatred for whichever side they're against that there are literally no undecideds – no one to bounce, so to speak. This is a very logical hypothesis, and may well be true. Like any useful hypothesis, it is testable. If President Bush gets no bounce from the Republican convention later this month, the two conventions taken together will be a pretty good demonstration of the my-mind-is-made-up-so-I-don't-care-what-you-say explanation of 2004 bouncelessness.

And it will mean that all polls in this election, including the big one scheduled for November 2, will be within the margin of error. If this was a 50-50 race in March, April, May, June, July and August, there's not much reason to expect change in September or October, either. If I were Jim Baker or Warren Christopher, I'd be thinking about spending December in Florida again.

A second, party-neutral explanation is the "what convention?" thesis. Since the major networks gave the convention less coverage than any other since Lucy and Desi were an item, it was left to the cable news networks and C-SPAN to report on the happenings to the nation. This is a vastly smaller audience, only about a tenth of the Big Three. Moreover, the people who do watch C-SPAN, Fox News, CNN and the others are, almost by definition, political junkies and hence unbouncable partisans.

If either of these factors accounts for the lack of a Kerry bounce, then Bush won't get one either.

On the other hand, maybe the fault lies with the Democratic Convention itself. Maybe there are voters out there who are willing to be bounced, but all Kerry and Friends did in Boston was dribble, fumble and make errors.

The much ballyhooed vice presidential candidate, John Edwards, was by all accounts a dud at the platform – his speech memorable for, well, nothing. Kerry's own appearance had one and only one memorable moment, that opening "reporting for duty" salute. But however memorable it was, nothing about it was vote-switching. Let's compare it to Al Gore's big moment at his convention, when he tongue-tattooed Tipper. "The kiss" worked for Gore in 2000. Why? Because it violated our previous preconceptions of Gore as a soulless, emotionless android.

But given the ceaseless, overblown, "for God's sake will you talk about something else" nature of Kerry's Vietnam story, "the salute" offered us nothing new. It was just another silly gimmick pushing the same old theme.

Look at it this way: Kerry's salute is not comparable to Gore's kiss, but it would be roughly comparable to the effect a similar on-podium kiss by Bill Clinton would have had – particularly if the kissee were a woman other than Mrs. C. "So it's that again, is it?"

Speaking of women, one who absolutely did not come away from Boston with her reputation enhanced is Teresa Kerry, who is well on her way to becoming the biggest drag on the ticket of any aspiring first lady since Rachel Jackson in 1832.

But of course, without her billions, her hubby probably wouldn't even have been in the running. So you take the good with the bad. Bounce, bounce.

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Where’s Kerry’s post-convention bounce?

By Robert Moran

That dull thud you hear may be the John Kerry flop of 2004.

The media wanted a post-convention bounce for the Democrats' presidential nominee. The Washington Post, acting as political consultant, highlighted the rosy findings of its convention focus groups among swing voters. They tried.

But polling suggests that the Boomer centric "Boston Me Party" that nominated John F. Kerry, may have been a flop. The most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Friday and Saturday (the best time to measure a possible post-convention bounce), actually found Bush ahead of Kerry 50 percent to 47 percent among likely voters and behind Kerry by three points among registered voters in a two-way race. In a three-way race this research found Bush ahead 50 percent to 46 percent among likely voters and tied at 47 percent among registered voters.

This could be the bounce that wasn't.

A raft of surveys will come out in the next few days. If most of the others find the same weak response to the Democrats' convention of "strength," they will have proven our polling firm has been saying for some time now. Getting a significant bounce in a closely divided, ideologically polarized country is very difficult.

While it is clear from this research that the Kerry campaign shifted some perceptions of its product, Democratic officials have to be troubled that the Boston repackaging generated so few additional buyers.

The survey does suggest that they made the product look and feel more presidential to potential buyers. For example, 57 percent (up from 53 percent) now agree that the new and improved, extra-"strength" Democratic product has the "personality and leadership qualities" a president should have. Who knows? Maybe it was the salute.

But, don't blame the product managers. They ran a well-scripted and brilliantly deceptive convention. They hid Teresa Heinz Kerry and Teddy Kennedy in early convention speaking slots, toned down the hate, and muzzled any overt discussion of the issues that actually animate the convention delegates. They did all they could to make their product look and feel like a "strong" and moderate John McCain. They may yet be successful.

And how about that all-important "strength" metric the Democrats were trying to move? This weekend's poll suggests the new Democratic "extra-strength" product made some headway, moving from a 17-point deficit in a head-to-head match-up with Bush to a nine-point deficit. President Bush, however, is still considered the more strong and decisive candidate by 51 percent of the voters and leads Kerry by 12 points on who voters trust most to fight terrorism.

Did the Kerry campaign get a bounce for its product? At this point, the answer appears to be no.

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