Friday, October 29, 2004

Confidence, Overconfidence, Desperation (and whose)?

by Tom Bozzo

Who looks like the prospective Wisconsin winner? Consider recent Wisconsin presidential campaign appearances:

I might add that Bush has ostensibly been courting Democrats through an appeal to the legacies of FDR, Truman, and John F. Kennedy. As this is a family blog (scroll down for baby pictures!), I can't publish my full initial reaction, but it starts with "Who the," has "does Bush think he's" in the middle, and ends with "kidding." Insert suitable expletives.

Trying to wrap my mind around these data points, I am reminded most of the fine line between stupid and clever.

Perhaps BC'04've viewed themselves as beyond retail campaigning for whatever reason -- either they thought that it couldn't help, and/or that they didn't need it. The way Bush's appearances are reported in the local media, the latter is probably true to some degree in any case.

Another view I've seen, via a political scientist interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio a while back (sorry, no link), is that Bush is stumping in places like Richland Center (total Richland County presidential vote in 2000, all candidates: 8,293) because the big cities and their suburbs more-or-less cancel each other out, so the Wisconsin outcome will be decided in the rural counties. The potential flaw in this logic is that if the state is very evenly divided, any incremental votes could be decisive, and it isn't obvious that those won't come out of urban areas that probably have some natural cost advantages for the most effective get out the vote methods like door-to-door canvassing.

While I may, of course, be proven wrong in a few days, I just don't think that there are enough votes for Bush to scare out of the countryside to offset improved results for Kerry from intense get out the vote efforts in Madison and Milwaukee and the weaker Nader candidacy. Perhaps supporting my view, Bush has a late visit to Waukesha on his calendar, suggesting by revealed preference that Karl Rove actually sees a need to seek votes where there is a concentration of voters.

The FDR line must be either overconfidence or desperation. Is there any Democrat who sees the iconic Democratic presidents in George W. Bush? If you are one, please seek medical attention immediately!

Meanwhile at the Post, Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei, who often play real reporters (Milbank, anyway; see this nugget from VandeHei) report:
Bush strategist Karl Rove said Thursday night that the campaign's private polls show the president even or ahead in eight of the 10 battleground states -- including Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico -- with leads outside the polls' margins of error in four. He predicted a victory for Bush but said "the next five days are critical."

Rove is not exactly brimming with credibility in reporting BC'04 internal poll results, given his obvious interest in planting a storyline of Bush re-election inevitability and the less advantageous nonpartisan public polling (1). The Rove quote is in the seventh paragraph, and this is not burial of the lede. The administration's history of roughing up messengers bearing inconvenient truths (Larry Lindsey, Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, etc.) makes me even less inclined to believe whatever their internal polling might say.


(1) For instance, according to the Cap Times, Badger Poll XVIII shows Wisconsin within the reported margin of error, an 11 point swing to Kerry form Badger Poll XVII. Even the TradeSports contract for Bush's re-election is currently trading at 51.9, down steadily for the week to a post-GOP convention low and down from the sixties before the debates.
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