Saturday, September 04, 2004

20 questions about polls

From the National Council on Public Polls, 20 Questions A Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results:
  1. Who did the poll?
  2. Who paid for the poll and why was it done?
  3. How many people were interviewed for the survey?
  4. How were those people chosen?
  5. What area (nation, state, or region) or what group (teachers,lawyers, Democratic voters, etc.) were these people chosen from?
  6. Are the results based on the answers of all the people interviewed?
  7. Who should have been interviewed and was not?
  8. When was the poll done?
  9. How were the interviews conducted?
  10. What about polls on the Internet or World Wide Web?
  11. What is the sampling error for the poll results?
  12. Who’s on first?
  13. What other kinds of factors can skew poll results?
  14. What questions were asked?
  15. In what order were the questions asked?
  16. What about "push polls"?
  17. What other polls have been done on this topic? Do they say the same thing? If they are different, why are they different?
  18. So I've asked all the questions. The answers sound good. The poll is correct, right?
  19. With all these potential problems, should we ever report poll results?
  20. Is this poll worth reporting?


Update: Fixed the links.

More on polls: Robert Silvey has a nice discussion of the Time poll that shows Bush way ahead, and Chris Bowers has a good takedown on the Newsweek poll that seems to confirm it. Personally, I think we'd have fewer panicky Democrats right now if more of them read Ruy Teixeira's poll analyses -- here's his take on the Time poll. Check out mattb25's thoughts as well.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2004 11:51:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A litany of lies

MyFriendRoger points me to this, on The Poor Man:

He has lied about his time in the National Guard, and lied about his criminal history. He lied about his relationship with Ken Lay, he lied about who would benefit from his tax cuts, and he lied about stem cells. He lied about his visit to Bob Jones University, he lied about why he wouldn't meet with Log Cabin Republicans, and he lied about reading the EPA report on global warming. He lied about blaming the Clinton administration for the second intifada, he lies constantly about how he pays no attention to polls, he lied about how he loves New York, and he lied about moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. He lied about finding WMD in Iraq, he lied about making his decision to go to war, he lied about the CIA's dismissal of the yellowcake rumors, and he lied about the IAEA's assessment of Iraq's nuclear program. He lied about funding the fight against AIDS in Africa, he lied about when the recession started, and he lied about seeing the first plane hit the WTC. He lied about supporting the Patient Protection Act, and he lied about his deficit spending, and now my wrist hurts.

These are all lies, told by the President himself. This doesn't include any distortions, half-truths, or exaggerations, or any lies told by senior figures in the administration. These lies are big and small. Together, these lies involve trillions of dollars and at least tens of thousands of deaths...

Go there and read the whole thing for the full effect.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2004 01:48:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


How undecideds break

Chris Bowers crunches the numbers to determine how undecided voters break on election day. His finding: "66-34 is where the smart money, the house money, should be" -- that's 66% for the challenger and 34% for the incumbent. Remember this when you see national trial heats that are close -- take 2/3rds of the undecideds and add them to Kerry's numbers and add 1/3 to Bush and see what you get then.

Read Chris' piece for the details, but this stood out to me:

The Presidential sample stands out for its extremely small movement from final polls until election night. Even though undecideds break overwhelmingly--better than 6 to 1--in favor of the challenger in a Presidential race, pollsters seem particularly adept at national trial heats in Presidential races. Probably because of the extreme amount of national attention given to the Presidential race, far more people have made up their minds going into the booth than in other elections. While we should not expect significant movement from the final polls on November 1 to the final results on November 2, whatever small movement there is will be almost entirely for Kerry.

Update: TruthIsAll took a moment out from weathering Hurricane Frances to drop me an e-mail:

I allocate undecideds to Kerry in five simulation cases of 50,55,60,67,75%, adding the allocation to all current state polls downloaded from into my Excel spreadsheet.

This way we can see the effects of these assumptions on Kerry's average EV and win probability for each case. The summary is on the first screen [of his website] with detailed graphics and analysis following.

Kerry has a better than 98% chance of winning if he gets 75% of the undecided:

Monte Carlo Simulation (5000 trials)

Undecided allocation
KERRY: 50% 55% 60% 67% 75%
Trial Wins 2755 3330 4014 4825 4934

Pop. Vote % 49.97 50.21 50.61 51.41 51.81
Win Prob % 55.10 66.60 80.28 96.50 98.68

Average 273 280 290 311 322
Median 273 279 289 310 322
Maximum 353 366 376 386 391
Minimum 171 178 193 242 240

States won 24 24 25 27 27

Pop. Vote 50.47 50.84 51.21 51.59 51.96
Win Prob 60.79 68.90 76.18 82.41 87.50

If I'm reading this correctly, even if Kerry only gets 50% of the undecideds, according to TruthIsAll's model Kerry has still got a 55% chance of winning, although as a minority president (less than 50% of the popular vote), and carrying only just enough states to win (273 electoral votes). If Kerry gets the high end of the 66-34 split Chris refers to above, then Kerry's chances of winning (according to TruthIsAll) is 96.5%, with a majority (51.41%) of the popular vote and a good margin in the Electoral College.

BTW, I should note that in a comment on MyDD, Chris Bowers makes clear that the data he was working with was solely for the undecided split from the very last poll taken before election day, and his conclusions are not necessarily applicable to polls taken earlier. Also, Gerry Daly, proprietor of Dales' Electoral College Breakdown had some comments critiquing Chris' analysis which are worth looking at.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2004 01:30:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Brothers in Arms

Here's the Variety review of a new documentary:

Brothers In Arms


A First Run Features release of the Gordon Motion Picture Co. presentation. Produced by Iris G. Rossi. Executive producers, Paul Alexander, Rossi, William Spear, Nicholas Butterworth. Directed by Paul Alexander.

With: Sen. John F. Kerry, Rev. David Alston, Del Sandusky, Gene Thorson, Mike Medeiros.


Given the continued partisan uproar -- fueled by the political news-starved media in the August dog days -- over John Kerry's Vietnam experience, "Brothers in Arms" is a respectfully modest effort that allows Kerry and his Swift boat comrades to tell their stories in their own voices. Pic's theatrical release in select U.S. cities must be one of the better-timed of any docu all year, beating "Going Upriver," documaker George Butler's Kerry-in-'Nam film, set for Toronto Film Festival preem. Shelf life will be inexorably tied to Kerry's victory or defeat in November.

Only a brief opening montage of radio and TV clips on the Vietnam War departs from a soundtrack devoted to testimony and memories of the vets, who introduce themselves with brief bios. Kerry's testimony is grouped among his buddies' -- a sure sign that tyro helmer Paul Alexander intended this to be a portrait of men in battle and not just a John Kerry promotional pic.

A fine assembly of mostly color archive footage shot from the Swift boats (essentially identical to the boat that voyages upriver in "Apocalypse Now") accompanies the men's accounts of their missions to search and destroy North Vietnamese jungle outposts during 1969.

Rev. David Alston, the boat's chief gunner, delivers the most palpable and heart-rending recollections -- from his haiku-like description of the Swift boat's wake as "the rooster tail" and his second-by-second account of being hit by bullets, to the loss of his wife to cancer and his journey from alcoholism and suicide to Christianity.

Pilot Del Sandusky and gunner Mike Medeiros provide crucial accounts, vis-a-vis the current debate over Kerry's war record, about how Kerry as boat commander pursued a North Vietnamese gunman by jumping ashore and killing him. They strongly argue that Kerry deserved the Silver Star for his valor, and only briefly allude to widely discredited claims (revived whenever Kerry is running for office) that he shot the gunman in the back.

Another fiery incident involving the boat and her crew is described by Alston, boat engineer Gene Thorson and others in such detail that charges issued by vets in the current anti-Kerry television ad that the candidate is lying seem profoundly misguided in suggesting that the entire boat's crew is lying as well.

Kerry comes off, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the most articulate and cerebral of the bunch, but also direct ("the war taught me how the government can lie to its people"). In a detail often overlooked, his anti-war involvement was supported by some on his crew, but not (at first) by Medeiros, who says that he was still a "hawk" at the time. His mates' bouts with alcohol, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide are war stories in themselves, though Kerry (who did have post-trauma episodes) isn't included in these testimonies.

Camera (color/B&W, DV, 16mm), Elisabeth Haviland James; editor, James ; music, Michael Bacon; sound, Paul Furedi; archival research, Bonnie Rowan, Lisa A. Kim. Reviewed on videotape, Los Angeles, Aug. 24, 2004. Running time: 67 MIN.

Addenda: More from The American Prospect:

Unlike most of the documentaries this fraught electoral season, Brothers in Armsis blessedly a story rather than a polemical harangue -- it has swing, a narrative arc, unforgettable characters. The director opens his film with an elegant sort of overture, weaving together stock footage of Vietnam battles with the unseen crewmens’ voices, edited together in a seamless story line: their lives before Vietnam, the terror of war, the alienating aftermath, the bond forged between men who fought side by side. The very texture of their voices serve as both soundtrack and character development -- gritty, gravelly, one with a nicotine-tinged laugh, another with a nasal twang, all with an inner cadence that reveals vital information about each man. “Crick,” says Del Sandusky, giving away his rural origins as he reminisces about the local creek.

Gene Thorson, David Alston, Tommy Belodeau (who passed away last year), Michael Medeiros, Sandusky, and Kerry represented a broad swath of America, hailing from the Midwest, the South, and the Northeast and from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. The soldiers joined the Navy for a similarly varied set of reasons: to seek opportunities for higher education, to see the world, to fulfill a sense of patriotic duty, to shoulder responsibility. Their experiences in Vietnam, however, welded the men together irrevocably. As one of the crewmembers says in voice-over, “We went through this together … that guy covered my back, and I love him for that.”

The film captures the whiplash arrhythmia of war, moments of calm and exuberance followed by plunges into terror, as when Lieutenant Kerry, accompanied by Medeiros, pursued a Viet Cong intent on firing a rocket at the boat and killed him. Kerry’s actions that day later earned him a Silver Star. Alston depicts a savage firefight in his unmistakable South Carolina drawl, laughing a bit as he recounts asking a fellow crewmember, “Is my eye there? Is it there?” Sandusky is haunted by a simple decision that saved his life and took a comrade’s. “That’s called survivor’s guilt,” he says. The crewmates’ tortured faces remind us that they aren’t just recounting past memories; the telling of the past is also forcing them to relive the anguish of wartime and a difficult homecoming.

Less than half the movie is devoted to the crewmen’s battlefield experiences. Using the song “Amazing Grace” as a lyrical bridge, Alexander lays out his subjects’ exit from Vietnam as gracefully as he depicts their arrival: their nightmarish return to a country that called them “baby killers,” their attendant struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism, and growing doubts -- particularly for Kerry, who became an outspoken anti-war activist -- over whether the war they had been sent to fight was indeed a just one.

Although they didn’t see one another for years after their return, the crewmates rekindled their bond when they reunited to defend Kerry from attacks on his Vietnam record during his 1996 senatorial re-election campaign. As for this year, recent SBVT charges will almost certainly mean a busy fall for the men. Brothers in Arms doesn’t include the testimony of Kerry’s detractors; its pre-SBVT-mandated story is at once a deceptively straightforward tale of wartime horrors and friendships and an endorsement of Kerry as a hero, on and off the battlefield. It doesn’t attempt to get at the whole truth of Kerry’s Vietnam experiences, but adds its own subtle brand of fire to the fight over Kerry’s record. The timing of the film’s release is at once opportune and ironic: In the midst of war in Iraq and on the election front, this film about brotherhood shows us just how far we are from that ideal.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2004 01:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The dead eyes and forced smiles of a loser

James Wolcott watched Bush's acceptance speech with the sound off (a technique I also use occasionally, since, if you're at all attuned to body language, it can be very useful in getting around spin and looking beneath the carefully controlled artifice of political speeches). Here's what he found:

My clinical evaluation. I don't know if Bush is going to lose the election. But I think he thinks he's going to lose. His eyes were lifeless, devoid of spark. His smiles were forced, his expressions of gratitude for the audience applause more of a mechanical pause than a transference of energy from him to the crowd and back again. When the camera cut to the audience they were doing their orchestrated bit, holding up those dopey signs, but there wasn't the ebullience you saw among the Democrats. Bush seemed to know this speech simply didn't have it, and he didn't have it in him to put it over.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2004 01:12:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A midnight rant

Hey, kids, you know what I'm pretty sick of? ("No, Uncle Unfutz, what are you sick of?") Well, I'll tell you. I'm pretty sick and tired of people -- Democrats and supposedly liberal ones, I mean -- who get their information from scanning the front page of their local paper and watching the evening news on TV telling me how it's all over, that Kerry can't win, that Bush has it in the bag, that we've blown it big time by not doing X (where X equals "Picked Dean as our candidate," "Hit back hard at Bush," "Take the party to the left," "Announce that we're pulling out of Iraq" or whatever their particular pet strategic notion is), that it's all over for the counting.

Well, I don't think so, and people who actually spend time reading about, and writing about, and thinking hard about the election don't think so, the polls don't provide any evidence to support the contention, and, what's even more telling, the Republicans don't think so, or else George W. Bush would be clearing brush on his ranch right now, instead of campaigning hard in battleground states. You don't judge what a person thinks by what they say in the ultra-spin zone, you judge by what they do in the real world, where it really counts, and in the real world the GOP is in no way acting as if they've got this election sewn up, regardless of what the dour doomsayers and nitpicking nigglers of the Democratic party may think.

My message to these people, who seem to almost enjoy being voices of despair and anguish, is "Shut up and get out of my face, if you please. I don't have time for your crisis of faith, the bleakness of your outlook, your lack of contextual understanding and the wretched paucity of the information you base your bad feelings on. If you think things are that bad, then get off your ass and do something about it, but don't darken my door with your ill-informed negativity and gut feelings, because you don't know what you're talking about."

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/04/2004 01:01:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, September 02, 2004


Recently, I'd been annoyed because there didn't seem to be anything that we could do to Zell Miller to punish him for his turncoat ways, but I guess I shouldn't have worried: the very nature of things brought about his comeuppance, and it was extremely public. There's probably very little that awaits him in his future public life, now that he's a national laughingstock -- he'll never be taken seriously by either side, and if Bush promised him a position of importance in the next Bush administration, it had better be one that doesn't require Senate confirmation, assuming that Bush doesn't find a way to renege entirely.

Even Miller's new pals in the GOP are distancing themselves from this foaming-mouthed lunatic. I'm watching John McCain make fun of him on the Daily Show right now. The least perjorative thing he would say is that it was "an interesting event." He was clearly uneasy with what had happened -- except, of course, that McCain's speech a day or so ago, while not the ravings of a clearly deranged man, inhabited the same negative territory that Miller's did. I got the distinct impression that McCain's appearance was part of a Republican effort in limiting the damage from Miller's tirade.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2004 11:12:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The Democratic message

Josh Marshall lays it out:

The message is straightforward and explainable in ascending levels of specificity.

At its simplest: President Bush has screwed everything up.

A tad less simple: President Bush lied the country into war and then screwed up Iraq. He's racked up huge deficit numbers but no good jobs numbers. He's blown a lot of stuff up; but he's made America less safe.

In that second version, I've made no attempt to craft the whole thing together like a good message maven would do. But that is the essence of it -- accountability, a simple look at the guy's record. Most of his policies were sold on dishonesty and pretty much all of them have failed. In the real world the consequence of screwing everything up is getting canned. Little of the president's life has been lived in the real world. But we have to. So he should be fired.

Right -- let's get back on message, guys: BUSH FUCKED IT UP!

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2004 08:57:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Looking at Strategic Vision

After last night's rant about Strategic Vision's polling (see below), and prompted by comments on the subject both here and on Swing State Project, I decided to take the closer look at SV results that was suggested.

I didn't have time for a particularly sophisticated analysis, so I simply looked at the last month of polling results in a number of battleground states, using the data at, my preferred repository of state polling data.

Here's what I found:

Between 8/2 and 8/28, Strategic Vision did three polls in Florida. The average result was Bush 47.3-Kerry 46, or a 1.3 point advantage for Bush. Other polling outfits did 6 polls in the same time period, which averaged Bush 45.3 - Kerry 46.8, or a 1.5 advantage for Kerry. Net result: Bush does 2.8 points better in Strategic Vision polls.

Polling period: 7/31 - 8/28
Strategic Vision: 2 polls; B46.5-K47.5; Kerry +1
Others: 2 polls; B45-K49; Kerry +4
Advantage to Bush of Strategic Vision results: +3

Polling period: 7/30 - 8/28
Strategic Vision: 3 polls; B42-K46; Kerry +4
Others: 5 polls; B43.6-K49.4; Kerry +5.8
Advantage to Bush of Strategic Vision results: +1.8

Polling period: 7/31 - 8/28
Strategic Vision: 2 polls; B48.5-K43; Bush +5.5
Others: 6 polls; B45.5-K47.3; Kerry +1.8
Advantage to Bush of Strategic Vision results: +7.3

Polling period: 7/31 - 8/28
Strategic Vision: 3 polls; B44.6-K47; Kerry +2.4
Others: 6 polls; B42.6-K48.5; Kerry +5.9
Advantage to Bush of Strategic Vision results: +3.5

Polling period: 7/31 - 8/26
Strategic Vision: 2 polls; B42.5-K48.5; Kerry +6
Others: 4 polls; B43-K50.25; Kerry +7.25
Advantage to Bush of Strategic Vision results: +1.25

Polling period: 7/30 - 8/28
Strategic Vision: 3 polls; B46.7-K46.3; Bush +0.4
Others: 3 polls; B47-K45.3; Bush +2.3
Advantage to Bush of Strategic Vision results: -1.9

So in six of the seven states I looked at, Bush received a distinct advantage from Strategic Vision's results as compared to the results of other (non-partisan) pollsters. The average advantage to Bush was over 2 1/2 points, which is pretty significant.

Obviously, this is not proof of anything except that Bush generally does better in polls done by Strategic Vision than he does in polls by other polling organizations.

Update: In comments, "Chris" asks if I've done the same thing with polls by ARG (I believe the clear implication is that ARG will show a pro-Kerry bias, a claim I've heard from the right before). The problem is that ARG doesn't put out polls with the sheer volume that Strategic Vision does (in fact no one puts out as many battleground polls as SV does), so it's harder to do the same kind of comparison -- but I managed to do it in three states:

Polling period: 7/13 - 8/5
ARG: 2 polls; B43.5-K48.2; Kerry +5
Others: 7 polls; B45.9-K45.9; even
Advantage of ARG results: Kerry +5

Polling period: 7/6 - 8/19
ARG: 2 polls; B44-K49; Kerry +5
Others: 4 polls; B42.5-K49.25; Kerry +6.75
Advantage of ARG results: Bush +1.75

Polling period: 7/19 - 8/15
Strategic Vision: 2 polls; B45-K47.5; Kerry +1.5
Others: 4 polls; B44-K47; Kerry +3
Advantage of ARG results: Bush +1.5

The sample size is too small to be definitive, but so far as I can see there's no obvious Kerry bias here.

What about the national polls, is ARG out of line? Their latest result was for 8/30-9/1 -- let's compare it to one poll that came right after it and 7 that came in the week before it:


8/30-9/1 8/31-9/2 8/26-29 8/25-29 8/24-26 8/24-25 8/23-25 8/23-25 8/23-25
RV 3-way K+1 Tie B+1 K+2.7 K+3 Tie B+2
RV 2-way K+2 B+1 K+1
LV 3-way Tie K+1 Tie B+2 K+1 K+4 K+3
LV 2-way B+1 Tie K+1 K+2
Adults 3 K+1 K+1
Adults 2 K+1

I'm no expert, but ARG's results don't seem particularly skewed to me.

BTW, this has got to be something of a last hurrah for me in doing stuff like this. Next week I start work on a new project, and it's going to be hard enough for me to find the time to keep the electoral college survey up to date (but I will find the time for that) and do some regular posting, I won't have the kind of free time that allows me to spontaneously sit down for a few hours and crunch numbers on a whim.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2004 01:48:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Deception and razzle-dazzle

I've been complaining all over the place (my most recent rant is here, but there's earlier stuff here and here) about the polling coming from Strategic Vision, the very Republican polling firm run by the GOP stalwart (Honorary Chairman for the National Republican Congressional Committee's Business Advisory Council) and spokesman for arch-conservative Larry Klayman, David E. Johnson. SV came out of nowhere to provide convenient (extremely convenient) and timely (almost daily, it seems) polls of the most troublesome of the battleground states, and these polls find their way in to a lot of news stories and electoral vote status updates without being labelled as coming from a partisan firm.

Typically, polls coming from other partisan firms, both Republican and Democratic, are labelled as such, so that people can decide how much credence they wish to put in them, but Strategic Vision polls are presented alongside those from Gallup, Rasmussen, American Research Group, Zogby, Survey USA, Ipsos and other firms which, while they all have their faults and weaknesses, are basically non-partisan.

My suspicion (which I frankly admit could well be paranoia and tin-foil hat stuff) is that someone is footing the bill for all this Strategic Vision polling (which must be awfully expensive, given that each of them is of 801 likely voters, meaning they must have gone through many more prospects to get to that number), and that that someone is in some way intimately connected to the Republican party. Further, I've got the awful feeling that their polls could either be deliberately skewed in order to provide an "objective" basis for Republican storylines about Bush momenta in those critical states, or, less corruptly (but just as deviously), it could be that their polls all use a likely-voter model which itself skews results, many times in Bush's favor, for the same reason.

Looking at Strategic Vision's website, one sees very little to disabuse the casual visitor that the firm is anything but a non-partisan organization engaging in civic-minded polling for the edification of the public and the media, and certainly very little that explicitly lays out the firm's connections with the GOP. Contrast that with how America Coming Together presents their latest polling in the Upper Midwest: a bunch of press releases strung together, almost impossible to find on the website.

[Update: I crunch some numbers and take a more specific, and less rhetorical, look at Strategic Vision here.]

This disparity of presentation between Republicans and Democrats could well be taken as an object lesson in the gap between the parties in presenting their ideologies, policies and candidates to the public. The Democrats, comparatively speaking, provide a straightforward and honest, but boring and lackluster, presentation of the information they have to offer, while the Republicans take their dope and clean it up, dress it up, spruce it up and make it over into something it's not, all so that people will be taken in.

On Tapped Jeffrey Dubner observes the same disparity:

Watching an "America Can Do Better" Democratic press conference [...] I started to understand why the Democrats aren't getting the traction during the RNC that the Republicans had during the DNC. The press conference was full of substantive arguments and detailed indictments of Dick Cheney and Harvey Pitt; the Dems on display talked about Halliburton and the Small Business Administration and environmental destruction. Paired with the Republicans' "Extreme Makeover" press conference during the DNC that I wrote about at the time, it's an object lesson in how not to get your talking points into the media conversation. The Republicans went directly after the speeches and themes of the DNC; the Democrats were talking about policies and actions of the last four years that have gotten them steamed. The Republicans repeated talking point after aggressive talking point; the Democrats talked. Only New Jersey Representative Bob Menendez talked about the previous night, and his condemnation of Arnold Schwarzenegger was so detailed and specific that most reporters probably couldn't get the punchlines down. The whole thing might as well have never happened.

It's a strange paradox. Research shows that when presented objectively and without labelling, Americans agree with the ideas and policies espoused by the Democrats, so much so that the Republican have taken to dressing up their programs in quasi-Democratic costuming to hide their true nature. They know that, if presented objectively for what they are, their ideas would be rejected soundly by most Americans, which is why they need the glitz and glitter, the trompe l'oeil and sleight-of-hand, the smoke and mirrors, the deception and craftiness and guile. And because they're so damned good at it, and have the major media in their pocket, they control the size, shape and scope of political discourse in this country, so that we're all always dancing to their music, always responding to their initiatives and re-acting on their terms.

We think that frankness, honesty, principles, integrity and sound thinking is enough to carry it off, and we're suspicious of the devices and deviousness of the opposition, but the plain fact of the matter is that the truth is no match for deception and show biz values, which are likely to carry the day more often than not. It's not that I think that Democrats need to lie and deceive the public in order to win, but if we don't start to use at least a modicum of razzle-dazzle and entertainment value in the presentation of our ideas, without stooping to outright chicanery, we're never going to win consistently.

Addenda: George Lakoff on how the right controls the terms of the debate. [Via Follow Me Here]

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/02/2004 02:03:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Public notice

I'm ashamed of Ron Silver, and ashamed that he was once the President of my union, Actors' Equity.

Ron Silver has helped to further additonal damage to this country by speaking at the Republican convention and enthusiastically endorsing the election bid of George W. Bush. Today is no ordinary circumstance, and this election is no ordinary fight, it's an extraordinary campaign to take back our country, re-establish our damaged civil liberties and find once again our proper place in the world. By publicly signing up with Bush, Silver has enlisted on the wrong side of this battle.

I disavow Ron Silver, he does not represent me or my interests.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 11:53:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Iranian possibilities

On May 22nd, I wrote:

Is it possible, given the strong links now being reported between Chalabi and the Iranians, that the Bush administration was suckered by the Iranians into bringing down their mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, and weakening the country in the region which has been their rival for hegemony in the Persian Gulf?

Now, via Hesiod, similar possibilities are explored by Jim Henley

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 11:42:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Stewart nails it (again)

From The Daily Show:

SCHWARZENEGGER: And to those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say "Don't be economic girly-men!" *

JON STEWART: Yes, for the 1.3 million Americans who have sunk into poverty this year, Arnold's message to you is simply: "Suck it up, faggots! Walk it off!"

I haven't watched any of the Republican convention, and don't plan to. (I had a heart attack less than 3 months ago and I have to be concerned with keeping my blood pressure down), so I was unaware that for Laura Bush's speech (which Stewart also showed clips of), they dropped down a chintzy pinky patterned curtain behind her for a backdrop, so things would look all homey and kitchen-like, I guess.

Jeez, that is so damn condescending.

* Analysis (from Fafblog):

Presidents with BALLS create massive, half-trillion-dollar deficits and lose millions of jobs! Weak-kneed fiscally-conservative PUSSIES worry about "balancing the budget" and "creating more jobs"! Well Giblets has a message to those pussies straight from the Governor of California: stop worrying about growing the economy and start growing a penis and testicles! 'Cause real men flush economies down the toilet, let terrorists escape, invade the wrong countries and go on to beat the Predator in a knock-down drag-out no-holds-barred fight!

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 11:05:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


No, Rudy wasn't a good mayor

Steve Gilliard provides the proper response to a squib on The American Prospect's weblog Tapped that said Rudy Giuliani was a good mayor.

The bottom line: that is most emphatically not true. Rudy was a lousy mayor, divisive, contentious and capricious throughout his time in office. He had one (and only one) short moment where he was a good leader for the city, on 9/11, and I give him due credit for that, which I did at the time. He did very very well then, helping to hold the city together and showing both resolve and the kind of sensitivity he lacked for all the rest of his years as Mayor. But even that didn't last, and the true nature of Giuliani's lack of character showed through when he started making noises about staying in office past the end of his term because, to Rudy's mind, no one else but he could possibly do the job. That got squealched but quick, as it should have been, but we were reminded about just who it was who had lorded it over us for all those years.

And the idea that Rudy is a "friendly enough guy" is to laugh. Whoever wrote this obviously never spent an hour as a sentient, conscious adult living in New York City in the reign of Rudy Giuliani. Rudy's a "moderate" as far as social issues go, but only in the context of the far-right capture of the Republican party -- that doesn't make him a nice guy, and it didn't make him a good mayor.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 10:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


"Those comets spell doom!"

Chris Bowers says Kerry is doomed (doomed!), and looking at the numbers he provides, I can well believe it:

Likely voters

Bush Kerry Date
ABC 49 49 8/29
Time 46 46 8/26
FOX 44 45 8/25
Gallup 50 47 8/25
NPR 45 50 8/24
Ouch. Kerry's getting crushed. Check out the Registered Voters:

Registered Voters

Bush Kerry Date
ABC 48 49 8/29
Gallup 47 48 8/25
LA 49 46 8/24
CSM 44 44 8/23
Finished. Finished I say. These numbers can only be read as spelling complete doom.

Chris seems quite certain in his doomsaying, because he reiterates elsewhere:

Here's the latest ICR EXCEL Poll (Aug. 25-29, 2004. N=829 registered voters nationwide (MoE ± 3.4); 701 likely voters (MoE ± 3.7)):

Likely Voters

Date Bush Kerry
8/29 46 50
8/5 48 48
Can Kerry turn it around? He looks like he is in pretty bad shape. Even worse are the registered voter numbers:

Registered Voters

Date Bush Kerry
8/29 44 51
8/5 45 50
[...] Kerry is doomed.

Hold on, gotta run, the sky is falling. Back later

Addenda: My golly gosh! Dissension on the left!! Digby disagrees -- Kerry is not doomed:

It's a goddamned dead heat. And the question nobody asks is how a Republican incumbent who stood at a 90% approval rating for more than a year is now below 50% and can't seem to put away the pussy Democrats in the middle of a war.

Well, that's a horse of a different color, innit?

Hey, media, what about that shit?

Update: More anti-doomsaying from the estimable Ruy Teixeira -- it seems that maybe the race in Pennsylvania isn't tightening up after all!

Maybe those comets only spell "Relax!" after all!

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 06:11:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Dishing the electoral CW

On July 6th, almost two months ago, in a comment on Swing State Project, I wrote:

[L]ooking at the various scenarios, it's really Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania that'll determine the election. Whoever takes two out those three states wins, with enough margin to withstand the loss of a small state (and sometimes two).

Today in my e-mail, I got this piece of trenchant analysis from Charlie Cook:

Matthew Dowd, the chief Bush campaign strategist, made the argument on Monday that whichever presidential candidate wins two out of a crucial three states - Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- will probably be the next president. The next day, without knowing about Dowd's prediction, former Clinton White House Political Director Doug Sosnik made the very same forecast.

While there are certainly other important battleground states, Dowd and Sosnik are likely to be right.

It's nice to know that I can dish the conventional wisdom as well as Cook, Dowd and Sosnik can, and several months in advance as well.

(Incidentally, the two-out-of-three-crucial-states scenario isn't a sure winner. There are circumstances that can be spun in which a candidate manages to take two of the three and still loses the election, but they're fairly forced and mostly pretty unlikley if the race keeps being as close as it currently is, which is what I expect.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 01:25:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Another trvial observation

If one were judging by "Wild On...", E's PG-17-rated rip-off of the "Girls Gone Wild" soft-porn series, one would think that there were no African-American college students, or that they never go on spring break. About 99.9% of the trim and buff scantily-dressed good-looking young things (male and female, but mostly the latter) behaving "outrageously" for the program's cameras at hot spots around the world are white -- and blondes are definitely preferred.

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 01:38:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


What happened to the GOP?

Garrison Keillor:

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

There's more.

[Thanks to Shirley]

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 01:28:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Ruy Teixeira once again takes on the conventional wisdom:

The Myth: The SBVT controversy seriously harmed the Kerry campaign. Bush comes into his convention in much better political shape than he has been for quite a while.

The Reality: The race has changed little since the start of the SBVT controversy. Bush enters his convention with basically the same political vulnerabilities he had previously.

Here's another instance where I don't think excerpting helps very much -- better to read the entire entry, it's pretty short. (Basically, Teixeira believe that Kerry's decline in the polls is a natural fall-off of the lift he got from the convention, and what remains is the extremely negative ratings for Bush that all the polls show.)

This is Bush's problem. He's got to run on something and, unfortunately for him, he has precious little to run on other than being the president of 9/11. The SBVT ads and subsequent media feeding frenzy didn't change that equation in the slightest--and it's not an equation that favors Bush's re-election.

Read the piece for the specifics, it might make you fell a little better.

BTW, the truth that Teixeira speaks, that Bush has nothing specific to run on (since his administration doesn't have any real accomplishments that it can sell as positive ones to the general public -- as opposed to selling them to their clients) is the reason to continue to believe that this will be the dirtiest campaign any of us has seen in a long time, perhaps the dirtiest in our lives.

These guys have their backs against the wall, they've got the loss suffered by Papa Bush to live down, they've got a clientele that expects continuing results for the good money they've paid, and they've got the spector of ongoing criminal investigations which could lead to potential repercussions from a Kerry administration if they're not in office to suppress and control them. This election is pretty much do or die for them, and that, along with their penchant for unscrupulousness, dirty tricks, and cheating, makes them extremely dangerous. It also means that we're going to see wave after wave of negativity, attack ads, smears (like Hastert's absurd one on Soros), innuendo and rumor-mongering -- all the varied skills and techniques of unethical immoral political hardball (which they are so very, very good at) will be unleashed.

It's going to be nasty and disgusting, and it's not going to stop any time soon.

That being so, we've got to gird our loins for the force of that continuing and unrelenting attack, we've got to keep our heads and not lose heart every time there's a blip in the polls or a bit of a misstep from Kerry, we must keep our own negativity about the outcome under control and remain firm in the belief that we can win, and the reason we can is that more people want Bush out than want him to stay. If we lose resolve, then it's going to be difficult to convince others that they should keep theirs, and we need every single vote in every single state, not just in the battlegrounds.

(This is not the year for tactical vote swapping with Naderites or other independents -- if push comes to shove in the end, we may need the moral authority that a strong win in the national popular vote can bring with it. That's something I never would have thought would be necessary, but after 2000, one cannot take anything for granted.)

So, I hope the rumors of shakeups in the Kerry campaign are aimed at getting it in shape to respond forcefully and quickly to what will undoubtedly be many, many shocking "revelations" to come. I hope that John Edwards really is engaging in the "stealth" campaign he's rumored to be on, flying under the radar of the national media to get to the grassroots through local media and stir up the passionate responses we need to get people to get out the vote in their areas. I hope that John Kerry's reputation as a strong closer who never gives in and pulls it out of the fire just in the nick of time is a deserved one. I hope that our country can survive the onslaught which is to come, and I hope that we can somehow find it in our hearts once we win to forgive our political foes their wretched behavior, even as we freeze them out for the next eight years and onward.

(In a way, if I may stretch a metaphor a while, Kerry's position is somewhat similar to the less powerful opponent in asymmetrical warfare. Although the money disparity is not as bad as it once was, it still exists, which puts Kerry at a disadvantage. Also, Kerry doesn't have the big guns that Bush has access to, in that the media will follow along with a Bush smear in a way they will not with one launched by Kerry.

We can argue for hours if that's because the media is biased, or if it's a structural artifact of the way journalism is done, or that it's because the GOP excels at gaming the media -- exploiting its loopholes and weaknessness for his own benefit, or all of the above, but the fact exists that the media doesn't deal with Kerry and the Democrats in the same way it does with Bush and the Republicans. This gives Bush a tremendous advantage, but only in the way that the stronger opponent in an asymmetric war has the "advantage" over the weaker one. The trick for the insurgent is to not play by the rules that give the stronger one the advantage, to move the fight to another arena where those advantages cannot be so easily brought into play, and where the size, scope and scale of the larger opponent actually works against him, while the relative smallness and powerlessness of the insurgent are themselves advantages.

That's why I blanch whenever I see suggestions that Kerry and the Democrats need to counter Bush's smearing with their own frontal attack on Bush's character and personality -- as opposed to his failed policies and the credibility of his administration. For that kind of direct attack against an opponent's strong points to work, you've got to have the troops to carry it off, and Kerry simply will not have the media with him if he launches it. Better to come in from the side, where it's least expected, and work stealthily and surrepitiously to undermine the position of the opponent, then waste your resources on an attack that will never work.

Saying this in a general way as I have is easy, where expertise comes in is in knowing the hows and whys and wheres and whens of it -- and I certainly hope that Kerry's got some people who can think that way, because we're gonna need them.)

Addenda: Publius, again, says a similar thing, that Kerry shouldn't get caught in the trap of debating whether Bush has "resolve" or not, instead he should move the goalposts and change the terms of the debate to whether Bush is competent to do the job.

Kerry or his surrogates should say something like: “The Republicans spent all week arguing that Bush has the resolve necessary to win the war on terror. We agree with them. The issue isn’t the President’s resolve, it’s whether he’s competent. His policies have been a failure on everything from national security to Iraq to the economy to stem cells to outsourcing. Normally, when people make mistakes, they change course. But not Bush. He himself has said that when he makes a decision, he sticks to it. Well, that’s the whole problem, Wolf. We have a President with a firm conviction to keep driving America off a cliff.”

(I've always thought that the competency issue can be a winner for Kerry, but many long-time pols are afraid of it, because Dukakis based his entire campaign on it. That was a really bad decision, but it shouldn't preclude using the ammunition that we've got when it's in our hands, or from framing the argument in a way that helps us.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 9/01/2004 12:14:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

How the undecided decide

Note: Those folks looking for baseball charts, please go here.

In The New Yorker, Louis Menand has a fascination (and frustrating) look at how undecided voters make their decisions. I tried and tried to excerpt a piece of it to put here, but it's just too good, and too integrated, to do that without posting an extremely long excerpt. (*) So, instead, I'll just say that you should go and read it.

[Thanks to Bob Carmody in comments for the pointer.]

* Actually, Political Animal guest blogger Ezra Klein manages to pull out a couple of paragraphs that make sense on their own.

Update (9/1): Check out what Publius has to say about the article as well.

Postscript (8/31):BTW, does anyone else prefer Political Animal without guest bloggers? I understand that it's the blog of Washington Monthly and not Kevin Drum's personal weblog the way Calpundit was, so there's going to be a sub for Kevin when he takes a vacation, but the multiple voices there right now during the convention is, to me, annoying. I read the blog because I want to know what Kevin's take on things is, not to get the kind of smattering of views I can get from Tapped or Gadflyer or even Daily Kos (where I would also prefer more Kos and less guests). That's not a knock against any of the various guest bloggers, just a statement of preference for pure unadulterated Drum, even if it means an occasional dearth of postings.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2004 10:58:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Events and Kerry's expected vote

This is from Prof. Sam Wang's meta-analysis of state polls. The dark line in the center is his calculation of the median expected value of Kerry's electoral vote:

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2004 09:51:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Good news

Hesiod's back.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2004 01:03:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Slippery compassion

A few days ago I wrote about the incredibly cramped and incoherent view of liberalism held by some conservatives. Today in The Gadflyer, Jonathan Weiler looks at how conservatives see "compassion" as something very different from what liberals understand it as, according to the ideas of cognitive scientist George Lakoff:

Liberals [...] equate compassion with nurturance. By contrast, in conservative parlance, compassion doesn't necessarily mean government-based largesse, or providing warm and fuzzy comfort to people in difficult circumstances. In fact, conservatives are likely to believe that nurturing and coddling behavior induce bad habits in people and even run the risk of "spoiling" them. In turn, these misguided attempts at helping people actually make them incapable of taking care of themselves and their responsibilities. According to this worldview, you're not doing anyone any favors by teaching them that it's okay to make repeated mistakes, or to expect others to care for you in a dog-eat-dog world. In a world characterized by a Darwinian struggle for survival (we'll put aside the evolution problem for now), what conservatives regard as indulgence and mollycoddling can actually hurt you in the long run (unless you're President Bush, but I digress). By contrast, being strict, tough and unyielding is seen as the proper way to instill in those under your charge the life skills necessary for survival and even success.


  • Sense 1
    compassion, compassionateness -- (a deep awareness of and sympathy for another's suffering)
    => sympathy, fellow feeling -- (sharing the feelings of others (especially feelings of sorrow or anguish))

    Sense 2
    compassion, pity -- (the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it)
    => mercifulness, mercy -- (a disposition to be kind and forgiving; "in those days a wife had to depend on the mercifulness of her husband")

  • Compassion is the basis of morality.
    Arnold Schopenhauer
    "On The Basis of Moality" (1840)


  • `When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

    `The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

    `The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -- that's all.'
    Lewis Carroll
    Through the Looking Glass (1871)

  • The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of
    words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
    Philip K. Dick
    "How to Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" (1978)

Update (9/1): Read Publius on the Republican disconnect between words and reality.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/31/2004 02:26:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, August 30, 2004

What I expect will happen, down the line

So Kerry's numbers are down, as can be seen in some of the national polls, and in my survey of electoral college trackers, but Atrios makes an excellent point:

So, the media is beating the drum that all of the latest polls spell trouble for Kerry and his candidacy must be doomed, blahblahblah.

Remember when, you know, Kerry had been consistently up in the polls for months? Remember how Bush's campaign people were badgered about how much in trouble their candidate was?

What, you don't remember that? You don't recall that solid two months of doomsday rhetoric about the upcoming demise of an unpopular incumbent president [sic]?

No, I don't either. Funny.

I'd like to take this moment, though, to say what I believe is going to happen in the months to come. Kerry is down now, just barely holding on to a lead (hold that thought a moment: the challenger is holding on to a lead against a White House incumbent... OK), but, as analysis shows, it's not that Bush's numbers have gone up as much as that Bush's Swift Boat Liars smear campaign has driven Kerry's numbers down.

Now, the convention may give Bush a little bit of an actual bounce, a positive lift in his numbers, but I don't expect it to be very big bounce, due both to structural matters (the aroused nature of each candidate's base and the relatively small percentage of undecideds) and to the very real deficiencies of the administration's policies and track record. Nor will Bush's post-convention bounce last long -- extrapolating from Pollkatz' graph of Bush approval scores, I expect it to evaporate away fairly quickly. After that, Bush falls back down to about where he has been over the last two months, which is to say buoyed up by his core support, and not much else.

Nevertheless, I do not expect there to be a precipatating "tipping point" event which sets off a cascade of enthusiasm for Kerry among the undecideds, ending up in a landslide victory. Rather, I expect the campaign to continue on in pretty much the annoying and nerve-racking way it has for a while now, roughly 50/50 (looked at grossly), but with Kerry slowly and fairly consistently gaining small measures of support and all the time incrementally eating away at the fringe of Bush's non-basic support. But even with that dynamic in place, it will not be intuitively obvious (except perhaps to people minutely in touch with the ebb and flow of the numbers) that Kerry's gains will hold in place and be sufficient for a win.

In other words, I expect things to continue to at least appear to be touch-and-go right down to the wire.

And then, on Election Day, I expect that the crisis of having to make a definitive decision about who to support will push enough undecideds over the line towards Kerry that he will win, not by a huge margin, but decisively. His popular vote totals margin will not be as substantial as his electoral vote margin, which will be sufficient to guarantee that there won't be another Florida debacle.

That's what I anticipate will happen -- and let me tell you, I'm not looking forward to the ajita it's likely to promote, or the constant specter of impending doom, the Sword of Damocles of a Bush second term. (Of course, we've avoided that in the past as well.)

Update: Since I track the electoral college daily, I should have mentioned where I think it's going to end up. Prompted by a question from Chris Bowers on MyDD, I posted my prediction: Kerry takes all the Gore states plus New Hampshire, Ohio, West Virginia and Florida, for a total of 316 electoral votes (with 270 needed to win). Bush ends up with 222. In the popular vote I've less of an idea, except to say that Kerry will win in the popular vote, he will not be a minority president.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/30/2004 12:25:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


He's mad as hell...

Jim Boyd, the deputy editorial page editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes, apropos of his paper allowing some unvarnished Republican lies to be published in its op-ed columns:

I am sick to death of being played for a chump by the likes of Karl Rove. America can definitely do better.

Can you imagine the positive qualitative difference it would make in our lives if this attitude were to spread throughout the press corps?

The Star Tribune, incidentally, is the #22 most circulated newspaper in the country, and is tops in its market.

[Via Atrios]

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/30/2004 12:14:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Electoral College survey (8/29)

[2006 Election Projections Survey]

[New survey posted on 10/30]

[New survey posted on 10/27]

[New survey posted on 10/24]

[New survey posted on 10/21]

[New survey posted on 10/18]

[New survey posted on 10/11]

[New survey posted on 10/04]

[New survey posted on 9/27]

[New survey posted on 9/19]

[New survey posted on 9/13]

[New survey posted on 9/6]

Another week passes since the last survey of Electoral College tracking / prediction / projection / forecast / scoreboard / map sites, so it's time to do it again and see what the prognosticators have to say about the state of things just before the Republican National Convention begins.


J. Daniel Behun (8/2 - not updated since last survey):
Kerry 284 - Bush 254
(not updated)

Chris Bowers (8/27):
Kerry 281 - Bush 257
(was: 327-211)

Chuck Buckley (8/29):
Kerry 280 - Bush 258
(was: 316-222)

Coldhearted Truth (8/27):
Kerry 291 - Bush 247
(was: 316-222)

Charlie Cook (8/16 - not updated since last survey):
Kerry 207 - Bush 211 - ?? 120
(not updated)

Dales' EC Breakdown (8/29 - updated):
Kerry 259 - Bush 240 - ?? 39 (CO, OH, WI)
(was: 316-202-20)

DC's Political Report (8/27):
Kerry 189 - Bush 170 - ?? 179
(was: 165-166-207)

dc2 electoral (8/27):
Kerry 280 - Bush 258
(was: 316-222)

Election Projection (8/29 - updated):
Kerry 254 - Bush 284
(was: 311-227) (8/29):
Kerry 270 - Bush 259 - ?? 9 (CO)
(was: 286-233-19)

Fagan: Electline (8/8 - not updated since last survey):
Kerry 238 - Bush 300
(not updated)

Federal Review (8/24):
Kerry 316 - Bush 222
(was: 321-217)

First in the Nation (8/28):
Kerry 254 - Bush 275
(was: 316-222)

Ed Fitzgerald (8/29 - updated):
Kerry 290 - Bush 248
(was: 316-222)

(8/30: My numbers have changed to 300-238, but I have not included this in the survey's totals or averages.)

hR's (8/29 - updated)
Kerry 247 - Bush 202 - ?? 88 (CO,FL,IA,OH,NV,TN,WI)

(Note: The numbers listed on this site -- 246-209-100 -- do not add up properly, and do not accurately represent the totals of the states listed in each category. In addition, one state, Arizona, was left off entirely. The figures here are my reconstruction of what the proprietor probably meant.)

Matthew Hubbard (8/28 - updated):
Kerry 265 - Bush 264 - ?? 9 (CO)
(was: 316-213-9)

LA Times (8/29):
Kerry 161 - Bush 147 - ?? 230
(no change)

Leip Atlas (1176 user predictions compiled; 8/29 - updated):

  • state by state medians
    Kerry 264 - Bush 274
    (no change)

  • overall medians
    Kerry 285 - Bush 253
    (was: 289-249)

mattb25 (8/19 - not updated since last survey)
Kerry 327 - Bush 211
(not updated)

MyDD (8/29 - updated)
Kerry 317 - Bush 221
(was 316-222)

My Election Analysis (8/27 - new):
Kerry 301 - Bush 237
(new to survey, was: 311-227 on 8/26)

National Journal's Hotline (8/27 - reinstated):
Kerry 231 - Bush 280 - ?? 27 (AR, PA)
(was 252-249-37 on 8/25)

Our Campaigns (8/28):
Kerry 264 - Bush 274
(no change)

Pollbooth (8/27)
Kerry 247 - Bush 227 - ?? 64 (FL,OH,IA,WI)
(was: 281-222-35)

Pollkatz (8/29 - updated):
Kerry 282 - Bush 256
(was: 297-241)

President Elect 2004 (7/29 - not updated since last survey):
Kerry 264 - Bush 274
(not updated)

Kenneth Quinnell (8/8 - not updated since last survey):
Kerry 303 - Bush 207 - ?? 28
(not updated)

Race2004 (8/29):
Kerry 328 - Bush 188 - ?? 22 (CO, VI)
(was: 332-206)

Rasmussen (8/29 - updated):
Kerry 207 - Bush 213 - ?? 118
(was: 232-183-132)

Running the Numbers (8/29 - updated):
Kerry 292 - Bush 246
(was: 296-242)

Larry Sabato (8/16 - not updated since last survey):
Kerry 274 - Bush 264
(not updated)

Samboni's State-by-State (8/27):
Kerry 276 - Bush 253 - ?? 9 (CO)
(was: 307-222-9)

Benjamin Schak (8/27):
Kerry 296 - Bush 242
(was: 316-222)

Robert Silvey (8/26):
Kerry 297 - Bush 241
(was: 296-242)

Tradesports/intrade (8/29 - updated):

(Note: For further information on converting Tradesports data see here and here.)

Tripias (8/28):
Kerry 270 - Bush 268
(was: 296-242)

TruthIsAll (8/29):
Kerry 323 - Bush 215
(was 307-221)

Sam Wang (8/28):
Kerry 290 - Bush 248
(was: 313-225)

Washington Dispatch (8/29 - updated):
Kerry 238 - Bush 300
(was: 296-242)

Wayne in Missouri (8/27):
Kerry 254 - Bush 284
(was: 291-247)

David Wissing (8/26):
Kerry 238 - Bush 300
(was: 296-242)

Young Conservatives (8/15 - not updated since last survey):
Kerry 188 - Bush 237 - ?? 113
(not updated)

Zogby/WSJ (8/23 - not updated since last survey):
Kerry 286 - Bush 214 - ?? 38 (FL, MO)
(not updated) (8/29 - updated):
Kerry 259 - Bush 223 - ?? 56 (CO, FL, OH)
(was: 306-207-25)


(was: 44 - 1 site added; 1 site reinstated)

Kerry winning: 24 (was: 32)
Kerry ahead: 7 (was: 4)

Bush winning: 12 (was: 4)
Bush ahead: 3 (was: 4)

Kerry gained: 7 (was: 5)
Kerry lost: 26 (was: 20)
Kerry no change: 3 (was: 9)

Bush gained: 29 (was: 18)
Bush lost: 4 (was: 11)
Bush no change: 3 (was: 6)

?? gained: 4 (was: 11)
?? lost: 7 (was: 2)
?? no change: 1 (was: 0)

Site no change: 3 (was: 7)
Site not updated: 8 (was: 4)
New: 1 (was: 5)
Reinstated: 1
Temporarily dropped: 0

MEAN: Kerry 267 - Bush 245 - ?? 26
(was: 284-227-27)

MEDIAN: Kerry 270 - Bush 248 (remainder: 20)
(was: 296-222-20)

MODE: Kerry 254 - Bush 284
(was: 316-222)

MEAN: Kerry 279 - Bush 258 (remainder: 1)
(was: 301-237)

MEDIAN: Kerry 281 - Bush 257
(was: 307-227)

MODE: Kerry 254 - Bush 284
(was: 316-222)
  • "Mean" is what we usually call "average." All items are added up and divided by the number of items.

  • "Median" is the center point, the middle value in a list. There are as many values larger than the median as there are values that are smaller.

  • "Mode" is the number in a list which appears the most times.

Kerry max: 328 (was: 332)
Kerry min: 161 (was: 161)

Bush max: 300 (was: 300)
Bush min: 147 (was: 147)


Another week of solid gains for Bush, the second in a row.

While a bare majority (52%) of sites still list Kerry as winning in the Electoral College, and an additional 15% show him as ahead, a supermajority (76%) of updated sites show Bush gaining from last week, with the gains coming both from Kerry (down according to 68% of updated sites) and from states formerly designated as toss-ups/unassigned.

Kerry's average is now at or below the winning point of 270 votes, down from 300+ only two weeks ago.

Clearly, according to the collective wisdom of the Electoral College trackers, Bush goes into the Republican National Convention in much better shape than anytime in the last two months, but it should be noted that he hasn't quite returned to where he was two months ago (see the graph below), and it's good to keep in mind that, at least at this point, Kerry is still leading, albeit barely. Whether that lead will hold up after the convention, we'll see in the next two weeks.


  • For a few days after I publish the survey, I'll update figures, make corrections, and add new sites that come to my attention. I'll note these changes here, and mark the entry for each altered site as well.

  • (8/29) CNN has an analysis giving a result of 264-274, but I haven't included it in the survey because it's not part of an ongoing feature. If CNN starts up a continuing Electoral College analysis at some point, I'll add it to the list. (If I had included it, Bush's all-sites mean would have gone up by 1 vote.)

  • (8/29) By request, I added brief explanations of mean, median and mode.

  • (8/29) MyDD, Dales', hR's, Matthew Hubbard, Pollkatz, Election Projection,, Rasmussen, Running the Numbers, Washington Dispatch, and Ed Fitzgerald (that's me) all updated, and I've adjusted the totals and averages. I also updated the Tradesports numbers. (I've been doing the survey overnight from Saturday to Sunday, but it seems to me I should switch to doing it overnight from Sunday to Monday, as a fair number of sites seem to update on Sunday. This will also fit into my schedule, as I start work on a new project next week, and Mondays will be my day off.)

  • (8/30) My numbers have changed. The new one is 300-238, but I have not included this in the survey's totals or averages. With the race tightening, I consider more states to be "toss-ups", and by my system that means they are assigned to the leader of the most recent untied non-partisan poll. If one candidate maintains a lead over a number of polls, the state is assigned to that candidate, but if the lead switches back and forth from poll to poll, as has been happening with some frequency, a great deal of volatility is introduced and my numbers change frequently. Prompted by Chris Bowers on MyDD, I've also added a prediction for how things will end up on election day.

  • (8/31) Matt Nelson pointed me to an Electoral College tracker being run by MSNBC/Newsweek, which I'll start to include as of the next survey. Currently, their status is 199-180-159.

  • (8/31) Jock Young made a suggestion which I think is an excellent one, which is to drop the "mode" lines from the graph below, because they're based on a very small sample (just a couple of entries can be enough to determine the mode), they're all over the place, and they clutter up the graph, making it harder to see trends. For those who still want to see them, I'm leaving them on the large version that comes up when you click on the small graph.

  • (9/1) Electoral Vote Predictor, one of the more widely known tracking sites, has just started projecting out its state-by-state results to a "final" election day outcome. They make the point that it's a rather iffy prediction at this point, but will have more validity in a month or so. At this time, although their normal status report is 242-280-16 (a Bush win), their "final" projection is a Kerry victory of 298-220-20 -- something to keep in mind as we look at the current status.

  • (9/1) Although I include two results from Dave Leip's Atlas of Presidential Elections (the state-by-state user prediction compilation and overall user median numbers), I've been overlooking the fact that he also has a page which aggregates state polling information to provide a status report similar to that which others provide. Currently, the State Polls Aggregate is at 221-216-101. I'll add the results of this page into the next survey.



Web Zine


All sites included. In the future, sites that haven't been updated in over 1 month will be temporarily dropped until they're updated. (This time period may tighten as we get closer to the election.)


From each website I've taken the most comprehensive set of numbers offered, if possible without a "toss-up" category or other caveats, just Kerry versus Bush. Many of them differentiate between "solid" or "strong", "slightly" or "weak", and "leaning" or "barely" states, but I've combined them all together in order to present numbers which are as comparable as possible.

I encourage everyone to use the links and check each site for the specifics of that site's methodology and presentation.

My convention is that Kerry is listed first and Bush second, bold type indicates a winning candidate (i.e. 270 electoral votes or more), and italics or underlining indicates a leading candidate.

As always, if anyone has links for any other sites that regularly track Electoral College status, please feel free to send them my way and I'll be glad to add them to the list. I'm also more than happy to hear from the proprietors of any of the sites surveyed here, should they have any complaints, comments, or suggestions for improvements.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/29/2004 02:00:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Fiasco blowback

Someone at Donkey Rising (it's unclear whether it's Ruy Teixeira or not) has put up an excellent analysis of the recent LA Times poll, concluding with this cheery thought:

From the Bush campaign's point of view, the magnitude of the swift-boat fiasco becomes clear when it is recognized that a major goal of the August campaign was to put John Kerry on the defensive - to have him stumbling over his words, being pilloried in the press and firing his advisors. Instead (although the issue will now be muted by the theatrics of the Republican convention) it was Bush who was forced onto the defensive by the end of last week while Kerry weathered the attacks with an extraordinarily small decline in the level of his popular support.

Count on it, the Bushies are now very, very nervous. This wasn't the way they had it planned.

Ed Fitzgerald | 8/29/2004 01:49:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


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