Was The Democratic Convention The Turning Point Of The 2004 Election?

Bush strategist Matthew Dowd predicted Kerry would get a 15 point bounce from the convention. Terry McAuliffe predicted an 8-10 point bounce. But, at the last RWN blogger symposium, we didn’t expect to see Kerry get that sort of bump…

“John Hawkins: So Matthew Dowd with the Bush campaign predicted Kerry will get a 15 point bump from the Democratic convention. You buy that?

Donald Luskin: 15 at the convention? Hard to believe. That would be severe.

Cassandra: I don’t think people are as into conventions as they used to be.

John Hawkins: Well I believe the big 3 networks are only going to give both conventions an hour a night during prime time. So I suspect they’re not going to get the usual bounce.

Cassandra: I don’t think there’s going to be a repeat of the legendary Clinton bounce.

John Hawkins: I’m going guess a 5 point bounce for the Dem convention.

Chris Muir: 3 points.”

Ahem…Bloggers (1) — The Pros (0)

From Newsweek: “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.”

From a USA TODAY / CNN / Gallup Poll: “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%.”

You’re going to hear left-wingers spin these numbers every way you can imagine. They’re going to go off on tangents about internal poll numbers, tout every gain they made in any battleground state, come up with anything they can, but these numbers are a DISASTER for the Kerry campaign.

Just look back at the last few bounces Democratic challengers have received

Jimmy Carter in 1976: 16 points
Walter Mondale in 1984: 16 points
Michael Dukakis in 1988: 11 points
Bill Clinton in 1992: 30 points
Al Gore in 2000: 19 points
John Kerry in 2004: +4 points to -5 points

Not only was Kerry’s bounce (if he got one at all) anemic, you have to remember that George Bush still has a money advantage & has his OWN CONVENTION coming up in September that will give him a bump, quite possibly a bigger one than Kerry received. Folks, this should be the apex of John Kerry’s campaign and according to USA Today, he’s BEHIND.

My guess is that when story of the 2004 election is written, it’s entirely possible that the last week will be considered the turning point of the campaign, the very moment when the Kerry campaign started into a downward spiral it never really recovered from.

And why? At the convention they didn’t…

…really grab onto to any big issues and make them theirs other than stem cell research which isn’t going to swing a lot of votes in November.

…launch as many salvos as you’d expect at George W. Bush because, by design, they were trying to play up how “bipartisan” they were.

…have the most effective cast of characters speaking. I’m not sure the average American is going to get terribly jazzed up about a party that trots out liberals like Michael Moore’s buddy Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, & Howard Dean as speakers….and quite frankly, having Bill Clinton on hand probably didn’t help much either in large swaths of the country.

…effectively refute the attack ads the Republicans have launched that paint John Kerry as a flip-flopping, Massachusetts liberal, who’s weak on defense, has an undistinguished record in the Senate, and will raise your taxes (incidentally, the attacks work so well because they’re true).

While the Dems did talk a lot about defense, that’s what it came across as — talk — and for good reason. If the GOP came out at their convention and claimed they were the party that really wanted to work with the UN, sign international treaties, and make friends with the French, would anyone buy into that? Of course not, because it wouldn’t match the Republican record.

The same goes for the Democrats; they’re not a hawkish party, everybody knows it, and no matter how much time they spend talking about how tough they’re going to be on terrorism, people aren’t going to believe them until the put the rubber to the road.

In the end, I think voters are looking for something more in a President than a guy who fought for four months in Vietnam, promises to suck up to Europe, and “isn’t George Bush”. Unfortunately, even after the convention, that’s all John Kerry seems to be offering.

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