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31-Oct-2004 - Words of Encouragement

31-Oct-2004 - Vote for Kerry Even in Safe States

31-Oct-2004 - Halloween Election News

30-Oct-2004 - Today's Political News

29-Oct-2004 - Political News of the Day

28-Oct-2004 - John Kerry's Historic Endorsements

28-Oct-2004 - 25 Years Combating LGBT Violence

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28-Oct-2004 - How You Can Protect Your Right to Vote

27-Oct-2004 - The Last Straw

27-Oct-2004 - Conservative Quotes for Kerry

27-Oct-2004 - Breaking Political News

27-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 5

26-Oct-2004 - Another Look at Taking Back the Senate

26-Oct-2004 - Breaking News of the Day

25-Oct-2005 - Breaking Political News of the Day

24-Oct-2004 - Can the Democrats Regain the House?

23-Oct-2004 - Early Voting Trends

23-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 4

22-Oct-2004 - Bush OKs New Corporate Tax Cut

22-Oct-2004 - Beware Fox News and MSNBC

21-Oct-2004 - Gymnast Paul Hamm Gets to Keep Gold

20-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 4

20-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 3

19-Oct-2004 - Movies Released in 2004

18-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 2

18-Oct-2004 - The Crystal Prison

17-Oct-2004 - What If There's a Tie?

16-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 3

15-Oct-2004 - Endorsements for John Kerry

13-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 2

13-Oct-2004 - Bits and Pieces, Volume 1

12-Oct-2004 - Ranked Choice Voting Hits San Francisco

7-Oct-2004 - Notable Quotes, Volume 1

7-Oct-2004 - Prince Adares Shows Signs of Royal Affinity

7-Oct-2004 - Controlling the U.S. Senate

7-Oct-2004 - Key Battleground States

6-Oct-2004 - Democratic Hopes for the 2004 Elections

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October 31, 2004


Words of Encouragement

I've been reading the tracking polls. I've been analyzing the battleground projections. I've been studying the early reports of voter turnout. And I'm encouraged that John Kerry will win.

But it's disheartening when so many of my friends seem to think that the race is over, that Bush has already won.

That kind of mentality can be particularly dangerous for Democrats, because they're more likely to miss voting than Republicans if they think their candidate doesn't have a chance of winning. It's the "I'm just one vote" mentality. The kind of voter who might vote for Nader because he or she doesn't think Kerry has a chance anyway.

So here's why I think Kerry will win on Tuesday.


Kerry's Momentum and Hidden Strength

There are a number of factors that all provide positive news for the Kerry campaign.

  • Bush's national polling numbers are too low. Although many of the national polls put Bush slightly ahead of Kerry, they all place him at around 47% to 48% of the vote, with about 4% of the electorate still undecided. That's bad news for an incumbent in a high-profile race, since undecided voters tend to vote against the incumbent. Most pollsters believe that Kerry will get two-thirds of the undecided voters, though a few think he'll get even more. At this point, all historical trends indicate that Bush will not win the popular vote.
  • Kerry is even stronger in battleground states. The national figures tilt very slightly towards Bush more often than not, but poll after poll shows Kerry performing better in battleground states than his national average. Possibly because that's where he's campaigning hardest and is best defining himself. And possibly because his competitiveness there is what makes them battleground states in the first place.
  • The polls that show a tie or a Bush lead are only looking at likely voters. Each polling company has their own proprietary methodology for determining if a registered voter is a likely voter. And that methodology tends to skew Republican - some, like Gallup, even weight registered Republicans by an extra 10% (e.g., multiplying the answers of Republicans by 1.1). Historically, it's the likely voters that determine an election, but that wasn't true in 2000 and it especially won't be true in 2004. The polls showing a tie are only looking at likely voters, but the polls looking at all registered voters have Kerry ahead. The truth is somewhere in between, but with early voting already showing record numbers of people voting this year, my bet is that the registered voters polls will be more accurate than the likely voter polls. Remember, in 2000, of 15 final polls taken before election day, 11 said that Bush would win the popular vote (and many predicted by a substantial margin), and only two said Gore would. Gore won by a half percent margin.
  • The polls are missing Kerry's youth demographics. Young eligible voters have recently registered in record numbers. The polls that have managed to look at this demographic show that they overwhelmingly skew to Kerry, possibly over draft fears (and they probably registered to vote in the first place as a reaction against Bush). But most pollsters don't know how to reach this demographic. A disproportionately huge percentage of them only have cell phones, and by federal law, pollsters cannot call cell phones to conduct polls. And youth also are less likely to be home when pollsters call - and since they are voting this year in record numbers, pollsters aren't sure how to weight the opinions of the youth they do reach.
  • Polls are missing Hispanic voters. Both parties are actively courting Hispanic voters. This is a demographic that can tilt both ways (especially Florida where Hispanics, especially ex-pat Cubans, tend to vote Republican.) Both campaigns are running Spanish-language ads, but most pollsters are only polling in English. In key battleground states like New Mexico, Kerry is believed to have an edge with this under-polled demographic.
  • Record registrations of new voters. In state after state, the number of new voters registered since the last election has broken records. The states that have released demographics for new registered voters show that Democratic registrations are the highest, followed by Independents, with Republicans lagging third. And polls show that Independent voters are skewing to Kerry.
  • Record get-out-the-vote drives. The number of registered Democrats taking advantage of absentee ballot voting and early voting is at an all-time high. In some areas, Kerry could lose the election day vote and still win with the number of early votes he's already banked. Democrats are organized this year like they have never, ever been organized before.
  • Legal challenges are against Bush. The GOP is trying to squelch the Democrats' advantage with newly registered voters by challenging their eligibility in court. In state after state, courtroom after courtroom, the courts are overturning these challenges, and a few Republican officials in Ohio may face felony fraud charges. In addition, the GOP's efforts are backfiring - anecdotal evidence suggests some of the voters leaning towards supporting him have become infuriated with the GOP's efforts to disenfranchise them.
  • The headlines provide bad news for Bush. If I have time, I'll compile a list of the news stories from the last week that are bad for Bush. The lost armaments in Iraq, which Giuliani tried to blame on the troops and Bush tried to suggest were taken before the invasion before the networks provided their own film footage proving that they were there during the invasion. Eminem's new ant-Bush video is #1 on MTV. And even the new Osama bin Laden video, which Bush tried to turn to his advantage by re-emphasizing his commitment to the war on terrorism, may work against him by emphasizing Kerry's argument that Bush failed to get bin Laden when he had the chance because he was preoccupied with Iraq instead of Afghanistan.
  • Newspaper endorsements give Kerry momentum. Only three times has a Democrat achieved more newspaper endorsements than the Republican - Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Bill Clinton in 1992, and now John Kerry in 2004. The first two times, the Democrat won; I think he will this third time as well. The endorsements give the Democrat a presidential credibility that will help with the remaining undecideds.
  • Kerry leads in last-minute advertising buys. They Kerry campaign took a lot of hits in September, but wisely husbanded its resources carefully until after the debates. As a result, the Democrats are now out-buying Republicans in television ads by a substantial margin.


The Battleground States

Each pundit and pollster has a slightly different interpretation over which states are safe for one candidate or the other and which are still in play. Most agree that there are about 10 states that are the most competitive, though the candidates' advertising and travel schedules suggest that their own internal polling indicates more may be competitive.

States in Play

At the moment, Kerry has an expected lock on winning 14 states (including Washington, DC) with 186 Electoral Votes. Bush has sewn up 24 states with 206 Electoral Votes. That leaves 13 states with 146 votes that are still "in play," though some of these are more contestable than others.

The battleground states include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Although some hopeful news has come out of a few other southern states, most expect that they will remain solid for Bush. If Kerry does pull an upset anywhere else in the south, it will probably be as part of a national surge that would represent an Electoral College blowout.

Slate's Analysis

Slate now has a new analysis where they think the race boils down to three states: Florida, Ohio, and Minnesota. The big three used to include Pennsylvania, but while Kerry has pretty much sewn that one up, Minnesota has emerged as the latest top-tier decider.

Slate believes based on current polling that Bush has an edge in Nevada, New Mexico, and Iowa, while Kerry will take Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. (Hawaii seems to be safely back in Kerry's camp, too.) Of these, the ones that have the greatest potentially of slipping are Iowa, where Kerry remains competitive, and Wisconsin, which has bounced back and forth frequently in the last few weeks.

The three states that Slate believes will be determined by the best get-out-the-vote drive are Florida, Ohio, and Minnesota - and whichever candidate wins two of the three will win the Electoral College.

Additional Polling

Don't just look at CNN to base your predictions on who will win the electoral college. (Yes, you. You know who I'm talking to.) In my overview of pollsters and poll aggregators, I provide the electoral vote breakdown for 36 different analyses. Of these, only 11 - fewer than half! - show Bush winning.


My State by State Analysis

Here's my own assessment based on the polls, news articles, and early voting patterns that have emerged. The state's number of electoral votes is included.

Arizona (10)

Regretably, it no longer appears likely that Kerry will take Arizona from Bush. Bush has led in each of the last 10 polls, and his current polling average is 50.3% - nine points higher than Kerry's average. There would have to be a huge hidden vote for Kerry to pull an upset here. Still, some Democratic organizers in the state think it may still be possible, particularly because of the large Hispanic population that, as with New Mexico, is often harder for pollsters to reach.

Arkansas (6)

Bill Clinton's home state was always assumed to be a lock for the Republicans, but recent polling has suddenly put it in play. Bush has led in nine of the last ten polls, but the most recent one has the race tied at 48% each. In response, Democrats have poured money into a last-minute ad buy in the state, and Clinton will include the state in his final campaign sweep for Kerry. Most pundits still think the state will go for Bush, but an upset is very, very possible.

Colorado (9)

Bush has a polling lead here - averaging a comfortable 49.6% for the last ten polls versus 43.9% for Kerry. This state also has one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races in the country, and the Democrat, Ken Salazar, has a four-point lead over the Republican, Pete Coors. Democrats are hoping that a strong Salazar victory may provide some reverse coat-tails for Kerry, and haven't given up on the state yet. Colorado voters will also be considered a state initiative to allocate their electoral votes proportionally to the candidates rather than winner-takes-all. If it passes, it would be retroactive and Kerry would take four of the state's electoral votes. However, most polls show that the initiative is expected to be defeated.

Florida (27)

Florida remains one of the big grand-daddies of swing states. Many of Jeb Bush and his appointed Secretary of State's efforts to lock the state for his brother have been neutralized. For example, Bush tried to purge tens of thousands of voters from voting rolls because they had a name similar to that of a convicted felon (even though there was no evidence that they were the same people), but when it was discovered that the list was almost exclusively African American, while Hispanics (who tend to be Cuban and tend to vote Republican in Florida) were "accidentally" left off the list, Bush was forced to back down.

Florida is now the bounciest of the swing states (a title it narrowly takes away from Ohio). The polling is so frequent that all ten of the most recent polls were conducted within the last week. Kerry has a very narrow lead in the most current one, 48.3% versus 46.7%. (Nader is also polling 1.5% but I predict he comes in under 1% in Florida on election day. Nader's supporters in Florida are still sensitive to accusations that they spoiled the election for Gore four years ago.) In the last ten polls, Kerry has led in three, Bush has led in three, and four had them tied. Bush's polling average is slightly higher, 47.5% versus 45.9% for Kerry, but Bush's numbers may be inflated by large leads in a few polls notorious for oversampling Republicans.

Hawaii (4)

Two recent polls put this normally solid-Democrat state in contention (and some pundits even started counting it as a Bush victory). Dick Cheney even traveled there over the weekend (no presidential or vice presidential candidate has campaigned there since Nixon). In response, Kerry dispatched his daughter and Al Gore to campaign there on his behalf. Most believe that the polls were a bit of an aberration, particularly since they oversampled Honolulu, which is more Republican than the rest of the state, and believe that Kerry will easily carry the state.

Iowa (7)

Iowa saved Kerry's campaign during the primaries, and Democrats are hoping to take it in the general election as well. Today's Des Moines Register includes a poll putting Kerry ahead, 48% to 43%. In addition, 27% of the poll respondents reported that they had already voted early, and among early voters, 52% reported that they had voted for Kerry versus 41% who voted for Bush.

The last ten polls conducted in Iowa give Bush an average of 47.6% - bad news for the incumbent expected to lose the vast majority of the undecideds. In addition, Bush's averages are skewed upwards by two pollsters (Mason-Dixon and SurveyUSA) that oversample Republicans. And a third, Gallup, which is also oversampling Republicans, has Kerry winning. In all of the other polls, Kerry is either winning, tying, or only trailing by a single point. I predict Kerry will take Iowa on November 2nd.

Maine (4)

Maine has always been expected to go for Kerry, but their peculiar state laws allow the chance for the electoral votes to be split. Bush hoped to pick up an extra vote by coming in first in the state's more conservative congressional district, but current state polling has Kerry ahead in both and taking all four electoral votes.

Michigan (17)

Next to Florida and Ohio, Michigan may now be the most heavily polled state. Kerry has led Bush in nine of the last 10 polls, including all of the last seven, and he's leading by an almost 5-point margin. Bush's averages for the last 10 polls is less than 44%. The margin may be just barely narrow enough to bring it down to competing get-out-the-vote drives, but Kerry clearly has the advantage here.

Minnesota (10)

This is one of the three states that Slate thinks will be key to winning the presidency. They predict that whomever takes at least two of three top-tier states - Minnesota, Florida, and Ohio - will win. Today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll has Kerry up eight points, 49% to 41%. That may be too high to be believable (the Pioneer Press has it at a dead heat), but even so, Kerry has the edge and the momentum. In the last ten polls, Bush has only had a narrow lead in two of them. In addition, his average for the last ten polls is only 44.3%, way too low for an incumbent, compared with 46.4% for Kerry. Even if we throw out the Star-Tribune poll as being too anomalous, Kerry's average for the remaining nine polls is still nearly 2% highre than Bush's average.

Nevada (5)

Bush has led Kerry in nine of the last 10 polls (they tied in one), and his polling average is at a comfortable 48.9%, almost four points ahead of Kerry. But the Democrats have been emboldened by early voting trends showing registered Democrats turning out in large numbers in the Republican bastion of Reno. As a result, Kerry made a last-minute campaign stop in Reno this week, where he's trying to make political hay over Bush's efforts to create a nuclear waste depository into the state. The Kerry campaign has some internal data that suggests it's worth fighting for.

New Hampshire (4)

Although the most recent poll shows the race tied at 47% each, most analysts expect Kerry to win New Hampshire, a state that went for Bush in 2000. Kerry has been ahead in six of the last 10 polls, and tied in two more. His polling average is 47.7%, more than two points higher than Bush's average of 45.2%. That's a lot of ground for an unpopular incumbent to try to make up.

New Mexico (5)

Bush and Kerry keep going back and forth in New Mexico - each have taken the lead in five of the last 10 polls. Kerry's ahead in the most recent poll, but only by one point, 48% to 47%. Bush's average for the last ten polls is 46.3%. It's only two tenths of a percent ahead of Kerry's average, and it's dangerously low for an incumbent.

In addition, New Mexico has the largest proportion of Hispanics in the county, and a large Spanish-only immigrant population that are often missed by pollsters. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they're swinging for Kerry. Of the 119,000 newly registered voters, 31% have Spanish surnames. New Mexico also has a very large Native American population, in the tens of thousands, and 18 out of 19 pueblos have endorsed Kerry.

Party registration heavily favors Democrats. A huge voter registration drive added 119,000 new voters, pushing the state's registered voters over a million for the first time. The largest plurality of newly registered voters went to Democrats (43%), followed by Independents (31%), and Republicans came in at a weak third (26%). That brings the state's total registration figures to 51% Democrats, 32% Republicans, and 14% Independents.

Young voters, who are harder to reach by pollsters but are expected to break for Kerry, make up a huge percentage of the newly-registered voters. Thirty-six percent of the newly registered voters are between the ages of 18 to 24. The 25 to 34 year old bracket makes up another 19% of the new registrants. And of these young voters, 39% registered as Democrats, 38% as Independents, and only 23% as Republicans.

On the one hand, Bush and Cheney wouldn't both be campaigning in New Mexico if they felt it was securely on their side. But on the other hand, they wouldn't be there if they didn't think it was winnable, either.

Ohio (20)

The recent Mason-Dixon poll, which oversamples Republicans, indicates that Bush is ahead, but the poll is a bit of an outlier from the recent trend. Of the last ten polls, six show Kerry ahead and another is a tie. Kerry's average of 48.2% leads Bush's 46.8% average. Voter registrations in Democratic areas shot up by 250% since the last election, versus only 25% in Republican areas. Momentum and organization appears to be on Kerry's side in Ohio.

Pennsylvania (21)

At one point, Pennsylvania was considered to be one of the top battleground states, but it's now very securely in Kerry's camp. Kerry's led in the last 19 polls, and the 20th poll was a tie. In fact, the last poll that had Bush winning was in early September, and there have been 28 polls since then. Kerry's average lead in the last ten polls is 48.9% versus 45.5% for Bush. (And this includes a handful of polls that artificially weigh down Kerry's averages by continuing to include Ralph Nader in their polls, even though the U.S. Supreme Court sided with state officials in keeping him off the ballot.) It's gotten to the point where U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, the GOP incumbent, is covertly trying to tie himself to Kerry in order to avoid being ousted by a Democratic tidal wave: many of his supporters now have "Kerry/Specter" lawn signs.

And to everyone who has come up to me in the last few days fretting about the new poll showing Bush ahead in Pennsylvania, here's some encouragement. First, that was a Gallup poll, which oversamples Republicans by a huge margin, very much disproportionate to their actual representation among registered voters. Second, the figure showing Bush leading 50% to 46% was for likely voters. But Gallup's methodology here is way off, because they assume that Republicans are much more likely to vote than Democrats, even though early voting trends are showing Democrats turning out in massive numbers this year. With the very same poll, Kerry is leading in registered voters in Pennsylvania 49% to 47%. Nader is not on the ballot, so the remaining 4% will either vote Libertarian (which means they were probably go for Bush originally), vote for another third party, not vote for president at all, or make a last-minute decision to vote for Kerry or Bush. And if they fall into this last camp, at least two-thirds of them will go for Kerry, which will increase his lead by an even bigger margin.

Wisconsin (10)

Wisconsin was once solidly behind Kerry, but has bounced back and forth in recent weeks and is a key part of Bush's strategy to eek out a win even if Kerry takes Ohio. But a heavy surge for Bush in late September and early October seems to have peaked a little early; Kerry has led in five of the last 10 polls, including the most recent one, and tied in another two. Kerry has a narrow three-tenths lead for the average of the last 10 polls, 46.6% to 46.3% for Bush.


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