Is Obama Following Kerry's Trajectory?

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Jun 12, 2008 at 14:15


Right now, there can be little doubt that Obama has moved into a slight lead on John McCain. Pollster.com, Real Clear Politics, Electoral-Vote.com, Fivethirtyeight.com, and my own Presidential Forecast all confirm this.

However, while Obama now leads, even casual election watchers will also make two key observations. First, Obama's lead is not very large, as it never reaches more than 5.0% nationally and never surpasses 307 electoral votes (270 are need for victory). Second, didn't John Kerry hold a similar lead over George Bush Jr. back in 2004, before the swiftboating kicked in during August and put Bush ahead for good? So, sure, Obama is ahead, but not by much and we have seen this before.

I will entirely grant the first proposition. Yes, it is true that Obama's lead is not very large, and so it is no time to rest on our laurels. However, the second proposition, that Kerry had the same size lead over Bush at this point in 2004, actually isn't quite true. Here is a chart of the Bush v. Kerry margin during the entire 2004 general election:


Four years ago, Bush actually held a slight lead at the start of the general election, not Kerry. Also, starting in mid-June 2004, Bush erased a lead Kerry held starting in mid-May. So, in both comparative measures of the 2004 campaign to the current stage of the 2008 campaign, Obama's current lead actually puts him in a better position than Kerry.

Second, Kerry's lead never reached 4% nationally, and actually peaked at around 3.0-3.5% in mid-May (post-Abu Ghraib and when he started running ads), and again from mid-July through mid-August (from the selection of Edwards through the start of swiftboating). In other words, Kerry's peaks in the 2004 election were never as large as Obama's current lead. Right now, Obama leads by about 1% more than Kerry did even at high moments for Kerry, such as the aftermath of putting John Edwards on the ticket.

So, in these two ways, Obama's current lead is actually superior to any lead that Kerry ever held during the 2004 campaign. When one considers the very different political climate, and that Obama will have the ability to out-resource McCain (in 2004, Kerry was out-resourced), Obama's situation looks significantly better than Kerry's. While there are some similarities, overall, the analogy, like so many historical analogy, does not quite hold up under closer scrutiny. Obama is doing better than Kerry.

This is not to say, of course, that Obama somehow has the campaign in the bag. Yes, Obama is doing better than Kerry at this point in time, but not that much better. Yes, Obama has a larger lead than Kerry ever had, but not that much larger. Yes, Obama has a superior resource position relative his opponent than Kerry ever did, but not that much superior. And even though Obama has all of these advantages, it is important to remember that Kerry lost by 2.5%, meaning that we have to improve just to draw even. Obama is doing well, better than Kerry ever did, but we obviously had to improve on Kerry's performance and there is a long way to go. We should be looking forward, instead of backward, for clues on how to best bring this one home.  

Chris Bowers :: Is Obama Following Kerry's Trajectory?

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+7.5% (4.00 / 2)
Actually, Obama was up by 7.5% back in March, but your basic point remains.

I suspect the best role the blogosphere can play is to drive McCain's negatives up.  Make sure more people learn about the real McCain.

Most of the pro-Obama stuff seems to be well contained within the Obama camp.  Volunteering and contributing are highly suggested, but not "us" in the sense of Open Left or the generic blogosphere.


Convention strategy (4.00 / 5)
What's clear from that graph is that Kerry received very little bounce from his "Don't attack Bush" convention (July 26-29) and that Bush received a massive bounce from his "Let's only bash Kerry" convention (Aug 30-Sept 2) that couldn't quite be overcome in time for November.  Who knows, maybe if Kerry had had a good convention, Bush's massive bounce would've been overcome in the end.

The lesson?  BASH THE OPPOSING CANDIDATE AT YOUR CONVENTION.

Let us hope that the Democrats don't fall for this again.


attacks work (0.00 / 0)
My recollection is that Bush's approval numbers steadily declined while Dean was still a contender and gett plenty of media oxygen for his relentless calling out of Bush's massive suckness. After Dean dropped out, Bush's numbers leveled off. (This is just memory; someone correct me if I'm wrong.)

miasmo.com

[ Parent ]
There's Also That Fact That (0.00 / 0)
(A) Kerry never DID have a real strategy about how to run his campaign.

(B) And when he got one it was to hire Bob Shrum!

(Not to mention, worry a lot about what Joke Line thought!)

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


John Kerry is charismatically challenged (0.00 / 0)
Actually, on a 1 to 10 charisma scale, John Kerry is a -4. Seriously . . .

During the fall of 2004, you could just feel the election slipping away -- Kerry droned on and on, while Bush was waving and smiling. The Debates gave Kerry a chance, but both candidates immediately returned to form -- Kerry was boring, uninspiring, and unfocused; Bush was sunny, smiling, and human.

That, plus overt (and maybe covert) vote supression in Ohio was all BushCo needed.

This time, Obama has charisma and momentum; McSame has neither, plus Mr 28% and a demoralized GOP at war with itself.

There are no guarantees, but this election favors Obama.


Anyone who performs as pathetically as Bush did... (0.00 / 0)
in that first debate shouldn't be allowed anywhere NEAR the oval office!  That was the moment that actually convinced me we had a shot at winning.  Before that I had the gut feeling that we would win with Dean, but lose with all the others, and in the end it looks like my gut feeling was far more accurate than my mistaken belief that people are actually influenced by debates.

[ Parent ]
The Debates helped Kerry (0.00 / 0)
But he couldn't capitalize on them afterwards.

He made one perfunctory visit to a Black Church, and he showed all the comfort and grace of someone having their wisdom teeth pulled.

Kerry's attempt at populist charisma consisted of dropping the "g's" at the ends of his words -- "fightin'" and "workin'" and things like that.


[ Parent ]
Another difference? (4.00 / 1)
With one exception (mid-july, 42%), from mid-June until election day Bush was never below 44% and was mostly at or above 45%.

I don't know whether today's MSNBC poll is an outlier or not, but it has a very well known and still "maverick"/"straight-talk" branded McCain at 41%.  With polls from WA and WI showing him in the 30's, 41% nationally could be plausible.  The McCain brand isn't going to be any better than it is now and will likely get worse as Obama focuses in on him.  Assuming McCain is in the low 40's the only way up is for him to drag Obama down (barring some miraculous change in the economy and/or Iraq).  

At a macro level the election still boils down to two things:

1) Will the election be about Obama or about Republican/McCain rule and change.

2) By November, will McCain's straight talk, maverick brand still be intact. Without those two things he is D-E-A-D dead politically. We knock out those two pillars, we win.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans


If you destroy McCain's .. (0.00 / 0)
mavericky-ness ..  he's Barry Goldwater  ... or Mondale type toast .. and there is where Chris's project .. or Digging any article that paints McCain as less than a maverick come in

[ Parent ]
What I find interesting is that McCain continues to trail (4.00 / 1)
even though he has had to deal with very little media scrutiny or serious controversies in this cycle.  Hopefully, that will change, but even if it doesn't, it looks like Obama has already survived the worst.

The Politics of Bruno S.


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