Political Hay

Bush’s to Lose

Overconfidence poses the biggest obstacle.

By 9.24.04

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It's official: The election is Bush's to lose.

Three weeks after the GOP Convention, the futures market at the Iowa Electronic Market has a Bush victory trading in the high 50s, and TradSports.com has it in the high 60s! With only two exceptions, opinion polls show a Bush lead over Kerry. The Rasmussen daily tracking poll has shown a Bush lead every day for the last two weeks save one when he was tied with Kerry.

All winning campaigns have their share of luck and Bush's is no exception. Bush's level of support is largely unscathed despite the continued killings in Iraq and media publicity on the 1,000th U.S. soldier death. Thank the hurricane season and Dan "Fake, But Accurate" Rather for that.

And what about John Edwards? He's had no noticeable effect on Kerry's campaign. Amazingly, his public profile is so muted his picture may soon appear on a milk carton.

Finally, Bush is lucky to have John Kerry as his opponent. Kerry confirmed Bush's criticism of him as a "flip-flopper" when he said in August that he still would have voted to give the President the authority to take out Saddam Hussein and then a month later called Iraq "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Lately Kerry has been talking about Dick Cheney and Halliburton and Bush failures on international coalition-building. He's also called for U.S. troop withdrawals starting next summer. Is he taking his advice from the former Clinton operatives who are supposed to be rescuing his campaign or from the radicals at MoveOn.org? It's clear that Bush has made the fall campaign a debate about national security, his strong point, not domestic issues.

So, can Bush lose? Sure, and here's how.

Right now, it's all good news for Bush. Kerry apparently has given up on Missouri, once a must-win battleground state. Polls show Bush even in Kerry's backyard of Maryland and New Jersey. And there's talk that somebody in the Kerry Campaign may be caught up in Rathergate. The Bushies would need illegal substances to be feeling higher than they are right now.

But that's the danger: Overconfidence. The Bush Campaign may let up if it thinks the election is locked up, especially on terrorism. That could give Kerry an opening to focus on the Iraq "quagmire" in the upcoming weeks. Add more bombings and deaths in Iraq -- a likely occurrence -- and the issue could shift to Kerry's advantage.

Overconfidence may also cause Bush to be complacent about the debates. If he actually performs down to expectations -- an idea the Bush Campaign will try to promote -- and comes off as bumbling and unsure, while Kerry looks in command, Bush could suddenly find himself behind in the polls.

Right now overconfidence is not a problem. The Bush Campaign just released a sharp new ad showing Kerry windsurfing -- he tacks left, then right, then left -- to reinforce the flip-flop theme. But who knows? Five weeks is a long time in politics, almost an eternity.

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About the Author

David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.