In the 2000 presidential election, Gore was behind in all the national polls before election day. I remember that night, listening to the radio in a fast food drive-in lane when NPR called Pennsylvania for Gore. I cheered to no one in particular, because it was the first confirmation that Gore could win.
If you believe the polls today, Bush has a few point lead, and the election will be decided in a handful of battleground states. I no longer believe the polls, except as an indicator for overall trends. Kerry will win by a solid margin. Here’s how:
Last Monday morning I was in the Austin airport waiting to catch a flight, watching the local news. They were covering University of Texas students who had stayed up all night outside the early voting location on campus to vote. They were all Kerry supporters.
Now, a week later, the local news is reporting some numbers from UT. There are three times the number of early voters on campus compared to 2000. For the most part these voters are not even included in polls because they all use cell phones as their primary number.
It takes a lot to abandon years of straight-party voting, but it’s happening this year. Sometimes it takes enormous respect for the candidate (such as Democrats who could easily vote for John McCain). This year it’s the opposite: Republicans are baffled by Bush’s misjudgments in war and his abandonment of fiscal conservatism.
Also see: Republican switcher ads
Apparently there is a large percentage of voters who are just confused about how politics work in this country. Personality means more to them than terms like liberal and conservative. Instead, there are usually a few key issues that turn these voters to any one candidate. Two of those issues this year are the economy (lean to Kerry) and fear (lean to Bush).
The debates help people choose, and Kerry outperformed Bush in all three. Kerry wasn’t totally immune to criticism, though. The flip-flop nonsense tends to stick because there is a little bit of truth to it (ignoring for the moment that Bush has more than his fair share of major policy reversals). Mathew Gross pointed to a <a href=“http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101041004-702123,00.html
”>Time Magazine article second-guessing the outcome in the Democratic primaries:
“Democratic voters should stick to their day jobs. With just five weeks until Election Day, there’s reason to believe they guessed wrong — that Dean would be doing better against Bush than Kerry is.”
Despite the scream, I still believe that Dean would have been a strong candidate. He distinguished himself from the other candidates by a real desire to effect change: even today, he is a powerful force for local and state-level candidates. He showed the Democrats how to win when they had lost their voice.
So there you have it. My prediction: Kerry by 3 percent nationally, with important wins in Florida, Colorado, and Pennsylvania giving him the electoral college. Record numbers of young voters.