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What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

John Kerry's Post-Debate Bounce

Not surprisingly, John Kerry's poll numbers have vaulted him back to a dead-heat with George W. Bush. Kerry's numbers improved because of last week's debate, where he finally had the opportunity to present himself to America as a man of confidence with a firm grasp of the issues. George W. Bush, on the other hand, appeared to be tired, stumbling for answers to questions in some instances, on the defensive, and clearly rattlted by John Kerry. As Kerry spoke, Bush reacted noticeably to John Kerry's responses, his face a grimace of annoyance and frustration. Bush did not look presidential at all.

The latest Newsweek poll shows Kerry once again tied with the president (or ahead, if you don't include Ralph Nader), with 47% of voters likely to vote for Kerry and 45% for Bush. The previous Newsweek poll had Mr. Bush with a very comfortable 11-point lead over Kerry.

The poll also showed that voters felt Kerry was more likeable than Bush, 47% to 41%. I think this has been a big problem for Kerry up until now, as the perception of him previously wasn't as positive, with voters feeling Kerry to be distant and aloof.

Bush's job performance rating has dropped to 46%, an all-time low.

Conservatives who dismiss the debates as irrelevant are forgetting how previous debates changed the direction of a presidential campaign, from Ronald Reagan and his "are you better off now than four years ago" line in the 1980 election that cost Jimmy Carter his job. In the 1988 debates, Michael Dukakis came across as cold and distant; and in 1992, the debates helped an unknown governor of a small southern state to beat an incumbent. Clinton's victory was huge. And while Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, Gore's demeanor and audible sighing in that series of debates likely caused some undecided voters to vote for George W. Bush.

George W. Bush has a hard job ahead of him. The final debate will deal with domestic policy. Let's just say domestic issues are not Bush's strong suit. Kerry is very likely to clean his clock in that debate.

This will be a tight race and the election could go to either man at this point. It will be interesting to see if the debates will affect the undecided voters, as they will ultimately decide the outcome of the election.

The next debate will be Tuesday as the John Edwards and Dick Cheney square off, followed by the second Bush/Kerry debate on October 8th. That debate will be a town-hall format. The final debate is scheduled for October 13. You can read about the debates, and view transcripts of past debates, at the Commission on Presidential Debates web site.

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