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May 5, 2004
Bullish on Bush, Bearish on Events

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll holds an interesting trend for the presidential race -- half of the electorate are pessimistic about the direction of the country, but don't seem to be blaming Bush, who continues to slowly move farther ahead of John Kerry:

Only a third of American voters believe the nation is in sound shape, but they are largely not blaming President Bush, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday, which showed Bush running slightly ahead of his Democratic opponent for president, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

The poll of 1,012 registered voters, conducted Saturday through Monday, found that 50 percent of Americans believe that things are off on the wrong track, compared with only 33 percent who said things in the nation are generally headed in the right direction. The rest said that prospects were mixed or that they were not sure.

But if the presidential election were held today, Bush would still edge Kerry by 46 percent to 42 percent, according to the poll, which was conducted for NBC and the Journal by Hart/Teeter Associates of Washington, which reported that the survey had a 3 percentage-point margin of sampling error.

This polling data includes Ralph Nader, who attracted five percent of the vote, will play a spoiler role in swing states where the popular vote will be close. Even after a couple of tough months, though, Bush continues to lead Kerry in the three-way race. Bush's personal positives continue to far outstrip Kerry's however, which will cripple Kerry in the long run unless Bush significantly stumbles between now and the general election:

Even so, Bush continues to hold his slight lead over Kerry in overall presidential preference. More striking, he continues to be far more popularly personally, even as he has been buffeted by criticism of the war and of his administrations planning for it in a series of new books and in hearings by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

By a 2-to-1 ratio, more Americans feel very positive about Bush than they do about Kerry 30 percent, compared with 12 percent. When voters who said they were somewhat positive about either candidate were taken into account, Bush approached an outright majority in favorability, at 49 percent to 38 percent.

Of course, all of these polls have the same flaw: they report on national numbers, as opposed to state-by-state polling. We're unlikely to see that type of expensive polling until after the conventions, but consider that 2000 demonstrated that it's possible to lose the popular vote but still win the Electoral College. At RealClearPolitics, you can track what limited state polling exists, including a page on those states RCP considers likely battleground states where shifts from the 2000 election will be critical. While Kerry has crept into a tie in Arkansas (6 electors) and pushed past Bush in neighboring New Hampshire (4) by four points, he's let Florida (27) slip slightly back to Bush. Bush, on the other hand, has a double-digit lead in Wisconsin (10), which he lost in 2000, balancing the two states Kerry may be picking up. In addition, Bush has tied Kerry in Pennsylvania (21) -- some polls put him ahead -- and edges Kerry in New Mexico (5).

If the election was held today, therefore Bush picks up 15 EC votes for sure and loses 10, which means he extends his lead in the electoral college. Forget the national polls; this is where your concentration should focus. The candidate who builds momentum in these states wins the game.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 5, 2004 10:14 PM

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