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July 27, 2004
ABC: Kerry Losing Momentum

As a follow-up to the post I wrote last night on the Washington Post report on the WaPo-ABC poll, ABC's analysis goes even further in clearly defining the results as a potential disaster for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. Unlike the Babington article, Gary Langer's report points out all of the weaknesses that Kerry's campaign now shows precisely when they should be riding a wave of enthusiasm leading to his anointment on Thursday:

The critical convention season begins with John Kerry losing momentum at just the hour he'd like to be gaining it: President Bush has clawed back on issues and attributes alike, reclaiming significant ground that Kerry had taken a month ago.

Kerry has lost support against Bush in trust to handle five of six issues tested in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, including terrorism, Iraq, taxes and even health care. And Kerry's ratings on personal attributes honesty, strong leadership, consistency, empathy and others have softened as well. ...

Head-to-head, the Massachuestts senator has slipped from a slight lead in late June to a dead heat today, with 49 percent support for Bush and 48 percent for Kerry among registered voters. Including Ralph Nader, it's 48 percent-46 percent-3 percent.

Not only has Kerry not gotten a pre-convention bounce, but as I reported last night, it appears that the selection of the blow-dried Edwards as his VP candidate may have hurt the campaign. People are now taking this election seriously, and choosing a single-term politician for his looks and his hair doesn't communicate that Kerry takes it anywhere near as seriously.

Langer also reveals the underlying shifts in the past month that have caused Kerry to fall behind Bush, and the numbers there look worse than the overall polling indicates. Kerry has lost ground to Bush in six crucial issues: terrorism, taxes, health care, Iraq, education, and the economy. Kerry now only leads in education and health care, both within the margin of error for the poll. On terrorism and Iraq, Bush has vaulted out to a double-digit lead where one month ago the two men were virtually tied.

Terrorism has been a talking point of the Kerry/Edwards campaign for the past several weeks, as their strategists have tried to cut Bush off at the knees. Instead of weakening their opponent, Kerry seems to boost Bush the more Kerry talks about it. Bush now enjoys an eighteen-point gap over Kerry on terrorism and a twelve-point gap on Iraq, extremely bad news for an election that necessarily focuses on both issues.

The demographics for terrorism loom as bad as the overall numbers here; the Edwards selection has done nothing to keep women from wiping out a sixteen-point lead to a three-point Kerry deficit, and so-called moderates have reversed a twelve-point lead to a seven-point deficit. Independents have also broken out to a significant Bush lead on this issue, which should press the Kerry campaign into silence on terrorism and a greater focus on domestic policies.

However, even though Kerry has a slim advantage on two issues, the one they've chosen to drill into the ground has twisted back on them. Last month, Kerry led Bush on the issue of taxes by a whopping twelve-point margin. Now Kerry trails by six as the economy heats up and tax cuts have received the lion's share of the credit.

Now Kerry's campaign proposes to "go dark" during the month of August in order to save advertising dollars for the main battle after the Republican convention. It may work out, as Kerry's main drag on the campaign seems to be Kerry: every time he highlights an issue, he loses ground. However, if the convention fails to reverse these trends, Kerry will likely watch the momentum and the election swing decisively to George Bush and could well author a McGovern/Mondale electoral disaster. Such an outcome would be fitting for a campaign that has combined in its rhetoric the worst of 1972 and 1984.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 27, 2004 11:53 AM

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