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August 26, 2004
More Evidence Of A Seismic Shift

Yesterday Hugh Hewitt linked to a small-sampled poll for Arizona showing a nine-point gain for George Bush in a state that the Kerry/Edwards campaign hoped to make competitive. Even worse for John Kerry, the polling showed that independents made up most of the movement to Bush. If Arizona was a bellwether for the nation, the Kerry campaign had big trouble in a month where the challenger should have had a soaring post-convention lead.

The Los Angeles Times confirms the national shift towards George Bush and the striking erosion of support for John Kerry in August in today's edition. Ron Brownstein, the LAT's political analyst, reports that even their notoriously skewed polling shows a five-point change favoring Bush since the convention, and now has the President ahead for the first time ever:

President Bush heads into next week's Republican national convention with voters moving slightly in his direction since July amid signs that John F. Kerry has been nicked by attacks on his service in Vietnam, a Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

For the first time this year in a Times survey, Bush led Kerry in the presidential race, drawing 49 percent among registered voters, compared to 46 percent for the Democrat. In a Times Poll just before the Democratic convention last month, Kerry held a 2 percentage point advantage over Bush.

You can bet that Kerry's polling started showing this last week, which is why he stopped the groundhog act and came out of hiding to attack the Swiftvets and beg George Bush to save him on national TV. It's also why he sent his valor proxy Max Cleland down to Crawford to deliver a letter to Bush demanding that he stop the Swiftvet ads, only to have to childishly try to avoid being given a letter in return from a number of veterans demanding that Kerry and Cleland stop trying to infringe on their free-speech rights.

Small wonder, then, that one of the issues where Kerry stumbles in this poll is leadership:

Although a solid majority of Americans say they believe Kerry served honorably in Vietnam, the poll showed that the fierce attacks on the senator from a group of Vietnam veterans criticizing both his performance in combat and anti-war protests at home have left some marks: Kerry suffered small but consistent erosion compared to July on questions relating to his Vietnam experience, his honesty and his fitness to serve as commander in chief. ...

Asked how Kerry's overall military experience would affect their vote, just 23 percent said it made them more likely to vote for him, while 21 percent said it made them less likely; the remaining 53 percent said it would make no difference. That has to be a disappointment for the Kerry camp after a Democratic convention last month that placed Kerry's Vietnam service at the top of the marquee. ...

Other key questions produced even more troubling results for Kerry.In the July Times Poll, 53 percent of voters said Kerry in his Vietnam combat missions had demonstrated the "qualities America needs in a president" while just 32 percent said by "protesting the war in Vietnam, John Kerry demonstrated a judgment and belief that is inappropriate in a president."

In the August survey, that balance nudged away from Kerry, with 48 percent saying he had demonstrated the right qualities and 37 percent saying he exhibited poor judgment.

Brownstein paints a picture of an imminent collapse, especially from the LAT, whose recall polling last year skewed so badly last year that they had Gray Davis surviving the recall and Cruz Bustamante ahead of Arnold Schwarzenegger until the final weekend, when their polls miraculously shifted overnight to match other poll results in the state. John Kerry better pray that this poll result accurately reflects the electorate, because if this is what the Times has when it's in the bag for the Democrats, the truth would be monumentally worse.

And next week is the Republican convention. The talk this year has neither candidate getting a boost from the nominating conventions. George Bush seems to be getting one beforehand. If he comes out of New York with anything larger than a four-point bounce, Kerry's campaign will be exposed for what it has become -- the most incompetent major-party presidential campaign in long memory.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 26, 2004 5:27 AM

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