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October 4, 2004
So Much For The Debate Bounce

I hope the Democrats enjoyed the weekend, because the debate bounce turned out to be a figment of Newsweek's imagination. The new Washington Post-ABC poll taken for the three days after the debate shows that Bush maintained his five point lead over Kerry, despite their usual underreport on Bush's support:

President Bush continues to lead rival Sen. John F. Kerry among likely voters despite surging enthusiasm for Kerry among Democrats and new doubts about whether the president has a clear plan to deal with terrorism and the situation in Iraq, according to the Washington Post tracking poll.

In the aftermath of last week's presidential debate, Bush currently leads Kerry 51 percent to 46 percent among those most likely to vote, according to polling conducted Friday through Sunday. Independent candidate Ralph Nader claims 1 percent of the hypothetical vote. ...

Half of Kerry's voters now say they are "very enthusiastic" about their candidate, up eight points since before the debate. At the same time, the share of Bush voters who were similarly excited about their candidate dropped by eight points to 57 percent, narrowing the enthusiasm gap from 23 to 7 points in a few short days. Democrats, men, 40 to 49-year-olds and better educated Kerry supporters led the increase in the intensity of enthusiasm for him, the survey found.

Bush is still seen as the one with the clearest plan for dealing with Iraq and terrorism, although Kerry clearly made inroads on both issues during his first debate.

According to the survey, barely half -- 51 percent -- of all voters said Bush has a "clear plan" for handling the situation in Iraq, down from 55 percent before the debate. The proportion who doubted that Bush has a plan grew by 6 points to 48 percent.

At the same time, 42 percent said Kerry has a plan for Iraq -- a 5-point increase -- while the proportion who said he does not fell by four points to 52 percent.

So on the "clear plan" internal, Bush still leads Kerry by nine points, and on enthusiasm by 7 points. The enthusiasm gap will likely expand after these results get wide dissemination as Kerry's supporters realize that Kerry didn't move the needle at all. Bush's support will rally on the same news.

Pew shows the same gap between Kerry in their latest polling:

By two-to-one, voters who watched the first presidential debate believe that John Kerry prevailed. But the widely viewed Sept. 30 showdown did not result in a sea change in opinions of the candidates. As a consequence, George W. Bush continues to have a much stronger personal image than his Democratic challenger, while voters express more confidence in Kerry on key domestic issues like the economy and health care.

The latest national poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 1-3 among 1,002 registered voters, finds Bush maintaining a 48%-41% lead over Kerry among all voters. However, the internals of the poll suggest that Bush's margin slipped somewhat over the course of the weekend, as a growing number of voters came to see Kerry as the debate winner.

When the sample is narrowed to likely voters, Bush holds a modest 49%-44% edge in voting intentions.

The Pew internals for Bush still look strong, although Kerry rallied a bit from the catastrophic levels from before the debate. He actually dropped a point on his overall favorability after the debate, while Bush gained 7 and Cheney gained 4.

I think we just saw the high-water mark of Kerry's home stretch. If that performance couldn't move the needle, Kerry has nothing left.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 4, 2004 6:15 PM

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2345Z MON 04OCT04. Captain's Quarters. Captain Ed reports on two polls which show Kerry's debate bounce lasted about as long as an ice cream cone in a kid's hands on a hot Summer day. Carry on. [Read More]

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