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November 2, 2004
Democratic Pollster Predicts Bush Victory

In one of the more unusual analyses of this presidential campaign, The Hill published a prediction of victory by George Bush in today's race. That may not sound unusual, but when the pundit making the prediction turns out to be John Kerry's chief pollster Mark Mellman, it raises a few eyebrows:

First, we simply do not defeat an incumbent president in wartime. After wars surely, but never in their midst. Republicans have been spinning this fact for months, and they are correct.

Democrats have spoken often and powerfully about the nations economic problems. But by historical standards, they are not that bad. The misery index is 7.8 today but was 20.5 when Jimmy Carter was defeated. Economic models of elections show Bush winning 52-58 percent of the vote.

Nor does Mellman stop there. Much has been made about Bush's approval ratings and the "right direction/wrong direction" polling during this cycle, and how both have consistently run negatively towards Bush's re-election chances. Mellman doesn't buy that either, and explains that those numbers have to be significantly further south for them to portend an early end to Bush's career:

Bushs approval ratings are also indicative of the difficulties Kerry faces. It is certainly true that the average incumbent who has been reelected has had a much higher job approval rating 62 percent. Bushs approval rating is now about 49 percent. Yet the last time an incumbent was beaten Bushs father just 33 percent approved of his performance. When Carter was defeated, he had an approval rating of only 37 percent. On average, incumbents who have been defeated have only had a 38 percent job rating. Bush is 10 points higher than that.

We often point to the fact that a majority of Americans say the country is seriously off on the wrong track. Fifty-two percent hold that view. But when Bush Sr. was defeated, 72 percent thought the country was seriously off on the wrong track.

Only 39 percent give the economy a positive rating, a problem for the incumbent. Yet in 1992, only about 10 percent were positive about the economy.

Remember, too, that Bush 41 only lost his re-election bid due to a strong independent campaign by H. Ross Perot which sucked out the right-center voters from underneath the Republican incumbent. Most models showed that even with the internal issue polls where they were, Bush 41 had a good shot at winning a second term.

Mellman then delivers a shocking prediction, for a Democratic pollster -- Bush wins by three points in the popular vote, a gap that not only guarantess an Electoral College win but also wide enough to discourage post-election lawsuits:

Taking all that and more into account, an expert forecasting model suggests that Bush will get 51.6 percent of the two-party vote.

So while Bush faces formidable obstacles, not the least of which is Kerry himself, the senator also faces a strong candidate. Bush is weaker than some other incumbents but much stronger than those who have been defeated.

This poll result sounds much more credible than anything else I've heard, given the source and the testimony against interests. (via The Corner)

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! I corrected a double-paste from Mellman's article.

UPDATE II: Some people point to Mellman's assertion that he thinks he will be "smiling broadly" as a prediction of a Kerry victory:

It's crap. They're taking his comments totally out of context, and missing the whole point of the article.

The DU post then says, "Here's the *actual* article from Kerry Pollster Mark Mellman, in which he predicts a Kerry victory, despite the huge obstacles facing of our candidate (emphasis added)," but takes a huge chunk of it out of the middle in order to emphasize Mellman's hope of smiling broadly. DU conveniently omits the key passage:

Taking all that and more into account, an expert forecasting model suggests that Bush will get 51.6 percent of the two-party vote.

Pollsters make predictions precisely by inputting poll data into forecasting models -- meaning that based on the data the Democrats have, their forecast shows Bush winning. That's the actual prediction. Mellman's broad-smile aspirations come from something other than the forecasting model and its outcome.

Read the article itself in its entirety and decide what you thisnk Mellman tried to say...

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 2, 2004 2:17 PM

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