Gallup announced the results of its USA Today/CNN poll taken after the Democratic national convention. Instead of polling “adults”, as Newsweek did, Gallup focused on likely voters, a much more reliable indicator of voter behavior. Their polling shows that Kerry went from a marginal tie — one point up — to four points down over the convention, which puts him behind at the edge of the margin of error:
In the survey, taken Friday and Saturday, the Democratic ticket of Kerry and John Edwards trailed the Republican ticket of Bush and Dick Cheney 50% to 46% among likely voters, with independent candidate Ralph Nader at 2%.
Before the convention, the two were essentially tied, with Kerry at 47%, Bush at 46%.
The change in support was within the poll’s margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points in the sample of 763 likely voters. But it was nonetheless a stunning result, the first time in the Gallup Poll since the 1972 Democratic convention that a candidate seemed to lose ground at his convention.
USA Today pins the blame on Kerry’s decline on a highly polarized electorate, but the real problem was the candidate and the convention itself. Despite efforts to tone down the anti-Bush rhetoric, every speaker talked about policies not in their own terms but as opposed to George Bush. Al Sharpton went on a tirade against Bush. By the time Kerry stepped to the microphone and launched his speech, it paled in comparison to Sharpton’s efforts and was self-contradictory. Again, Kerry defined his entire approach in terms of George Bush, implying that Bush had sold out to the Saudis and in the very next breath, implored Bush to “stay positive”.
Why did Kerry’s numbers drop after the convention? Because Kerry is his own worst enemy, and every time he speaks to the nation as a whole, his support erodes. The only points during the entire campaign when Kerry made inroads against Bush has been when Kerry was off the campaign trail. Kerry made his prime-time pitch to America, and America yawned.
In this context, having his campaign advertising “go dark” might not just provide a financial lifeline but a strategic lifeline as well. Democrats should consider having Kerry stop campaigning altogether, as so far — despite his third “reintroduction” to American voter — he has proven to be his highest obstacle to success.