- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2004

Speculators speak

“Pollsters are just starting to measure the impact of the convention, but the speculators betting on the election have already spoken, and they seem to like this one better than the Democratic convention,” John Tierney writes in the Political Points column of the New York Times.

“Thanks to a preconvention rally in July, Sen. John Kerry went into his convention about even with [President] Bush on two online markets, In Trade and the Iowa Electronic Markets. The traders, who have historically been better predictors than the polls, buy futures contracts on the outcome of the election,” Mr. Tierney noted.

“They turned bearish on Mr. Kerry during his convention, anticipating that he wouldn’t get much of a bounce, and by the end of that week Mr. Bush’s contracts were, trading at 52, meaning that investors gave him a 52 percent chance of winning.

“Mr. Bush started his convention week at 55 in both markets. When they closed Friday, he was still at 55 in the Iowa market, and at In Trade, he had risen to 59.”

Debate prep

“There’ll be no more Nantucket windsurfing for John Kerry or Crawford chain-sawing for George Bush,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“It’s time to prep for the next — and last — big fight, the televised election debates. ‘They’ll be very important,’ says Kerry campaign chief Mary Beth Cahill.

“In Kerry’s corner, the candidate will watch tapes of Bush’s old debates with Al Gore and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards for tips. ‘Kerry,’ says an insider, ‘is convinced that Bush is a deceptively skillful debater, like none he’s ever faced before.’ He’ll be especially tuned into how Gore’s eye-rolling and moans helped Bush,” Mr. Bedard said.

“Kerry’s no slouch, either. Aides say that when he ties on the gloves for the debates, Kerry morphs into an aggressive brawler. The Bush team has heard that, so they ordered up videos of Kerry’s debates, like the famous matches with former Massachusetts guv William Weld. Bush’s team has even quizzed Weld, who warned that Kerry will say anything to win.

“One trick to pump Bush up: Aides cut a highlight tape of Kerry’s personal attacks on the president. Bush listens to them — for inspiration.”

Rising approval

President Bush’s job-approval rating rose from July to August, according to a National Annenberg Election Survey completed before the Republican National Convention began last week.

Mr. Bush’s job-approval rating among 5,146 registered voters surveyed from Aug. 9 to 29 was 53 percent, compared with 50 percent in a July 5 to 25 survey, the poll showed. The margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points, Bloomberg news service reports.

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry had a 45 percent favorable rating in August, up from 43 percent in July, the poll showed. The Democratic convention was held from July 26 to 29 in Boston.

Nethercutt’s numbers

“‘If we’re down by single digits in the middle of September, we’re going to win this race,’ says Rep. George Nethercutt of his campaign against Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat.

“Odds are the race will be that close in two weeks — because it’s already that close now,” John J. Miller writes at National Review Online. “A Republican polling firm recently showed Mr. Nethercutt trailing Mrs. Murray by just 8 points, 49 percent to 41 percent. In June, a Mason-Dixon survey had Murray far out in front, 52 percent to 34 percent.

“Despite these gains, Nethercutt remains a long shot. It isn’t easy to knock off an incumbent anywhere. What’s more, closing to within single digits is a lot easier than actually moving ahead,” Mr. Miller said.

“At least a big challenge is nothing new for him. Ten years ago, Nethercutt took on a sitting Speaker of the House, Democrat Tom Foley. The race was close, but 1994 was a banner year for the GOP — and Nethercutt scraped out a victory, 51 percent to 49 percent. If he is fortunate enough to beat Murray, the spread probably won’t be much different.”

Changing places

“Democrats: the party of the little guy. Republicans: the party of the wealthy. Those images of America’s two major political wings have been frozen for generations,” Karl Zinsmeister writes on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

“The stereotypes were always a little off, incomplete, exaggerated. (Can you say Adlai Stevenson?) But like most stereotypes, they reflected rough truths,” said Mr. Zinsmeister, who is editor in chief of the American Enterprise.

“No more. Starting in the 1960s and ‘70s, whole blocs of ‘little guys’ — ethnics, rural residents, evangelicals, cops, construction workers, homemakers, military veterans — began moving into the Republican column. And big chunks of America’s rich elite — financiers, media barons, software millionaires, entertainers — drifted into the Democratic Party.

“The extent to which the parties have flipped positions on the little-guy/rich-guy divide is illustrated by research from the Ipsos-Reid polling firm. Comparing counties that voted strongly for George W. Bush to those that voted strongly for Al Gore in the 2000 election, the study shows that in pro-Bush counties only 7 percent of voters earned at least $100,000 or more, while 29 percent earned less than $30,000.”

A ratings winner

Last week’s Republican National Convention finished with a larger television audience than its Democratic counterpart did in July.

And President Bush’s acceptance of the nomination drew more viewers than challenger Sen. John Kerry‘s speech, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“On ABC, CBS and NBC, plus three cable news channels, Nielsen Media Research figures estimate that the Republican convention averaged a 15.3 rating, while Bush’s Thursday night speech during the 7 o’clock hour peaked with an 18.2 rating. The Democrats averaged a 14.3 rating over three nights, and Kerry’s speech drew a 16.9 rating,” Chronicle reporter Peter Hartlaub said.

“Each ratings point equals 1.08 million households tuning in to the program. Last year, top-rated network programs such as ‘American Idol’ and ‘CSI’ averaged about a 16 rating.

“When public broadcasting numbers are figured in, the race becomes a little closer, but the Republicans still come out ahead. PBS stations, which featured more broadcast hours of coverage than their commercial counterparts, averaged a 2.7 rating during the Democratic convention and a 2.0 for the Republicans.

“Bush’s ratings victory reverses the trend of recent elections. The Democrats easily attracted more viewers than the Republicans in 1996 and 2000.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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