DALLAS — President Bush’s re-election campaign predicted yesterday that he, like Sen. John Kerry, will receive no bounce in the polls after his party’s nominating convention next month.
Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush campaign, said an incumbent president typically gets only two-thirds of his challenger’s bounce. And according to a Gallup Poll, Mr. Kerry actually lost ground to Mr. Bush after last week’s Democratic National Convention.
“Two-thirds of zero — and my math is pretty simple here — is zero,” Mr. Dowd told reporters on a conference call. “So that’s our expectation on our bounce.”
Mr. Dowd’s modest prediction stands in contrast to Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe’s assertion before his party’s convention that Mr. Kerry would receive a bounce of eight to 12 percentage points.
Mr. Kerry’s support among likely voters actually dropped from 47 percent before the convention to 45 percent afterward, according to surveys by Gallup. During the same period, the president’s support increased to 51 percent from 46 percent.
“John Kerry becomes the first presidential candidate since 1972 to receive a negative bounce from his convention,” Mr. Dowd wrote in a strategy memo to Bush campaign leaders yesterday.
“Kerry’s performance in Gallup’s post-convention poll is even worse than George McGovern’s in 1972, making it the worst convention bounce in Gallup’s history of presidential campaign polling,” he said.
The Bush campaign passed out a chart showing that every presidential challenger who trailed in the Gallup Poll after his convention ended up losing to the incumbent. Bush campaign officials said Mr. Kerry’s candidacy most closely resembles that of Bob Dole, who led Bill Clinton by a single percentage point after the Republican convention in 1996.
But Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer said the president should not feel comfortable unless he is six points ahead of the Democrats.
“If George W. Bush doesn’t have a solid lead after the Democratic Convention, history would suggest he will lose,” Mr. Singer said.
As for Mr. Dowd’s prediction of no Bush bounce, Mr. Singer said: “Whenever they’re in trouble, they resort to lowering expectation.”
The Bush campaign criticized Mr. Kerry’s assertion Monday that the president “is actually encouraging the recruitment of terrorists.”
“He said at the convention he was going to run a positive race,” Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said yesterday. “Now we see him engaged in vicious attacks on the campaign, to the point where he yesterday accused the president of the United States of creating terrorists.”
White House press secretary Scott McClellan mocked what he called Mr. Kerry’s “secret plan” to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq.
“The president doesn’t have any secret plans. The American people know what his plans are,” Mr. McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One. “The senator is a walking contradiction.”
Arguing that Mr. Kerry’s own words are the best evidence against him, the Bush campaign posted a full transcript of Mr. Kerry’s convention speech on the president’s re-election Web site.
The Democratic National Committee responded by distributing excerpts of Mr. Bush’s speech from the Republican National Convention four years ago, issuing a statement headlined: “Speech from 2000 Leaves 4 Year-Long Trail of Hollow Promises.”
Yesterday, Mr. Bush attended a private campaign reception in Dallas before addressing the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.
Mr. Bush, a pro-life Methodist who is being challenged by a pro-choice Catholic, emphasized his opposition to abortion, prompting loud applause from the Knights as he ticked off a list of pro-life bills he has signed into law.
Mr. Singer, of the Kerry campaign, shrugged off the president’s appearance at a Catholic function.
“Voters of all faiths want a president who is going to be straight with them and work hard to pursue policies that improve the lives of their families,” he said. “With unjust tax policies, an abandonment of middle-class families and limiting educational opportunity, Bush has shown little compassion for American families.”
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