Monday, August 16, 2004

Thought I'd do a piece on the American elections for a little change of pace. La Vanguardia's lead editorial says that the Bush-Kerry race looks like it will be very exciting, that there is a great deal of "polarization", and that there will be a large electoral turnout. Meanwhile, some Frenchman named Pascal Boniface, who is the director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris, and who appears to think he's very smart, has a piece on the op-ed in which he takes eight paragraphs to call George Bush a poophead. See, the US overthrow of Saddam was "morally unjust" and "inefficient strategically" because of the "American quagmire in Iraq". Such geniuses as Michael Moore, Benjamin Barber, Dick Clarke, George Soros, and Zbig Brezinski think Bush is a poophead, too, so this is evidence that being anti-Bush isn't the same as being anti-American, because all those people are American, too. Boniface actually says that "The best proof of this is that in the US more and more personalities are adopting deeply severe postures with respect to George W. Bush. These attacks, on occasion very vehement, cannot be interpreted as anti-American, since they come precisely from the US." It's just like being anti-Sharon doesn't make you anti-Semitic, says M. Boniface.

Hold it right there. If you dislike Bush just because he's the US president, and you dislike Sharon just because he's the Israeli prime minister, then you ARE anti-American and anti-Semitic. And how could a good French intellectual be anything else? M. Boniface gets off a pre-emptive strike, calling those of us who insist he IS anti-Semitic and anti-American scum guilty of making "a dishonest amalgam of ideas."

Anyway, for some serious talk about the elections. With help from the excellent site Election Projections, here is what one probable outcome might look like.

Bush MUST WIN: The eleven states of the Deep South (Virginia 13 electoral votes, North Carolina 15, South Carolina 8, Georgia 15, Kentucky 8, Tennessee 11, Alabama 9, Mississippi 6, Arkansas 6, Louisiana 9, Texas 34). If he loses more than one of these states, he loses. He'll almost certainly sweep the Republican Solid South, though.

The fourteen states of the Intermountain West and High Plains (Alaska 3, Idaho 4, Kansas 6, Montana 3, Nebraska 5, North Dakota 3, Oklahoma 7, south Dakota 3, Utah 5, Wyoming 3, Colorado 9, Wyoming 3, Colorado 9, Arizona 10, Nevada 5, New Mexico 5). Bush can afford to lose at most two of these states, and New Mexico and Arizona are probably going to be close. If Kerry can win five or six Southern and Western states, he wins the election.

Kerry MUST WIN: The four states of the Pacific West (California 55, Oregon 7, Washington 11, Hawaii 4). Oregon and Washington look a little iffy; if I were Bush I'd spend some time up there and make Kerry fight.

The thirteen states of the Northeast (Maine 4, New Hampshire 4, Vermont 3, Massachussetts 12, Rhode Island 4, Connecticut 7, New York 31, Pennsylvania 21, New Jersey 15, Maryland 10, Delaware 3, District of Columbia 3, West Virginia 5). Kerry needs a sweep here; he can only afford to lose Maine, West Virginia, and New Hampshire. Bush will fight hard in Pennsylvania and if he can win there, things look very good for him all over.

UP FOR GRABS: The eight states of the Midwest (Ohio 20, Indiana 11, Illinois 21, Michigan 17, Wisconsin 10, Minnesota 10, Iowa 7, Missouri 11). This is where the real war will be fought. Bush's Southern and Western support base will more or less balance off Kerry's Pacific and Northeast base. Bush will win Indiana. Kerry will win Illinois. No questions there. Bush must win Ohio and Missouri and pick up at least two other Midwestern states. Iowa and Wisconsin look like his best bets.

Florida (27). This atypical state--or maybe super-typical because of its variety--is as up-in-the-air as it comes. Whichever candidate wins it will likely win the election.

By the way, here are the current polls: Bush's job approval was 51% according to Gallup on 8/11 and 46% according to Pew on 8/10. In a Bush-Kerry-Nader race, Zogby on 8/12 has Bush 43%-Kerry 47%, Gallup on 8/11 has Bush 48%-Kerry 46%, and Pew on 8/10 has Bush 45%-Kerry 47%. Looks to me like the popular vote is very close three months before the election.

If the popular vote is this close at this time in the election year, it's a pretty safe bet that the incumbent President is going to win. First, Kerry has already had his convention bounce, the surge in the polls that's supposed to happen after the candidate gets the spotlight at his party's convention. Bush hasn't had his yet. Second, Bush is a known quantity. People know what he stands for. Kerry doesn't have much of a national image and is still little-known to many Americans. Many people are therefore susceptible to having their image of Kerry framed by Bush's people. Third, the Kerry campaign hasn't got any dirt on Bush. If they had, the Dems would have used it back in 2000; remember, the best dirt they had on Bush was a 30-year-old drunk driving conviction. They released it the weekend before the November election, and this cost Bush in the vote. We don't know what kind of dirt Bush has on Kerry, but I get the feeling the Bush campaign knows several things about Kerry's Vietnam days and Seventies political career that might be troublesome.

Fourth, the economy's doing fine and the big issue everyone is up in arms about is gay marriage, not Iraq. If people's attention is focused on this minor question rather than on issues which Kerry has some basis to criticize Bush about, Bush wins. Fifth, my bet is that we have more and more success in Iraq and the War on Terrorism, and that the Bush campaign will use 9/11 to remind people of why the war is being fought. Sixth, Kerry is boring and a jerk and people don't like him, and the more they're exposed to him the less they're going to like him. At least some people like Bush. Nobody, but nobody, likes John Kerry. Seventh, some of the radicals are going to vote for Nader again, costing Kerry a percent or so, which might make the difference.

So, barring disaster, I see a fairly easy Bush victory. Not a landslide; Kerry will win a minimum of 150 electoral votes. I doubt it will be nearly as close as people around here are guessing, though.

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