Let's cut to the chase. I think Bush is going to win. Reasons?
1. The economy is doing very well, contrary to conventional wisdom. According to La Vanguardia, quoting the IMF's estimates for 2004: Economic growth 4.3%, unemployment 5.5%, inflation 2.4%, the deficit at 4.4% of GDP, and median income was $43,318. To compare, in 1984, when Reagan was overwhelmingly elected, growth was 6.8%, unemployment at 7.5%, inflation at 4.3%, the deficit at 5.0% of GDP, and the median salary was $32,878. Most people are better off now than they were four years ago, despite 9/11.
2. I think more people trust Bush than Kerry on the security issue.
3. I think more people would prefer to continue the current strategy in Iraq rather than change it.
4. I think most people feel closer to the conservatives' non-negotiable minimum demands on social issues (no partial-birth abortion, no federal funding for cloning embryos for scientific purposes, no euthanasia, no gay marriage, few restrictions on guns) than the leftists' non-negotiable minimum demands (constitutional right to abortion on demand, no capital punishment, gays in the military, lots of gun restrictions, affirmative action, multiculti education). As for older negotiable conservative demands like no premarital sex, no homosexuality, no divorce, no birth control, etc., they've given up on those long since.
5. I don't think anybody really cares what Susan Sarandon thinks. Nor do I believe that the whole both-candidates-and-Vietnam thing will have much effect. Or whether people prefer Laura or Teresa as First Spouse. Or Cheney vs. Edwards for VP. Or what Jacques Chiraq thinks.
6. I think people do care about likeability, and my guess is most Americans consider Bush more likeable than Kerry. Let's face it, Bush is a bit of a putz, but Kerry's a dick.
7. Ralph Nader will siphon off between 1 and 5% of the vote, depending on the state, and a vote for Nader is a vote against Kerry.
8. I honestly believe that among certain circles (education, fine arts, media, state employees) it is so socially unacceptable to vote Republican that some people won't even admit it to a pollster. That's worth a couple of points in every state.
9. I think this election is so hyped up by the ever-more-intrusive media that turnout will be high, and since I believe that more people are likely to support Bush than Kerry, the higher the turnout the bigger Bush's margin.
10. I think Kerry will win the following states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachussetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, DC, Illinois, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, California. I think Bush will take the rest for a fairly large Electoral College win, and I think the popular vote will go 52%-47%-1%. I also think the Republicans will keep control of the Senate and the House, neither one by a large margin.