The Real Times has a front-page story on the Democrats regrouping after the Republican National Convention. Noting the President’s double-digit poll leads, the Democrats argue that Kerry was not fast and aggressive enough in his response to the Swift Boat ads and controversy and this led to the fall in the polls. This could be true, but it strikes me as a little too much “inside baseball.” I personally find it hard to believe that the Swift Boat issue really affected that many voters.
My perception, for what it is worth, is that the effect of the Republican Convention was to remind voters what the election is really about. Because news coverage has been dominated by these little day to day stories, this tends to drive the polling decisions. The Convention, by contrast, succeeded providing perspective by reminding voters that all this back-and-forth is nothing but smoke, and that national security and terrorism remains the big issue. To some extent this issue gets pushed to the back pages by all the other little stuff that drives news coverage.
Further credence for this, I think, is that according to the polls I saw last week, the President’s big bounce came during the week of the Convention, but before he even spoke (in fact, from what I can tell, his actual speech didn’t add much to his bounce). My interpretation of this was that people were responding to the convention’s reminder of the importance of the terrorism issue itself, rather than any particular details or issues. So the battle seems to be over defining the issue space, rather than the candidates’ positions on those issues.
Possible contrary evidence to my hypothesis, however, is suggested by the Iowa Electronic Markets. The trading data there indicates that President Bush made his greatest strides in the week leading up to the Convention (when the Swift Boat issue dominated the news), and actually fell into a virtual tie on the first day of the convention, before rebounding at the end of the week to where he began at the outset of the week. This tends to suggest that the Swift Boats issue was in fact the moving force for the recent pick-up in the polls and that the convention primarily consolidated those gains.
I have been pointed to some interesting discussions by Instapundit and JustOneMinute from last week that raise the question of whether the blip that showed a tie immediately before the election may have been an anomaly to suggest that the closing price on the first day of the convention may not have been the “real” price. No one seems to have a good explanation for why the market may have been inaccurate on that date, so I’m not sure what this all means. JustOneMinute references some other market data as well that is interesting.
Thanks to N.Z Bear of The Truth Laid Bear for the pointer.