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Memo from Kerry 2004 Camp


If you are a political strategist, you will have to know what others know, and expects things ahead of the other camp. Beyond just historical statistics, you will have to make projections. Let's get inside the mind of a Kerry Camp Strategist email that I got by subscribing to Kerry's website. (Note that even as this email tries to be objective, one should not forget its tone and the fact that this email is forwarded to a target readership of Democrats --- it is after all still a campaign tool):

To: The Kerry-Edwards Campaign
From: Mark Mellman, Senior Strategist
Re: Where Bush-Cheney Needs To Be
Date: August 24, 2004

As a senior strategist for John Kerry, I have prepared this update for the campaign's most active supporters as we enter the crucial weeks ahead. It's clear that your support has put this campaign in such a strong position as we enter a critical period. Your hard work, activism, and contributions have allowed our campaign to match the Bush campaign on the airwaves and on the ground. I can report that all you've done is now paying off when it counts the most.

By any standard, President Bush heads into his convention in a very weak position. His current position stems from the fact that voters judge the incumbent on his performance and on the state of the nation. By this measure, the president is in grave difficulty. To be counted a success, the Republican convention must fundamentally alter public attitudes on President Bush's stewardship of the country.

There are some basic benchmarks by which an incumbent's success can be measured as the campaign heads into the fall:

  • The average winning incumbent has had a job approval rating of 60%. Indeed, every incumbent who has won reelection has had his job approval in the mid-50's or higher at this point. In recent polling, Bush's average approval rating has been 48%. President Bush must emerge from his convention having
    dramatically altered public perception of his performance in office.
  • In recent years, when incumbents have gone on to victory, 52% of voters, on average, said the country was on the right track. Now, just 37% think things are moving in the right direction. Thus, President Bush must convince the electorate that the nation is in much better shape than voters now believe to be the case.
  • Every incumbent who has gone on to be reelected has had a double-digit lead at this point.
  • Following their conventions, the average elected incumbent has held a 16-point lead, while winning incumbents have led by an average of 27 points. Bush will need a very substantial bounce to reach the mark set by his successful predecessors.
  • Incumbents have enjoyed an average bounce in the vote margin of 8 points.
  • On average, incumbents' share of the two-party vote has declined by 4 points between their convention and Election Day.

President Bush has the opportunity to achieve an average, or even greater, bounce from his convention. Typically, elected incumbents go into their conventions with a 9-point lead, while incumbents who have gone on to win enter their conventions with a 21-point lead. Most current polls show the race quite close. This gives the president substantial room to bounce. By contrast, Senator Kerry entered his convention in a far stronger position than the average challenger. The average challenger goes into his convention 16 points behind, while Senator Kerry entered his convention with a 1-2 point lead. This gave Senator Kerry much less room to bounce.

However, as the data above makes clear, average is not enough for President Bush. Incumbents who went on to win reelection had an average lead of 27 points after their convention. Indeed, the average elected incumbent -- winners and losers -- had a lead of 16 points after their conventions. An average bounce would still leave Bush well below the historical mark set by other incumbents, particularly those who went on to victory.

Perhaps most important, the average elected incumbent experienced a 4-point drop in his share of the two-party vote from the post-convention polling to Election Day. Thus, to beat the odds, President Bush will need to be garnering 55% of the two-party vote after his convention. Anything less than that and the president will remain in grave political danger.

I like how the email was written --- it tried to be objective and present facts and yet retained qualities of a campaign for tool in a most discreet manner. I wonder if Philippine politics would be as discrete with subscribing to poll information this way? It reminded me how much people have ben in doubt of polling firms and statistical data in the last May 2004 Elections. See, statistics can be a positive tool for any campaign, even if it doesn't give all the best numbers to your candidate. It's all possible if you write it well. Six years from now, in the next election, I wonder if the Filipino people will still believe in polls and surveys, or --- if we'll have such fine political strategists that can write statistics reports in such a believable and respectable manner that they will admit they are not in the lead, or will observe what they need to do. See, that way, they make their candidate look like the person striving to win because he deserves to --- not the person that is supported by others only because he is winnable.

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posted by Jdavies @ 8/27/2004,


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The Author


Jdavies lives in Quezon City, Philippines and has been blogging since 2002. A brand manager in a leading technology company and a freelance new media/web strategy consultant, he has refocused his blogging from personal, political & sociological observations, to marketing-related efforts and Internet trends that are relevant to his career and branding advocacies.

About This Blog

This blog is a depot of thoughts and observations on marketing trends which remain personally relevant to the Author as far as his marketing career is concerned. Having evolved from the personal blog of Jdavies, much of the earlier work contained herein are laced with personal speculation, political views, and similar advocacies. These posts are being kept for posterity's sake and for no other reason. No effort is being made to claim that the author will not contradict himself from his previous positions or that such advocacies are absolute.


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