The election to decide whether a first term president will get a shot at a second often comes down to one key factor: The incumbent. Couple that with a few other issues (the media noise focused on Bush, the early stage of the race, the level to which some on the left are consumed with a hatred of Bush that makes Kerry nearly irrelevant, the lack of a Kerry running mate, a somewhat careful Dem campaign so far, and of course, Fantasia) and it’s not at all surprising that many more people are decidedly against Bush than decidedly for Kerry.
Percent still undecided on Bush, Kerry:
Zogby: 1%, 21%
Quinnipiac: 2%, 16%
Newsweek: 8%, 14%
Annenberg: 12%, 21%
CBS News: 16%, 35%
At this point (pre-convention, pre-debate, pre-summer), these numbers probably aren’t that bad for Kerry. But it is critical that they change over the next few months. I continue to believe that, while the incumbent is to a certain extent the star of any re-election bid, a just say no vote will not be enough.
As I touched upon in my earlier post On The Fence (scenes from the campaign’s front lines), it’s important that Democrats acknowledge that this definition issue is quite real and quite important.
It’s also worth noting that the undecided numbers in the Kerry column are decidedly bad news for the President’s campaign crew. They’ve spent an unprecedented amount of dough trying to get people to decide that Kerry will not cut it. So far, the payoff has been, I’m sure, less than they had hoped for.
Ultimately, the biggest question facing both sides of the election might be: How could anyone be undecided about anything or anyone at this point?
The true believers were decided at birth. The believers have been decided since Florida. The sort of believers have been decided since Iraq. Even the “I caught a bit of the news while flipping between the WWE and Family Feud reruns on the Gameshow Network” have decided by now.
The handful of people left are the ones who could determine the outcome of this election.
And there’s the rub. In the next several months, political insiders must figure out a way to convince the people who they can’t possibly understand to see things their way. Now that should be fun to watch.