Bouncing Convention Forecasts

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

Bouncing Convention Forecasts


Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It's unlikely next week's tightly scripted Democratic National Convention will offer any surprises. We know who the nominees will be, the topics they will talk about and the new theme they want to be associated with: "Stronger at home, respected in the world."

That's a far cry from Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era pledge for "a New Deal" for the American people, or John F. Kennedy's daring political challenge to explore a "new frontier," which we've heard in previous Democratic Conventions.

Is "stronger at home, respected in the world" the best platform John Kerry could come up with to address the global war on terrorism?

These quadrennial rituals, once filled with unexpected twists and turns, backroom battles and lengthy roll call votes between opposing forces, are no longer the exciting, gavel-to-gavel events political reporters remember.

That's why the broadcast networks plan to dedicate only an hour or so to their evening coverage over the four-day gathering in Boston.

Perhaps the only surprise (if you can call it that) will be the "bounce" the two parties get in their post-convention polls - something political pundits eagerly await and are already talking about. Virtually all major polling organizations are preparing for it, even pre-analyzing what, if anything, is at stake.

"A higher-than-expected bounce can be seen as abnormal and a plus for the party in question," the Gallup Poll states in a pre-convention analysis (titled "The Bounce Game"). "A lower-than-expected bounce (or no bounce at all) may be interpreted as a sign of trouble for a party's candidates."

But the bounce game can get more interesting, thanks to the prebounce strategies both sides play to guard against any damaging surprises that could hurt their respective tickets.

"Thus, the focus of polling conducted in and around the conventions is not so much that a bounce occurs as it is a matter of interpreting the bounce against expectations," the analysis report states.

For example, earlier this month, President Bush's chief campaign pollster and strategist Matthew Dowd wrote a memo intended to inoculate Mr. Bush from any embarrassing bounce numbers. Mr. Down wrote he expected a Democratic Convention bounce would leave the Bush-Cheney ticket at least 15 points behind their challengers. "Assuming that Kerry enjoys the average challenger's bounce ... we should expect the state of the race to swing wildly to his favor by early August," Mr. Dowd said.

But an analysis of past convention bounces tells a far different story: The candidate who ends up with the highest bounce does not necessarily win the election:

* Al Gore got a much larger bounce from his 2000 convention than George W. …

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