The presidential race is a statistical tie. But within the numbers, things have begun to look rather gloomy. The most important States, (Ohio, Iowa, Colorado), appear to be slipping away from Bush. The Democratic voter registration/get out the vote effort promises at least as large a turn out as 2000, and that is likely to tell against the President.
El Jefe tends to agree with Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia that Bush needed his whole six or seven point September lead to manage a narrow victory. Professor Sabato's excellent and insightful piece on the current state of play is here:
In El Jefe's opinion, the reasons for the President's declining position are (in order):
1). Elite Opinion. The degree to which elite opinion (the overclass of journalists, pundits, bureaucrats, the cultural elite, lawyers, academia, the fashionable and the very wealthy) are absolutely united against this President is both astounding and frightening. The current affairs section of the average bookstore resembles nothing so much as a long, shrill cry of rage against the current administration and anybody who would even THINK of liking Bush.
This is true not only in America (particularly on the coasts), but abroad. The same groups in Europe, along with the UN and the associated international legal bureaucracy; and that of most of the incresingly influential sector known as "NGO's" (non-governmental organisations), desperately want to see this President defeated.
There are reasons for this, which could and do fill books, most of which has to do with what John Fonte dubs "Transnational Progressivism." The chattering classes instinctively grasp that Bush, and, more importantly, Bush's supporters, are not on board with the multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-lateral globalised utopia run by international bureaucrats that Kerry, the big banks, and most Right Thinking people see as the end product of globalisation. Nothing terrifies these people so much as anything smacking of American nationalism.
El Jefe thinks that this is the main issue of this whole election. This is why Bush was so bitterly opposed over Iraq -- because it represented Bush and the Americans escaping the strings that everybody wants to put on Gulliver -- that is, the USA, to ensure that it conforms with the transnational project. The same factions that support increased governmental power here at home support this version of the globalised world. Bush, to them, is a nationalist throwback who must be stopped.
Even though this is largely a disease of elite opinion, the drumbeat of carping, criticism, and the scare-mongering about isolation is having an effect on the voters, particularly in conjunction with the problems in Iraq.
2). The first debate: Kerry gets back the Female Voters. Kerry was on the ropes going into October, and the President could have knocked him out with a sound performance. Unfortunately, this left Kerry nowhere to go but up, and this was combined with a truly abysmal performance by Bush. Bush's flubs on Iraq: an issue he should have mastered, gave swing female voters back to Kerry, and this may be enough to turn the election.
3). Iraq. The President is now reaping the reward for failing to wipe out the Fallujah rebels during the Spring and Summer. The administration passed-up the opportunity to teach rebels the expensive and fatal consequences of tangling with the US military by leveling Fallujah and instead opted to call off the Marines and negotiate. Now the rebels have learned that resistance pays, and the rebellion has grown becuase the appearance of weakness makes it look as if the Americans will be leaving sooner rather than later, and everyone wants to be on the winning side. Despite the success of the occupation elsewhere in the country, the low-grade insurgency in Sunni Iraq has caused the public (wrongly) to conclude that the military is suffering a continuing dribble of casualties to no purpose. Unfortunately, the election of Kerry will serve as great encourgement to the rebels. But this issue is a loser for Bush.
4). War Weariness. September 11 is remote enough in memory to most people to make them tempted to buy into Kerry's idea that terrorism is a nuisance we have to live with. When Kerry talks about a more expansive domestic agenda, he is pushing at an open door in the present economic climate. Kerry is wrong: the "nuisance" is cancer. Unfortunately, large numbers of people will not grasp this in time to help Bush.
5). Oil Prices and the Economy . Kerry will blame this on #3. It has more to do with the fact that Europe, the US, China and India have skyrocketing demand at the same time, and with the effects of Hurricane Ivan. However, price shock at the pump, and the doubts this causes among investors about the economy, is hurting Bush.
Lots can still happen. Al Qaeda certainly has a vote. Probably, they are smart enough to lie low, and then claim credit for toppling Bush (a claim which will be believed in the Arab world). But perhaps not. The Republicans will (and should) carpet-bomb Kerry's Senate record.
Bush badly needs a win tonight. Expectations are low for him, so he has an opening. But momentum is presently the other way, and the hour is late...