Reading the tea-leaves

According to this story at News Online, citing this story at MSN Slate, exit polling shows Kerry leading Bush in a tight contest in the late afternoon in the US. Of course, exit polls are dubiously reliable. But pending meaningful real results, they at least give us something to speculate about.

I must say that a Kerry victory, even though he’s certainly a flawed and uninspiring figure, would go a long way to making up for Howard’s re-election here in Australia. In fact, if I had been forced to choose in advance which incumbent leader I’d prefer to see deposed (and it couldn’t be both), I would certainly have opted for a Bush loss and a Howard victory. Why? Howard’s policies don’t really frighten me, and they won’ t do any damage that can’t easily be reversed by a future Labor government. Indeed, if Howard resigns in the next couple of years and is replaced by Costello, that would be pretty much my ideal situation (leaving aside Coalition control of the Senate). A Bush victory on the other hand is a scary prospect given some of the neocon loonies who surround him and the likely demise of moderates like Colin Powell and Richard Armitage in a second term Bush cabinet.

An apparently very heavy voter turnout may well also favour Kerry, and exit polling also seems to be reflecting much higher levels of voter concern with jobs and the economy than pundits were previously suggesting. That too would seem to be a factor in favour of Kerry. In contrast to the Australian election, where Howard was able to campaign on a record of ongoing economic good news and (ostensibly) sound management, Bush’s record is much more equivocal, with jobs lost, a huge deficit and a minor economic downturn contrasting with the extraordinary prosperity over which Bill Clinton presided.

PPS – On the other hand, West Virginia seems to have gone to Bush, which looks less promising for Kerry.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Any readers interested in following the election might like to know that there’s live coverage on channel 9 with a cbs feed and occasional reports from Laurie Oakes and Karl Stefanovic.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Thanks Mark. I’m watching it, as well as flicking between a range of Internet news sources and Tim Dunlop’s blog.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Me too, Ken, but I’m contemplating going out for a bit until things get clearer!

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

Kerry is miles ahead in PA and Bush ahead in PA. Check out this site for a live updating map.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

Sorry, me bad.. Bush ahead in Florida.

Martin Pike
2022 years ago

Latest update on the OZ suggests Bush is caning it in, but I admit I don’t understand the US system very well. John Quiggin sounds less optimistic now than he did a few hours ago.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

I’ll be interested to hear how those who fulminated last time about the system works. if Bush wins the popular vote, but not the Electoral College. Consistency would be painful for most of them. I’d also like to see their reactions if Kerry won, then put more pressure on Australia than Bush would. for more troops. A Bush victory will probably deprive me of both these pleasures.

James Dudek
James Dudek
2022 years ago

It’s over – OH (worth 20) goes to Bush by 100K (no automatic recount). AK (3) gives him 269, and he’s going to get one of NM (5), NV (5), or IA (7), puts him over the magic 270 barrier.

He’s won the popular vote and the electoral college vote – no doubt about the result this time.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Where did you pick that up James? TV coverage has ceased here, and I haven’t found an Ohio call on the Internet yet. I agree it’s all over if Kerry has lost Ohio.

James Dudek
James Dudek
2022 years ago

watching it in the US – two networks have called OH for Bush.

James Dudek
James Dudek
2022 years ago

Two networks are http://www.msnbc.com and http://www.foxnews.com for what it’s worth.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I wouldn’t take much notice of FoxNews, but NBC has to be taken seriously. However, as far as I can see no-one else has called Ohio yet, and even NBC quotes the Democrats as still claiming they’ll win Ohio when all the votes were counted. The Washington Post quotes the following figures at 1.31am on 91% of the vote:

Bush * (R) 2,548,508 51
Kerry (D) 2,441,599 49

That suggests at least 250,000 still to count with Bush leading by 100,000. However if the vast majority of the uncounted votes are in urban Cuyahoga County, it might not be entirely out of the question that Kerry could pull the remaining votes at the rate of 3/1 (which is what would be needed for Kerry to win). Certainly that is what the Democrats are still claiming will happen, on ABC NewsRadio as well (although it’s certainly a big ask).

James Dudek
James Dudek
2022 years ago

You’ve got your sums right mate, but the projection stats suggest a 1 in 300 chance that happens.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

WaPo now has Bush maintaining a lead of about 100,000 in Ohio at 2.00am with 95% of the vote counted:

Bush * (R) 2,648,463 51
Kerry (D) 2,546,176 49

On those figures I agree Kerry is a dead duck.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Apparently there are some 250,000 provisional votes that can’t even be counted for 11 days. You would expect them to go heavily for Kerry, although it seems very unlikely that they would do so strongly enough to make up for a 100,000 lead, especially given that absentee votes probably also remain to be counted and many of them will be military votes which would tend to favour Bush.

PS Kerry has apparently won Minnesota, but will need to win ALL the upper mid-west states to stay in the race, even in the increasingly unlikely event that he wins Ohio.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

WaPo has the following Ohio figures at 2.27am with 97% (presumably of votes cast on the day) counted:

Bush * (R) 2,706,778 51
Kerry (D) 2,581,451 49

i.e. Bush’s lead has widened to 125,000. Assuming these are urban votes, there’s no reason whatever to think the provisional votes would break to Kerry in a decisively different way. So I don’t really think the fact we won’t know about the provisionals for another 11 days is really going to make any difference. Ohio puts Bush at 269 EC votes, and he’s bound to win at least one of the remaining undecided states.

The good thing about such a result is that it looks like a close but clearcut win, with Bush quite decisively winning the popular vote as well as a majority of EC votes. Not that I ever thought much of the argument that Bush was an illegitimate president, but the fact that it just won’t be possible to advance those sorts of arguments this time around may at least help Americans to unite. Of course, that will depend partly on how Bush governs and to what extent he continues to push a radical neocon/religious right agenda. You never know, he might suddenly discover moderation and statesmanship in his second term (without losing the resolute determination to prosecute the War Against Terror that seems to have been the dominant reason for his win).

PS I was just listening to a pundit hypothesising that the high number of new voters and high voter turnout generally didn’t favour Kerry anywhere near as much as many expected, because Karl Rove’s strategy of mobilising as many as 4 million evangelical christians who didn’t vote in 2000 was successful. That explanation rings true given the high importance given to “moral issues” (like abortion and gay marriage) in much of the exit polling.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

My instant prognocation is that the Dems have thrown the election away.

This is like Carter getting re-elected in 1980.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Scott

Do you feel like expanding on that thought (either in this thread or a new post)?

Yobbo
Yobbo
2022 years ago

Bush is not running against Reagan, he’s running against Kerry. If the Democrats had put up someone reasonable, then I would have expected Bush to lose. Instead, they put up the worst person they could find and lost. Serves them right.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

Ken- Post will be up by the weekend. Sorry I cant be quicker then that but its a madhouse here.

thersites
thersites
2022 years ago

It seems to me the close electoral college contest has disguised what is a poor democrat result comparable in some respects to the ALP performance in the recent election here?

Much prominence was given last time around to the failure of Bush to win the popular vote with Gore finishing about 0.5 million votes ahead. Currently Bush is ahead by about 3 million votes, 51% to 48%, in a high turnout election. This is surprising considering the tight electoral college and strong democrat position in highly populated states such as California & New York.

The key to this result seems to be the south once the Democrat stronghold. The map of the south is now solidly Bush and quick flick over the numbers shows thumping majorities in places like Alabama, georgia, Louisiana etc. In 2000 Al Gore became a rare presidential candidate who couldnt hold his home state of Tennessee hwich would have been critical to the outcome. This time John Edwards not only couldnt deliver his home state of North Carolina they were thumped there too.

Edwards old senate seat has now been lost to a Republican. Louisiana has elected a Republican Senator for the first time. Out west in South Dakota high profile Dem Senate leader Tom Daschle (who was effectively the ‘opposition leader’ for much of the Bush first term)is also looking like a loser. Apparently the first time a senate leader has lost re-election in 52 years. The Republicans made gains to consolidate control of the Senate and increased numbers of State Governors.

Thats a very different scenario from 4 years ago where Bush took over after losing the popular vote in a controversial election and the initial wafer thin republican margin in the Senate was lost for period after a defection. To go back to where I started its difficult not to see this as a far worse outcome for the Democrats than the close electoral college contest may indicate?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Ken, Guiliani was running with the “Bush will reach out to Democrats” line on CBS. I hope he’s right! I think we’ll have to wait and see but one pundit was saying that what had depressed Kerry’s vote as against Gore in 00 was a slight decline in the African-American vote from 90% to 82% demo in some areas. The stated reason was that issues such as “gay marriage” had broken Bush’s way among religious African-Americans. I’m not so sure that’s right – Clinton famously was beloved by the African-American community – and I think also started some genuine initiatives in his second term to try to heal the race divide in America, which were largely sidetracked by the Whitewater mess and impeachment. If Clinton had been a less complex and ambiguous human being, I think he could have been one of the great US presidents – on the other hand it was probably his flawed character that gave him the empathy to reach out. On a much more pragmatic level, Clinton was utilised in the last week of the race to try to mobilise African-Americans for Kerry (the word was that he didn’t “connect” with them but I also suspect that he didn’t really pitch to issues of concern to this part of the electorate) – had Bill not had his heart problems, well, it’s a great might have been. I’m also inclined to agree with Bill that Gore probably lost some votes by freezing Clinton out of the 00 campaign. There is no doubt, I think, that if Clinton had been able to run for a 3rd term in 2000, he would have won big again. Perhaps Kerry was the wrong candidate – but it’s difficult – thinking back to the primaries – to pick who might have had a better go.

Mark U
Mark U
2022 years ago

History may show that this was a good election for the Democrats to lose. Bush’s first term blunders have yet to have their full impact. The mess in Iraq, the large US deficit and high oil prices (driven by strong demand from China not from shortages in the Middle East) could become intractible problems over the next four years. The Republican presidential candidate in 2008, without the benefit of incumbency, will have to be an extraordinary person to overcome these obstacles.

I am not confident that Bush will reach out to the Democrat voters. Winning candidates always make those kinds of noises the day after the election. If anything, he has a mandate to enact more conservative and religiously driven policies given the importance of this support base. And moderates like Powell will be replaced by neo-cons like Wolfowitz.

Red Peter
Red Peter
2022 years ago

Meh… Bush gets to claim the Iraqi elections which will be a huge symbolic victory for him. I’m sure he’ll be happy to muddle along with that under his belt and, short of Baghdad being razed to the ground, he’ll be able to keep up his facade. Hitchens reckons Rummy is on the way out, if that is any indication of what’s to come. And I don’t think Powell will be replaced with Wolfowitz; Rice is much more likely.

But I’m surprised how many people deluded themselves into thinking kerry would win (even Zogby)- it seemed so obvious to me that he couldn’t. The “reality based community” has been a lonely place of late.

Anyway, I did manage (surprisingly easily) to find one Kerry supporter certain enough to be me $200 he’d win, so although I’m not over-joyed by the outcome, I have my consolation. And I did notice that the sun came up again this morning- even for those of us who don’t think it shines out George’s arse-hole. Let’s leave predictions of armegeddon to the evangelicals.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Perhaps the most crushing result of all for the Democatd was Tom Daschle’s defeat. With U.S. voters aware of how important seniority can be when it comes to pork barrelling in favour of their own State’s interests, long established Senators tend to be extremely difficult to remove. Party politics issues aren’t normally sufficient to remove any senior Senator, let alone a House Leader.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

That’s true Norman – and I think everyone thought Daschle would survive – particularly since his Republican challenger, Thune, had failed to unseat the weaker junior Senator from South Dakota in 2002 by 546 votes. However, long serving Demo Senators in ‘red states’ can usually run at some distance from the national Demos – very difficult for the Majority Leader. The last unseated Majority Leader – in 1952 – was also a Democrat in a Republican State – Arizona. It’s also worth noting the massive amount of money the Republicans poured into South Dakota.