The Wall Street Journal today (3/4/04 pg. A4) has some worrisome news for Republicans looking to next November. The presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry finds himself in a position that is rare for challengers at this stage of the election process – he is leading in the polls. That has been practically unheard of during the past two decades and it doesn’t bode well for Bush’s re-election chances.
In 1984, Ronald Reagan held a 50 percent to 45 percent advantage in the polls over Democrat Walter Mondale at this early stage.
In 1988, George Bush the Elder was up 52 percent to 40 percent over the hapless Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis.
In 1992, Bush the Elder was running ahead of Bill Clinton by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin.
In 2000, Bush the Younger was leading Al Gore in the polls 49 percent to 44 percent.
But as of Feb. 16-17, John Kerry had a 51 percent to 46 percent lead in the polls over Bush.
Kerry has also wrapped up the Democratic nomination sooner and with less rancor than any of the prior Democratic nominees of the past 20 years. By governing as one of the most partisan and divisive presidents in modern memory, George W. Bush has effectively united Democrats behind their nominee to a greater degree than has been seen in a long time. I would expect the polls to tighten up at some point, but the fact remains that Bush is the one having to catch up and that is highly unusual.
Of course, Bush still has $100 million to spend on campaign advertising which gives him a huge advantage over the cash-strapped Democrats. But if his ads continue to produce this kind of response, Kerry won’t have much to worry about. And just remember that the guy with the most money doesn’t always win. Just ask Howard Dean.