Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 26, 2004
POLITICS: Landslide?

Chuck Todd argues that the election won't be close and Kerry will trounce Bush. He has to offer an exceptionally strained reading of the evidence - for example, he points to high turnout in two primaries and ignores sharply lower (by historical standards) turnout in numerous later contested Democratic primaries. Still, I have to agree that the odds are rising rapidly that this election will be a blowout one way or the other, as events in Iraq are drawing oxygen away from all other issues, and the public may well just decide either that Bush has screwed up or that Kerry can't be trusted. The fact that both candidates have been dropping in the polls recently seems to suggest that there are a lot of voters not too happy with how things are but not rushing to Bush.

Then again . . . suppose you had an employee (let's call him Joe), and you basically liked Joe and he did good work and you trusted him, but one morning he screwed up a big project. At lunch that day a colleague asks you, "how's Joe? Is he doing a good job?" You're probably not going to give Joe high marks.

But let's say instead that at lunch you meet your boss, and he says, "it's time for evaluations, and you have to decide which employees get bonuses and which ones get pink slips." Suddenly, you have to choose: do you really want to fire Joe? Of course not; you trust him and like him and he does good work, notwithstanding having that screwup on his record. Everybody makes mistakes, after all, and you can't be sure you'd get someone as good.

My point here is that when pollsters ask for job approval ratings, people are likely to vent about whatever good or bad is goinng on right this week - and they may not be thinking about the president's (or another public official's) overall record. And that's particularly true right now: there's been a lot of bad news from Iraq lately, especially the Abu Ghraib story, and it's not unreasonable for people to be unhappy with that news and express it to pollsters. But that's still rather a different thing than voting the president out of office.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Hmm. You weren't specific enough. Did Joe's screw-up cost the lives of 800 servicemen and $200+ billion taxdollars?

OF course, it's pretty generous to only keep the one screw-up in his file too...

Posted by: Mr Furious at May 27, 2004 02:26 AM

Hmmm...800 dead would've been a slow day for Saddam.

Posted by: John Salmon at May 27, 2004 03:40 AM

Ha ha, I can't believe you just compared Dubya and Iraq to Joe and a bonus!

Talk about Ad Hominem!

Posted by: C Giddy at May 27, 2004 11:09 AM

Giddy - I do not believe "Ad Hominem" means what you think it means.

Mr Furious - Yeah, I figured somebody would take that potshot. If people go to the polls genuinely believing the whole Iraq war was a disastrous mistake, they will in fact vote Bush out of office. I don't doubt that. The issue is that responses to polls tend to focus on what's happening this week - the prison abuse story, or the latest setback on the battlefield - and not the overall picture of the war.

Posted by: The Crank at May 27, 2004 11:23 AM

Of course I don't. I am not intelligent and I never really have a point. I just make snide remarks and use big words or phrases so that hopefully people will think that I know what I am talking about.

Your comment was Ad Hominem, and you are Ad Hominem! HA HA HA! TAKE THAT!

Posted by: C Giddy at May 27, 2004 11:39 AM

Great, now somebody is using my login name.

a) To the person using my login name, my use of the word "ad hominem" was actually a reference to the time that the Baseball Crank of coming in and making "ad hominem" remarks.

b) To the Crank, you're right, I don't believe my use of the word was reflective of how you had used it in your earlier post, nor is it reflective of how the phrase is generally used today.

But it is a phrase with multiple meanings, one of which is "an argument designed to appeal to the listener's emotions rather than to reason or logic."

I guess comparing Bush to an employee you might not want to fire is following a certain logic, but it seems to appeal to the emotions of the listener as well.

Either way, it was a cheap way for me to try to fit the word into a sentence. Which doesn't take away from the weakness of your comparison!

Posted by: C Giddy at May 27, 2004 02:18 PM

Yeah, I see that prior comment was from a different IP address.

Look, my point here was to explain why I think people respond one way to a poll and another way in the voting booth. Frankly, I wasn't making an argument at all, just offering an explanation as to why the job-approval polls of the moment don't necessarily reflect how people will vote on Bush's overall record or even his overall war record.

Posted by: The Crank at May 27, 2004 02:33 PM

The "employee" analogy is not a good one, for various reasons, but I'll just point out the most obvious -- the American electorate doesn't vote as an individual. Its a cumulative account. The only way to utilize the (rough) analogy of Joe is to discuss undecided voters. I think you understand that the vast majority of the disapproving polled know who they are voting for.

The point I wanted to throw out there is that this electorate already is polorized to the point that there's probably not enough room for Bush to catch up.

Of course John Kerry is about the most bland candidate the DNC could even invent; the only chance Bush really has to catch up is to attack Kerry, and its generally accepted that a sitting administration will lose if it can't win on its past policy.

Posted by: adw at May 27, 2004 02:41 PM

How about this for a take...

People are willing to say that they're not happy with Bush's handling of Iraq so far, but they're unwilling to go so far as say they'll get rid of the guy because to do so would be unpatriotic.

You've got an employee, John, he comes up to you and asks how safe his job is and you say "You know John, you really could be doing this, that and the other thing better but I wouldn't worry about canned."

Then you go and meet with your boss, he asks you if you think John should be canned and you reply "shit yeah."

Posted by: C Giddy at May 27, 2004 03:54 PM
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