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July 04, 2002

Betting on Bush's Defeat

Wow- the word "bet" just brings out the juices in the political junkie class. So here is the formal offer before I go into the political analysis of why Bush will lose in 2004.
...While I'd be happy to take even odds from friends, I figure there have to be some proud Bush defenders who think he is invincible (so the Kos is counted out for now). So testing the Blogosphere (since the Iowa electronic political market isn't operating yet), I'd like to try "auctioning" off a bet to anyone offering the best odds for their boy Bush. If fellow blogsters want to support this effort by advertising the offer (and this permalink below), it would be much appreciated. The bet will go to the person offering the best odds.

...Now, my political buddy Larry Kestenbaum thinks early bets are a bit crazy, but I have to admit to an almost reckless pride in my track record. In 1986 and 1994, I confidently predicted the party turnovers in the Senate. In 1986, I bet on Dukakis to get the nomination in 1988. And I bet on Clinton to get relected after the 1994 debacle. But my proudest prediction was betting on Bush Pere's demise the day we marched into Kuwait City, as he held at 90% approval ratings. I bet real money in summer 2000 on Gore losing the election, largely because some Nader folks were telling me the "objective" reasons why Gore would win, so Nader votes couldn't cause any harm.
...I somewhat buy the economic determinism arguments for how people vote, but only because shitty economics often is a proxy for other political disatisfactons. And the reason Bush will lose is that I think political incompetence kills a politician in the end. Bush is riding high on the terror war support, but then Carter got almost a year of flag waving support off of the hostage crisis. It'll fade. And what will be left by 2004 are $200 billion deficits, a rotten economy, and a world plunged into conflicts. As the campaign debates how to close the deficit, Bush will be left defending the remaining phase-in of tax cuts for the wealthy. Health care costs are escalating out of control again and Bush has no real plan to deal with it, much less the more basic fraud of GOP prescription drug proposals. Bush's achilles heel is that despite his popularity, people still think he favors the wealthy over average folks. As people feel betrayed by these corporate criminals, that will matter all the more.
...And the progressive forces are getting better every year at the ground game. Labor and the NAACP have been devoting less money to commercials and more to mobilizing volunteers and turnout. The GOP and business are trying to reorient themselves for the last "72 hours", but they just are weak on the troops. They have a money advantage (and McCain-Feingold won't help the Dems) but it won't be enough.
...As for the Dem side, it's hard to tell, although as I said, Kerry and Edwards are the most likely. And to answer Tom McGuire, I gave up on Gore back in 1988, the first time he ran for President. Gore is and remains a loser and the only reason he got the nomination is that no one but Bradley challenged him, and Bradley ran a piss-poor challenge. Gore won't have labor next time, which is the only thing that saved his ass in 2000. He had his chance-- in 2004, he'll be Walter Mondale without the constituency support.
...So let's see where the bet offers come in from.

Posted by Nathan at July 4, 2002 12:17 PM

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Hmmm... Will work up my bet offer sometime soon; best friend due into town in a couple of hours, but maybe Saturday or Sunday I'll publish. I've had a "Bush is inevitable" essay in the works for a long time, based primarily on my view that media bias kept the last election close enough for it to be stolen is still in place and an insuperable obstacle, especially for the less well funded (I speak more of general overall spending, including Think tanks and Fox News, not just campaign finance) Dems.

There are, to put it shortly, three possible variables, the first two of which would cause me to switch, the final two would just make things less Shrub leaning:

1) (unlikely) sex scandal -- one can only hope, if one is immature and vengeance seeking, as I am.
2) possible: as hinted at by Nick Kristof, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/02/opinion/02KRIS.html, and the American Prospect, http://www.prospect.org/print-friendly/webfeatures/2002/06/rozen-l-06-27.html, a Coleen Rawley concerning a (it may or may not exist -- I don't know -- but it's POSSIBLE) coverup re anthrax.

3) MCCain becoming an independent might cause media to rethink reflexive pro-GOP on the all-important third prong of domestic politics, "personality and procedure." (the other two are "sociocultural," where mainstream major media leans left, and "economic," where it leans strongly right).
4) Dems sweep Congress (they WILL hold Senate, due to Chafee and McCain reservoir) and aggressively pass "wedge legislation" that embarasses Shrub.

BTW, Nathan,we agree, don't we, that Gore actually WON the last election, or else the butterfly and caterpillar ballots, overseas post-election day ballots, etc. . . were factored into your predictions?

Posted by: Jeff at July 3, 2002 06:55 PM

Your track record of handicapping elections is certainly commendable. However, there is one small problem with your bravado: Gore WON the popular vote by a margin of 600,000, and would have won the electoral vote if it wasn't for those meddling kids, I mean Justices. Certainly, the Nader candidacy siphoned off crucial votes from the Gore campaign, as you mention. Nevertheless, Gore DID end up beating Bush in the 2000 election, so I think your prognosticating prowess is somewhat overstated. With regards to 2004, you have entirely discounted the possibility of Bush PROLONGING the war on terrorism for maximum political advantage. Too cynical, you say? Not when Karl Rove is running the show.

Posted by: Yuval Rubinstein at July 3, 2002 06:59 PM

Prolonging the war can only help so much. Recent polls show that the public is increasingly disenchanted with the war, and the prevailing sentiment is that we are not winning it. That's not good for a president who's entire worth is wound up in the war.

I do feel the media will turn on Bush. After 4 years of dealing with Ari Fleischer, the White House press corps will do their best to ensure they don't have to endure it 4 more years. Heck, the Harken issue shows that they are now more willing to challenge the president than ever before. The rest of the press, as always, will follow the White House press corps lead.

I'm not only willing to predict a Bush loss, but a blowout loss, especially if the Dems nominate a southern Democrat like Edwards or Barnes. That's assuming we don't get hit by another attack or other unforseen disaster or scandal. Or a miraculous economic recovery.

Posted by: Kos at July 3, 2002 11:02 PM

So you tossed out Bush I the day we marched into Kuwait City? About a week later I predicted that within six weeks, he would have this war turned around and looking like a disaster. Bush obliged by getting Kurd refugees on the cover of Time. I had to wait until his laughable State of the Union in '91 with its clarion call for banking reform to declare him "out" in '92.

Kaus piles some dirt on Gore's grave today. But I'm telling you - its night of the living dead for the Dems in '04.

Even money sounds like it has some takers here. Let's go.


Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 4, 2002 12:12 AM

I'll bet ya, but I'm no chimpco supporter. I can list a whole litany of reasons why it is very unlikely for any Dem to win, but to phrase it in an easier way: the chimp has done nothing to lose a single state he won in 2000 and will not do so before the next election. We'll see how the odds shake up and perhaps I'll raise them from that point.

Posted by: jdw at July 5, 2002 06:33 PM

I'll contradict you on one detail: GWB won Nevada in 2000, but his flip-flop on Yucca Mountain makes it likely that he'll lose it in 2004.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 6, 2002 11:54 AM

Bush also carried a handful of states, Like Ohio and West Virginia on so-called "social" issues. But he did that while the economy was still humming along. That is no longer the case, and if stays that way (as is possible. A "jobless" recovery doesn't feel like a recovery to most people), then I think those states are, at least, back in play. The of course, there is Florida.

BTW - my money is on Howard Dean in 2004.

Posted by: kevin at July 6, 2002 12:58 PM

Matt & Kevin,

I had forgotten about Nevada, but I believe that I have read since then that the whole Dem apparatus in that state is in shambles...so I wouldn't count on them to help carry the state.

As for Ohio: I live here, and it's strongly in gop control...right down to the media. Goopers are held accountable for no failures.

As for the economy: voters have said that the reason for the poor economy is due to 911 and not any policy or lack thereof of chimpco. One reason that BC was able to capitalize in '92 was that Bush sr wouldn't acknowldedge the voter's economic 'pain'...something that his son won't make the mistake of conveying...he's already done the 'feeling your pain' tours.

The wild card in 2004 will be the effect of another nadir run. One reason why the chimpco was able to take states like WV and Ohio wasn't just social hotbutton issues, but due to the fact that gore had to spend so much in terms of resources to 'win'(narrowly) in states that should have been a shoe-in but weren't due to the nadirite drain. For instance, Gore appeared in Ohio only once, while he was in OR, WA, MN, WI countless times....leaving no time and money for the battleground states like Ohio and WV. Bush will only have to hold in a few states, and the Dem will be forced to expend much more effort.

Posted by: jdw at July 6, 2002 02:51 PM

Now, boys and girls, can we forget about Florida? Bush has made some nice moves on the environment down there, but health care and deficit fears about social security will kill him by 2004. And continued latino gains in population and registration will move Arizona and even a few southern states into more serious contention for the Dems.

Posted by: Nathan at July 7, 2002 07:17 AM

re Florida: I see 2000 as the practice run for Florida election corruption. In 2004 they'll have all the bugs worked out. Let me know what you have in mind for a bet, Nathan...I'm hoping to lose, but fear I won't. :(

Posted by: jdw at July 7, 2002 12:41 PM

If there was a credible Democrat, Bush would be in trouble. But the issue isn't Bush's weaknesses (which are real), but the complete absence of a meaningful Democratic contender. Wouldn't even have to be a compelling Democrat...just someone you could picture in the White House without embarassment.

Like boxing, I believe that in politics the natural decision is for the current titleholder.


Posted by: Armed Liberal at July 7, 2002 01:30 PM

Armed:"If there was a credible Democrat, Bush would be in trouble. But the issue isn't Bush's weaknesses (which are real), but the complete absence of a meaningful Democratic contender."

Really? Are you saying that there are no Dems that possess the stellar lifetime accomplishments of GWB prior to his run for POTUS? talk about setting the bar loooooow...
ps...Love your blog...and also, Nathan...if you're so sure, why should I give you odds?

Posted by: jdw at July 7, 2002 04:04 PM

The current on-deck group of Dems compares pretty well with a lot of years, at least with basic expectations. John Kerrey has megabucks, an impressive war record (useful now), and a solid Senate career. Edwards has charisma, he's from the South, and was a populist trial lawyer (a suddenly good asset as we litigate against corporate greed). Dean is a popular Governor with good record on health care. And so on to the next round of the bench.

Think back in history -- Truman was considered decidely unimpressive as a candidate even as an incumbent in 1948; JFK was really considered a lightweight going into 1960; LBJ was probably the heaviest hitter in the post-war period as incumbent in 1964 (and won accordingly); no one expected Jimmy Carter as an obscure Georgia governor to take it in 1976; and Clinton was hardly considered the stuff of political legend at this point in 1990.

We'll see if Edwards/Kerrey/Dean et al stand up over time, but as a start they aren't a bad crop.

Posted by: Nathan at July 7, 2002 07:08 PM

Small point: Clinton in 1988 was given the opportunity to nominate Dukakis at the Dem convention -- an opportunity he famously flubbed with the only political speech as boring as high school physics -- because he was a well known rising star/DLC heavyweight.

And while I too like Kerry and Dean, in that order, and acknowledge Edwards' strengths, I actually would like to see Bradley run. As I explain in a comment in Nathan's follow up box, contemporary campaigns revolve around perceptions of character, and Bill Bradley is held in AWE by the star struck press.

This is a very odd view for me to hold because, as I'll explicate at greater length at some point, while I'm very angry at Nader, Bradley is far more responsible for Gore's narrow margin of actual victory. Running a Quixotic race against an incumbent because he kicked himself for sitting out 1992, Bradley challenged the surefire nominee and made possible a nasty race in which Gore's confessedly unfair attacks turned the media from negative to nasty against Gore. The importance of being unchallenged in a primary is well understood from even a quiock glance at history. See also Buchanan/Bush 1992, Kennedy/Carter 1980, Reagan/Ford 1976, Dems/1968. . . . (arguably but see 1988, but distinguishable)

Posted by: Jeff at July 7, 2002 10:14 PM

It's true that Clinton was a rising star but then so is Edwards, probably more so. My point was not that Clinton was so marginal but just that people always act as if the crop of candidates stink. Roosevelt in 1932 was not considered such the heavyweight.

Posted by: Nathan at July 8, 2002 02:11 PM

AL and Nathan:

I think the very fact that you have been nominated makes you a serious candidate, in the press's mind. They have to give you time and attention, and while they do not have to be nice to you, the fact that you are on TV all the time gives you a certain credibility, in this culture. Add to that the existance of a small sub set of the press that are naturally contrarian, and you are almost guaranteed positive remarks about your fitness - even if only so some writer can prove the CW wrong. wrong.

Posted by: kevin at July 8, 2002 11:24 PM

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