The Comeback Is Launched

Drudge is headlining a Newsweek poll purporting to show that President Bush’s lead has completely disappeared in the wake of the drubbing he ostensibly took from John Kerry Thursday night. We knew this was coming; the media story line for the next 30 days is Kerry’s comeback, which has the effect of wiping the slate clean and avoiding discussion of how he got behind in the first place.
Is the comeback real? Rasmussen shows the President continuing to enjoy a three-point lead. Among his respondents, 6% say they changed their vote as a result of the debate–3% now voting for Kerry, 2% for Bush, and one percent now undecided.
The Democrats’ strategy is to dominate the mainstream media with headlines about Kerry’s big win and consequent comeback in the polls; they will portray momentum as being all on their side, with Kerry’s many campaign blunders forgotten. This will probably work to some degree. There will be a ripple effect as people read and talk about the debate, and read about Kerry’s comeback in the press. This will also set the stage for the next debate, in which the press will portray Bush as on the defensive, and maybe (depending on poll numbers yet to come) on the brink of collapse.
In short, neither the Kerry campaign nor the mainstream media are anywhere near ready to give up, nor should they be.
UPDATE: Reader Meg Kreikemeier points out that according to RealClearPolitics, Newsweek’s most recent poll included 345 Republicans, 364 Democrats and 278 independents. This compares to Newsweek’s published data for their most recent prior poll, which showed President Bush with a comfortable lead: 391 Republicans,
300 Democrats and 270 independents. Yes, if you drop 46 Republicans and add 64 Democrats, you will get considerably better results for the Democratic nominee. This is a good reminder of why poll data always need to be taken with a grain of salt, especially until you see the underlying data.
My point about the Newsweek poll, however, was not that it was right, but that it and others like it will be the basis for a media effort to give the Kerry campaign momentum going down the stretch.
HINDROCKET adds: Dafydd ab Hugh weighs in:

Bush was doing 9 points better than Kerry among their respective parties in the last poll, and he’s doing 9 points better than Kerry among their respective parties in this poll; and in addition, Kerry was up by 6 among independents last time but is only up by five this time. In absolute terms, Kerry lost support slightly in the new survey… but realistically, there was no statistical change whatsoever between the two.
But wait — then how did Bush drop from being up by 6 last time (49-93) to being down by 2 this time (45-47)? Very simply:
Newsweek’s sample had almost 41% Republicans last time but only 35% this time, and only 31% Democrats last time vs. 37% Democrats this time.
Thus are great nonsense-surges created…!
This tells me that because of polling method, the Newsweek poll is completely worthless and should henceforth be ignored. Yeesh.

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