Eve of the State of the Union

SOTU - as in "so to sum up my presidency"


After a post-election hiatus, we officially re-launch Sabatos Crystal Ball as the political planets align. The New Hampshire primary is exactly one year from today , and the 2005 presidential inauguration is just less than two years away. The Crystal Ball has been given a complete overhaul, making our critically acclaimed site even more visually appealing and interactive.

Included are sections on the 2003 gubernatorial races, as well as the 2004 races for president, Senate, House, and governor. Each section is packed with loads of information and commentary, along with a historical perspective. The presidential section includes features such as an analysis of the nomination process, the “3 keys to the presidency,” and detailed candidate profiles.

During the course of the next two years, we will be tracking the latest political developments and putting them into the broader context of our electoral tradition. So stay tuned, and keep an eye on the Crystal Ball!

Now down to business…

The 2004 Presidential Election in a Nutshell: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

That’s all there really is to any election for president involving an incumbent. It’s a simple referendum: Do people want to keep the president, or get rid of him? If the former, it doesn’t matter very much which candidate the opposition party nominates, because the challenger LOSES. If the latter, it doesn’t matter very much which candidate the opposition party nominates, because the challenger WINS. Remember that when the Democrats argue endlessly about which contender is best able to take on Bush.


(Yes, if the Democrats nominate a real dud say like the GOP did in California for governor in ’02 then even a damaged incumbent can win. The Crystal Ball bets the Dems will quickly eliminate the obvious duds from their field in early 2004. They remember 2000, and they want to avenge it.)

So how do voters decide the direction their thumbs should go? Simple again. The most important factor is the economy. (Are they better off in the pocketbook than they were, and is the economy clearly picking up?) A close second in these jittery days is war and peace, national security, and the war on terror. (Are they safer today than on Sept. 11, 2001, and are we at least making good progress in the war on terror?)

And finally, let’s not forget the third-place but still mentionable unmentionable… scandal. (Is there a big one, involving the incumbent administration? And are voters feeling better about the nation’s values and standards than they were four years ago?) Take a look at the last century’s presidential elections, and you’ll see just how predictive these three simple factors have been for incumbent presidents (and often, open seat contests too, though 2000 is an exception to this rule and just about every other one!)