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Sabato’s Crystal Ball

Sabato’s Three Laws of Political Motion”

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Now that John Kerry has won clear victories in Tennessee and Virginia, on top of his resounding triumphs over the weekend in Michigan, Washington State, and Maine, the junior U.S. senator from Massachusetts is the presidential nominee-presumptive of the Democratic Party. Yes, he could make a terrible gaffe, or there could be some gigantic expose from the news media, or we might see a little buyer’s remorse down the road that costs him a state or two. But it would take a lot to deny him the nomination – so much that even the remaining candidates are having a difficult time making their case without looking for all the world like yesterday’s news or a ripe target for the late-night comedy shows. So here we are with a Bush-Kerry race, and this is what the Crystal Ball believes to be true: Motion, Rest, and the Outside Force: BUSH IS IN REAL TROUBLE. It’s difficult to say exactly how much trouble, but the lack of weapons of mass destruction, the continuing deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq, the shaky and relatively jobless recovery, and all the rest of the president’s ills have put this Bush behind the eight-ball going into his

Larry J. Sabato

The Mesmerizing Dance of “Mr. Mo Mentum”

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With John Kerry’s big victories tonight in five of the seven states on Groundhog Tuesday (name courtesy of The Hotline), we are struck again by the amazing power of winning to beget more winning. A few weeks ago, Kerry had only shadow organizations in most of these states and was barely registering in their public opinion polls. Then came Kerry’s big victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. Suddenly, the blessing of Mr. Mo Mentum – an endorsement far more powerful than Al Gore or Bill Bradley – added one or two or three dozen percentage points almost everywhere, as tens of thousands of people began to see virtues in John Kerry they had never noticed before. Kerry’s friend ‘Mo’ gives us insight into three facets of our politics: One of the great social myths of American life is that Americans root for the underdog. Balderdash! AMERICANS LOVE WINNERS, and the 2004 Democratic primaries prove it so far. The big lie of the underdog is dead; long live the winners. Speaking of six-feet-under, John Kerry was as dead as the proverbial doornail in 2003 after he lost his frontrunner status, faded even in his own backyard, and fired his campaign manager.

Larry J. Sabato

HATE: The Common DEMnominator

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For those of us old enough to remember the long and winding career of Richard Nixon, a strange parallel is beginning to emerge. Presidents are almost always disliked by members of the other major political party, but in American history only a few are truly hated by a large number of their partisan adversaries. In the past half-century, only two Presidents have been deeply loathed by the other party: Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Bill Clinton. Democrats didn’t just want Nixon to lose, they wanted him banished, humiliated, and impeached. Republicans didn’t just want Clinton to lose, they wanted him banished, humiliated, and impeached. Nixon and Clinton were detested, not respected; nothing they did or could do would ever be recognized as having redeeming value by the opposition. No one yet has seriously mentioned impeachment for George W. Bush, but he has won admittance to the Nixon-Clinton category of hated presidents. The Crystal Ball happens to believe this is not fair, not wise, and not good for the nation. But it occurs from time to time because politics, and the international and domestic policy choices of presidents, stir strong emotions. More importantly, certain presidents have personal characteristics that inflame the

Larry J. Sabato

Iowa: The Instant Analysis

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In the wee hours of Jan. 20, 2004, one year to Inauguration Day… After a three year build-up, the results are in, and friends, it’s a whole new campaign! Turnout total: early estimates near 125,000 So what does it mean? KERRY = COMEBACK KID John Kerry has earned the 2004 title of “The Comeback Kid,” and if the movement to him continues, he will rival Richard Nixon’s resurrection in the 1960s and Bill Clinton’s rebirth in 1992. Kerry has always looked most like a president of those in the Democratic field, but serendipity played a role here. The public reunion of the Vietnam veteran and the senator who saved his life was completely unplanned, but more electrifying than anything that happened in the last week. EDWARDS = MOVING ON UP John Edwards has almost as much reason to be pleased. Having finally caught a break with the endorsement of the Des Moines Register – a liberal paper read carefully by Democrats – Edwards became a phenomenon in the last week. Finally, the best campaigner of the post-Clinton Democratic generation has drawn the spotlight so that he can demonstrate his considerable skills. DEAN = GOODBYE TO FRONTRUNNER STATUS The Dean showing

Larry J. Sabato and the Crystal Ball Team

So Who’ll Be the Veep?

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We know, we know. The Democrats haven’t even selected their presidential nominee yet, and already the Crystal Ball is speculating wildly about THE VEEP PICK. But please consider two points in our defense. First, our presidential ratings haven’t changed very much from last month (Howard Dean still well in front – the probable though NOT certain Democratic nominee; and Republican George W. Bush the likely though NOT certain November winner). Second, political analysts are genetically hot-wired to focus on THE NEXT BIG THING. So it’s not our fault, see? Whether those two arguments hold water or not, let’s proceed. With Dick Cheney the GOP’s No. 2 again, barring health problems, only the Democrats have a “contest” – conducted almost entirely in the presidential nominee’s mind. Therefore we must mind-read. Assuming the Democratic standard-bearer is Howard Dean (a big assumption), who will be on his short list? Before we start mentioning specific individuals, the Crystal Ball wants to examine what Dean’s running-mate should look like as a biography, at least ideally: REGION: Not from the Northeast or the West Coast. If Dean can’t carry these two areas on his own, he’s in big trouble. Someone from the South, Southwest, or Midwest

Larry J. Sabato

John Kerry

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In the spring of 2003, many Democratic party insiders, when forced to name the “real” frontrunner, picked John Kerry. It’s obvious why. He’s fairly experienced (on his fourth Senate term), a Vietnam vet, matinee-idol handsome, and policy polished. Did we mention fabulously wealthy, thanks to his second marriage to Teresa Heinz (who, just in time for campaign season, decided to “Bill” herself as Hillary Rodham Clinton…er, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to appeal to more traditional voters)? However, there were nagging doubts about Kerry. He wants to be the new John F. Kennedy, whose hair, state, and initials he shares. Others fear that he will simply be the new Michael Dukakis, under whom Kerry served as lieutenant governor in the early 1980’s. The primary/caucus season witnessed Kerry’s resurgence, and his ascent to the frontrunner position and now finally the nominee. For more on the developing Bush-Kerry race, check out the E-Mail Updates section. Biography John Kerry ran for Congress in 1972, but lost in a district carried by George McGovern. Following the defeat, he graduated from law school at Boston College and worked as a prosecutor. In 1984, after winning election as Lieutenant Governor in 1982 (Mike Dukakis’s runningmate), Kerry was elected

UVA Center for Politics

George W. Bush

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President Bush is currently unopposed for the GOP nomination. Biography George W. Bush was sworn into office January 20, 2001, after a hotly contested race for the White House in 2000. He grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas, received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, then served in the Texas Air National Guard. President Bush received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1975. After beginning a career in the energy business, he worked on his father’s 1988 presidential campaign and then assembled the group that purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989. >He served as managing general partner of the Texas Rangers until he was elected Governor in 1994.

UVA Center for Politics

The Four North Stars of Presidential Politics

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The past few months have been eventful and significant in the race for the White House. For George W. Bush, every indicator of political success except Iraq has been looking up. Just glance at these widely acknowledged Four North Stars of Presidential Politics: ECONOMY Almost all measures suggest the economy is now improving, perhaps even booming. The lagging indicator continues to be lost jobs in the millions – which gives Democrats hope for ’04. However, Democrats must be worried that the economy’s track appears very similar so far to 1983-84, when Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign got a tremendous boost from a strongly recovering economy. Add to this the recently passed MEDICARE package for prescription drugs for senior citizens. At the very least this takes a big issue away from the Democrats. Moreover, it gives President Bush a lot to crow about among the largest-turnout voting age bloc. WAR AND PEACE The one very dark cloud shadowing Bush’s reelection prospects: Iraq and its terrible toll in death and terror, could easily turn into the focus of the ’04 campaign. The unpopular wars of Korea in 1952 and Vietnam in 1968 essentially ended the presidencies of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, neither

Larry J. Sabato

Executive Decision

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The Democratic Crystal Ball Formula Candidate debates? So far, they’ve been sound and fury, signifying nothing. The real campaign is a set of very different numbers, and the Crystal Ball has crunched them. Your Crystal Ball has been studying history for decades, and puzzling over the current race for president on the Democratic side since the contest began about a year ago. So who’s ahead and likely to win the nomination? Two key questions must be answered first: (1) Which campaign factors are predictive? (2) How much does each factor matter? UPDATED DECEMBER 2, 2003: Howard Dean has widened his substantial lead a bit, mainly because John Kerry has dropped in both New Hampshire and Iowa. Dick Gephardt now claims an undisputed second place. John Edwards has moved up slightly to tie Wesley Clark. All other candidates remain in the same position. Last month the Crystal Ball unveiled its formula for predicting the eventual nominee, THE THEORY OF POLITICAL RELATIVITY… The DEMOCRATIC CRYSTAL BALL FORMULA – V=MP2 (Victory = Money times Polls and People squared) ORIGINIAL ANALYSIS, NOVEMBER 3, 2003: Candidate debates? So far, they’ve been sound and fury, signifying nothing. The real campaign is a set of very different

Larry J. Sabato

Competition vs. Division

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Bush Popularity Dive Several recent national surveys have had President Bush slipping to his all-time job-approval low, such as the CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll released Sep. 22 that had Bush at just the 50 percent approval level. Is this unusual, a product of the lagging employment rate and the disaster in Iraq? The Crystal Ball tries to think more broadly than the day-to-day headlines, because the grand sweep of history is often cyclical. Please see our January 2003 e-mail, where we predicted Bush’s numbers would take a tumble. Why? Because every president since Lyndon Johnson has had the same trouble in the third year of his first (or only) term. In general, presidential promises catch up to the governing realities sometime in the third year. Some chief executives pull out of the tailspin (Nixon, Reagan, Clinton) and win reelection, while others do not and never get a second term (LBJ, Ford, Carter, Bush Sr.). Democrats: Competition is fine, but divisiveness spells defeat With a full complement of 10 candidates, Democrats are now ready to take to the track for the nomination sprint. Everyone knows that money, organization, and ideology help produce the nominee. And all readers of the Crystal Ball know

Larry J. Sabato

Labor Day – One Year Out

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As we look to the final year of this eternal presidential election, the Crystal Ball gets right down to it. The Democratic field has already sorted itself out, and while that field will almost certainly reconstitute itself in various permutations between now and the determination of the nomination in February or March 2004, this is the order of likely Democratic nominees-to-be as of Labor Day 2003: Howard Dean Tie: Richard Gephardt/John Kerry Joe Lieberman John Edwards Bob Graham Dennis Kucinich Carol Moseley Braun Al Sharpton When the story of the 2004 campaign is written, Howard Dean will be the phenomenon, even if he does not get the nomination – much as John McCain was the best story of the 2000 campaign for president. Dean has come from nowhere, much as Jimmy Carter did in 1976 and Bill Clinton did (to a lesser degree) in 1992. The electricity surrounding Dean is now so intense that it will take major breaks for another candidate to snatch the prize from the Vermont governor. This is not to say that it cannot be done. Dean is devilishly divisive, with his supporters seeing him as the second coming of Josiah Bartlet, and to his critics

Larry J. Sabato

The D.C. Primary – An Ignored Piece of the Puzzle

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Thanks to some very sharp and persuasive Crystal Ball readers – especially Chuck Thies, Sean Tenner, and John Capozzi – we have been encouraged to think through the implications of the D.C. primary, scheduled on Jan. 13, 2004, before Iowa (Jan. 19) and New Hampshire (Jan. 27). Of course, we all should remember why D.C. placed its primary first: to bring attention to the District’s lack of voting representation in the U.S. Congress. (Yes, the able, talented Eleanor Holmes Norton is an elected delegate to the U.S. House, but she can vote only in committee, not on the floor; and D.C. has no representation in the Senate.) But let’s leave that goal and argument aside for the moment, and look simply at the political implications. Journalists and commentators have mainly ignored, or lightly reviewed, the possibilities created by D.C.’s leading the presidential nominating parade in 2004. (Your Crystal Ball has been just as guilty.) No anti-D.C. bias explains this, at least mainly; rather, the punditocracy is a creature of habit. Iowa and New Hampshire have cleverly duopolized the nomination lead-off since 1972, and they have beaten back all attempts to dethrone their extra-constitutional status. (After many trips to both states,

Larry J. Sabato

The Old College Try: Republican-Style

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In the June 2003 Crystal Ball, we manipulated the Electoral College to find a way for Democrats to compete, and potentially win, in November 2004. In this month’s Crystal Ball musing, we turn the tables. How should George W. Bush approach his old friend, the Electoral College? The president has not forgotten that the College – and the Supreme Court – handed him the Oval Office, despite a popular vote deficit of almost 540,000 votes. And to be sure, Bush, Karl Rove and company are carefully examining every potential combination of states to deliver a second term, with or without a popular plurality. The White House does not share its calculations with us, alas, but the Crystal Ball will attempt to conjure up the best formula for a Bush re-election strategy. With political science as our training, it will surprise few readers that we’ll approach this task using a statistical twist. The easy, and somewhat misleading, way to accomplish our goal would be simply to look at the 2000 election numbers to see where Bush was strong, weak, and on the margin. Naturally, that has to a part of the process, but it ignores the fact that all states evolve

Larry J. Sabato

The Old College Try

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With less than 18 months to go before Election Day 2004, what does the Electoral College picture look like? Wait, you say. How could even the Crystal Ball pretend to have a fix on electoral votes this far out? The answer is simple: Because of the polarization of the Red and the Blue. As we argued in Overtime: The Election 2000 Thriller, hot-button social issues such as abortion, guns, and gay rights have separated the American states into Blue “Tolerant America” and Red “Traditional America.” And this polarization gives every sign of persisting. As we showed in our new book, Midterm Madness: The 2002 Elections, the Bush and anti-Bush coalitions continue to drive current American politics. Is it possible that a strong economic recovery, among other factors, could produce a Bush reelection landslide in 2004? Yes, but such an event would not obliterate the Red and the Blue, merely override those tendencies for one election season. Similarly, a double-dip recession might enable the Democratic nominee to capture several Red states and the presidency, yet the underlying split would persist. These scenarios aside, let’s assume a middle ground set-up for 2004, a soggy but not disastrous economy (no new recession) plus

Larry J. Sabato

The Home State Hurdle

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As 2004 approaches, Democrats have plenty of factors to consider as they choose a nominee to take on President Bush. Surely, one of these is to avoid repeating the most embarrassing aspect of election night 2000. No, not the razor-thin loss in Florida, but Al Gore’s solid defeat in his own home state of Tennessee. Most observers would concede that the home folks know a politician best – and if they will not back a presidential candidate, why should the rest of us? Similarly, if a vice-presidential nominee cannot carry his or her home state, what good is the candidate to the party ticket? History’s Lessons Let’s first take a look at the lessons taught by the 26 presidential elections from 1900-2000. Table 1 summarizes the successes and the failures of the major-party nominees in carrying their home states in the general elections over the past century. As it turns out, Gore’s record is not all that unusual in American history. There is a clear difference between the America of 1900-1944, and the post-World War II United States. Simply put, candidates for president and vice president were far more likely to lose their home states in the earlier period-incredibly, nearly

Larry J. Sabato

Review of War and Post World War II Presidents

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Year President War Political Effect 1950 Truman Korea The unpopularity of this war, including Truman’s firing of Gen. MacArthur, contributed to Truman’s not seeking a second full elective term in 1952. 1952 Eisenhower Korea “I will go to Korea,” said Eisenhower during the ’52 campaign, and the natural public confidence in the former WWII Supreme Allied Commander helped to insure his landslide victory at the polls. 1953 Eisenhower Cold War Ike ended the hot part of the Korean War, and for his entire two-term presidency he was seen as having the stature to deal with the Soviet Union and the ‘Red’ Chinese. Vice President Nixon benefited from his own wide experience in foreign affairs to assume Ike’s mantle as the GOP nominee in 1960. 1960 JFK Cold War The ’60 race was closer in some ways than even the 2000 contest, and most of the key issues involved the Cold War: the JFK-alleged “missile gap,” the islands off China named Quemoy and Matsu, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev‘s aggressive posture toward the U.S.A. Democrats sometimes forget that JFK won a squeaker thanks to the first televised presidential debates by appearing to be an even tougher Cold Warrior than Nixon. (Doubters

UVA Center for Politics

War! Good God Y’all, What’s it Good For?

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Now that the war phase of the Iraq operation is winding down, it’s time for the Crystal Ball to return and assess the damage. Not damage on the ground, but the damage – or the boost – to various presidential candidates’ chances. First, the DEMOCRATS. Let’s remember how the last successful Democratic nominee handled a similar war. In 1991 Bill Clinton uttered this marvelously ambiguous, pre-“the meaning of is” statement about the congressional debate for authorization of the Persian Gulf War: “I guess I would have voted with the majority [for the war] if it was a close vote. But I agree with the argument that the minority made [against the war].” In other words, in true Clintonian fashion he managed glibly to avoid antagonizing either side, while giving both sides hope that he was secretly one of them. The Democrats for 2004 fall into three categories: PRO-WAR: John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman. ANTI-WAR: Howard Dean, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, Al Sharpton. CLINTONIAN: John Kerry. The party activists are heavily anti-war, and this fact has been propelling Dean in particular. Yet it is possible that by Iowa caucus time, Democrats will be focused on domestic issues

Larry J. Sabato

Third Year Testing

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Julius Caesar was warned: “Beware the Ides of March.” Our modern presidents should be warned: “Beware the third year.” Why, that’s the presidential year George W. Bush has just begun! The third year is among the times that try presidents’ souls. Take a look at our new analysis of the Gallup Poll trends for presidents since Lyndon B. Johnson… Take a look at the Gallup Poll trends (above) for Presidents since Lyndon B. Johnson (with Gerald Ford, who didn’t have a full third year, excluded.) Johnson: Year 3, 1966, was LBJ’s turning point. Vietnam and domestic problems eroded his public backing from the 70s to the 40s by the third year. Johnson never made a comeback and was all but forced from office in 1968. Nixon: Year 3, 1971, was arguably the genesis of Nixon’s Waterloo. President Nixon fell below 50 percent for the first time and was losing to major Democrats in the 1972 horserace match-ups. The dawn of much of Watergate’s shenanigans can be found in the White House’s 1971 panic. Nixon’s landslide ’72 reelection merely obscured his approaching fate. Carter: Year 3, 1979, was the real beginning of Carter’s collapse, and he ended the first half of

Larry J. Sabato

Eve of the State of the Union

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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

Larry J. Sabato

Huckabee-Clinton Test Chart

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Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee are not only the most famous natives of Hope, Arkansas, but they have made similar climbs up the state’s political ladder. Each lost their first bid for public office and each served multiple terms as governor before making their first run for president. An asterisk (*) indicates a special election; a pound sign (#) denotes Huckabee’s present age. (He was born on Aug. 24, 1955, almost nine years after Bill Clinton.) BILL CLINTON MIKE HUCKABEE Election Age at Election Office Sought Election Outcome Election Age at Election Office Sought Election Outcome 1974 28 U.S. House Lost 1992 37 U.S. Senator Lost 1976 30 AR Attorney General Won 1993* 38 AR Lt. Governor Won 1978 32 AR Governor Won 1998 43 AR Governor Won 1980 34 AR Governor Lost 2002 47 AR Governor Won 1982 36 AR Governor Won 2008 52# President ? 1984 38 AR Governor Won 1986 40 AR Governor Won 1990 44 AR Governor Won 1992 46 President Won 1996 50 President Won Source: CQ’s Politics in America (CQ Press).

Rhodes Cook