What Kerry needs to do


Geraldine Sealey
September 29, 2004 7:11PM (UTC)

The latest Democracy Corps memo from Democratic strategists/pollsters Stan Greenberg and Matt Hogan (via Political Wire) puts a positive spin on a trend that is worrisome for John Kerry. "On the eve of the debates," the pollsters say, "John Kerry and the Democrats are rich with targets that could be consolidated or persuaded, despite the intense polarization of the presidential election."

Among these "targets," however, are voters John Kerry should have a lock on already. The bad news, the pollsters say, is that Kerry has yet to "consolidate" traditionally Democratic-leaning voters who should be in his column in even stronger percentages. The "good news," though, is that Kerry has room to gain ground in the polls if he can do better wih these voters. From the memo:

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"One reason why Kerry is likely to make gains after the debate is the unconsolidated vote of a number of groups that are important to the Democratic base. All these groups are supporting Kerry with good margins, but they could do better given historic performance and their own current party inclinations and feelings about Bush. The reasons vary by group: some, like African Americans, are simply looking for a more intense engagement with Bush and stronger focus on domestic issues; others, like the college educated women, are looking for a broader issue discussion, as well as a plan for Iraq and a greater sense of conviction from Kerry; and finally, the union households want engagement and economic issues but also greater evidence of personal strength and resolve against the terrorists."

"White single women (14 percent). Women on their own -- single, divorced and widowed -- still hold great potential for Democrats. Kerry is already winning them by 11 points (51 to 40 percent), but they are desperate for an election about the issues facing these economically vulnerable women: an astonishing 58 percent want to move in a significantly different direction. They are strongly against the Iraq war and want to see action on health care.

"Well-educated white women (16 percent). The biggest drop off in support after the Democratic conventions has come with white college educated women -- from a 13-point lead down to a single point deficit. The drop was even more true for women with a post-graduate degree. The latter are still giving Kerry a big lead (26 points), but Kerry's vote dropped from 66 to 58 percent. But these college educated voters are strong change voters (by 8 points) and align with the Democrats (by 6). Kerry can make important gains here. These voters strongly oppose the Iraq war, think the middle class is squeezed, and care about health care and education.

"White union households (17 percent). In September, Kerry was carrying these voters by 9 points (50 to 41 percent), but that trails their party alignment by 6 points and their desire for change by even more: 59 percent want to go in a significantly different direction. These voters are deeply upset about the economy, and also Iraq, but they are less certain of Kerry's strength.

"African Americans (10 percent). Kerry is getting 82 percent of the vote and their interest in the election is very high. They will no doubt respond strongly to the engaged campaign that takes up domestic, as well as international issues."

The memo concludes: "This is an unusual landscape of opportunity because of the course the race has taken and Kerry's difficulties in fully consolidating Democratically inclined groups. The bad news is those patterns have kept Kerry a few points behind Bush in the race. The good news is that Democrats are clearly underperforming and can make gains in the race, and indeed win."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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