Burying the Kerry "Bounce" - August 3, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for August 3, 2004

Burying the Kerry "Bounce"

After a Democratic convention that delivered a historically small bounce for John Kerry's campaign, the headline to Adam Nagourney's "Polls Show Tight Race With a Few Gains for Kerry" accentuates the positive.

Nagourney's text keeps things upbeat as well: "Senator John Kerry emerged from a high-profile month in which he announced a running mate and accepted the Democratic Party's presidential nomination with little overall change in his tight race against President Bush, according to weekend polls. But Mr. Kerry apparently succeeded in raising his standing over Mr. Bush on issues of critical concern to voters, including Iraq and the economy, the polls found."

He does note later: "Three surveys conducted since Mr. Kerry accepted the nomination on Thursday in Boston found that the contest between him and Mr. Bush remained, as measured as a head-to-head contest, little different from when Mr. Kerry chose John Edwards as his vice-presidential running mate, an announcement that marked the start of three weeks of unrivaled attention and largely favorable news coverage. The two presidential candidates were either tied or Mr. Kerry had a slight lead. It was the smallest postconvention bounce enjoyed by any challenger since George McGovern was nominated in the middle of the night by a divided Democratic Party in Miami in 1972, said Frank Newport, the editor in chief of the Gallup Poll."

Nagourney dug for possible explanations: "Pollsters said such little movement after the extravaganza of a convention and a vice-presidential selection underlined how tight and frozen the contest was, and suggested an electorate that had largely made up its mind and was resistant to the kind of gyrations typical in most presidential campaigns. Some pollsters said that in this environment, slight shifts in voter sentiment that could prove significant on Election Day might not be picked up in national polls. The pollsters also said voter opinions of Mr. Kerry's qualifications had improved markedly."

Only later does Nagourney suggest the candidate himself may be the problem: "The polling results could fan questions about Mr. Kerry's recent strategic decisions, like a convention speech that was heavier on attacks on Mr. Bush than new proposals, and the military salute he offered to the delegates, a gesture that many Democrats have called either gutsy or contrived."

(Last Thursday, Nagourney was praising the convention's "unusual display of coherence and harmony.")

He argues: "Indeed, with one critical exception-protecting Americans from terrorism, where Mr. Bush continues to enjoy a huge advantage over Mr. Kerry-the underlying trends pollsters look for at this point in a campaign suggest potential for Mr. Kerry and problems for the president."

Nagourney gives the Kerry campaign the last word: "Mr. Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, said the fact that Mr. Kerry was leading Mr. Bush at least in some polls, albeit by a tiny margin, was heartening. 'We're leading the president coming out of the convention and there are only three challengers in that position and they all won,' Ms. Cahill said. 'The White House can say whatever they want about this. We've had a very good convention.'"

For the rest of Nagourney on Kerry's "bounce," click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Democratic Convention | Gaffes | Sen. John Kerry | Polls

One Post-Convention Poll Finding the NYT Likes

"Republicans are fighting back to retain the allegiance of the country's veterans, a large and highly symbolic constituency their party had considered a reliable part of its base," David Kirkpatrick claims in a Tuesday story headlined "Kerry's Pitch to Veterans Meets G.O.P. Counterattack." The subhead proclaims: "Democratic Push Makes Big Inroads," a reference to a CBS News poll cited by Kirkpatrick showing Kerry gaining among veterans.

It's interesting how the Times headline writers play up a segment of a poll unfavorable to Bush-yet the headline to a front-page story on Kerry ignores the anemic "bounce" he got in several polls after the Democratic convention. In fact, the paper's front-page headline actually spins the poor polling results as good news for Kerry: "Polls Show Tight Race With a Few Gains for Kerry."

Kirkpatrick insists Republicans are worried about Kerry's appeal to veterans: "To outdo the Democrats' roster of a dozen retired generals and admirals who endorsed Mr. Kerry, the Republicans now plan a list of more than a hundred who will pledge support to the president, Bush campaign aides say. A group of Republican members of Congress led by Representative Jeff Miller of Florida was so worried about the Democratic appeals that in late July they began circulating a draft letter to the Republican national chairman, Ed Gillespie, urging the party to give veterans a prominent place at the convention. The draft was abandoned, a spokesman for Mr. Miller said, after Republican planners assured the lawmakers that veterans would play a prominent role, including a prime-time speech by Senator John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam."

Then Kirkpatrick cites the CBS poll findings that delighted the headline writer: "In fact, the Democrats' gathering in Boston appears to have helped Mr. Kerry pull even with the president for the first time among veterans who are registered voters, a CBS News poll issued yesterday suggests. After the convention, 48 percent of them favored Mr. Kerry, and 47 percent Mr. Bush. In June, Mr. Kerry trailed Mr. Bush among veterans by 15 percentage points, and by mid-July he had narrowed the gap to six."

For the rest of Kirkpatrick on appealing to veterans, click here.

" Campaign 2004 | Dick Cheney | Headlines | Sen. John Kerry | Polls | David Kirkpatrick | Veterans

Socialist China Replaced by "Cutthroat Society"

"Amid China's Boom, No Helping Hand for Young Qingming," Sunday's front-page story by Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley on the turmoil in modern-day China, focuses on a tragic young suicide, using his death as a metaphor for the "money-centered, cutthroat society that has replaced socialist China." And a rather tasteless metaphor at that, as you'll see.

"His dying debt was $80. Had he been among China's urban elite, Zheng Qingming would have spent more on a trendy cellphone. But he was one of the hundreds of millions of peasants far removed from the country's new wealth. His public high school tuition alone consumed most of his family's income for a year. He wanted to attend college. But to do so meant taking the annual college entrance examination. On the humid morning of June 4, three days before the exam, Qingming's teacher repeated a common refrain: he had to pay his last $80 in fees or he would not be allowed to take the test. Qingming stood before his classmates, his shame overtaken by anger."

Later comes one of the least tasteful metaphors ever to appear in the Times: "A few hours later, Qingming, 18 years old, stepped in front of an approaching locomotive. The train, like China's roaring economy, was an express."

After readers get over that, there's this: "If his gruesome death was shocking, the life of this peasant boy in the rolling hills of northern Sichuan Province is repeated a millionfold across the Chinese countryside. Peasants like Qingming were once the core constituency of the Communist Party. Now, they are being left behind in the money-centered, cutthroat society that has replaced socialist China. China has the world's fastest-growing economy but is one of its most unequal societies."

Of course, Communist China under notorious killer Mao was a "cutthroat" society as well, and that's not a metaphor.

At least Khan and Yardley acknowledge that China's communism was a failure: "To its credit, the Chinese government invigorated the economy and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty over the past quarter century. Few would argue that Chinese lived better when officials still adhered to a rigid idea of socialist equality. But in recent years, officials have devoted the nation's wealth to building urban manufacturing and financial centers, often ignoring peasants. Farmers cannot own the land they work and are often left with nothing when the government seizes their fields for factories or malls. Many cannot afford basic services, like high school".No modern country has become prosperous without allowing some people to get rich first. The problem for China is not just that the urban elite now drive BMW's, while many farmers are lucky to eat meat once a week. The problem is that the gap has widened partly because the government enforces a two-class system, denying peasants the medical, pension and welfare benefits that many urban residents have, while often even denying them the right to become urban residents."

Later, they suggest Maoism may have had its meager virtues: "Even in the days of Mao Zedong's radical egalitarian ideology, workers in cities lived better, enjoying cradle-to-grave benefits provided by factory or government work units. Farmers had a semblance of collective welfare when they lived in communes, though standards were lower. Today, the gap has grown. Nearly all urban residents get health insurance through their companies or the government. Cities have bigger budgets and better schools with lower tuition. The government mandates this because it worries that urban residents could more easily organize and rebel if they lost their economic security."

For the rest of Kahn and Yardley on China today, click here.

" China | Communism | Joseph Kahn | Jim Yardley