Which Poll Are You Reading?

Floridians have more important things to worry about at the moment, but it’s worth noting, via Reason’s “Hit & Run” blog, that we’ve seen “Massive tropical-storm damage to the lives and homes of politically-charged constituents during a presidential election season” before. Back in 1992, it turns out, Hurricane Andrew led to a “grotesque act of political pandering”:

First Hurricane Andrew was terrifying … and finally it was surreal. We reached that moment a week after the storm, when George Bush peered out of the grainy black-and-white screen of my tiny, battery-operated television and blithely promised to spend $480 million to raise Homestead Air Force Base from the rubble in which Andrew had entombed it, reanimating it like some Cold War zombie to stare vacantly at a Soviet threat that has ceased to exist.

This time around, of course, Dubya’s dad isn’t taking the criticism — but his brother is. Mark Kleiman is attacking the Florida governor for declaring that Hurricane Charley was “God’s way of telling us that he’s almighty and we’re mortal.” Writes Kleiman: “It’s one thing to accept the storm damage as a lesson … [b]ut in the very same breath the governor uses to express humility in the face of the failure of computer models to guess which way the hurricane would head, he seems to express confidence that he, Jeb Bush (whether by direct inspiration or by the power vested in him by the people of Florida), knows why the hurricane was sent to wreak such havoc … How does he know? And why does he worship such a cruel god? Does he think cruelty is the basic expression of power?”

Josh Marshall, meanwhile, says it’s pretty significant that David Broder — “the veritable pontiff of beltway [conventional wisdom] — thinks Bush is going to lose in November. He argues that the numbers have pointed toward a Bush defeat for some time now, but “[t]hat sense of the race has hardly settled in among pundits or daily newspaper reporters, or if it has, it hasn’t shown through in their copy.” Since the wrong perception can have a “poisonous effect on the efforts of the perceived loser,” Marshall says, the key question in the next few weeks will be, “when does the CW [as] defined by Broder … start registering?”

ABC’s bloggish “The Note,” another arbiter of CW, is saying much the same thing as Broder — last week, as Mickey Kaus points out, it claimed this had become “Kerry’s contest to lose.” But the Iowa Electronics Market, “where non-expert non-insiders can bet real money on the campaign,” still favors Bush, and Yale economics prof Ray Fair is predicting a Bush landslide. (J. McIntyre at Real Clear Politics also doesn’t buy the emerging groupthink.)

Given that competing polls can and do point three different directions at once, Campaign Desk isn’t taking any bets from anyone.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.