DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION BOUNCE OR BLUNDER?

FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
By Gary D. Halbert
July 20, 2004

IN THIS ISSUE:

1.  John Kerry’s Best Chance To Surge Ahead.

2.  Kerry/Edwards Have To Hide Their Liberal Spots.

3.  Will Clintons Give Kerry A Ringing Endorsement?  

4.  Will Kerry Be Overshadowed By Other Speakers?  

5.  The VP Bounce & Latest In State-By-State Polls.

6.  The Truth About Iraq & The Uranium Connection.

7.  P.S.  Why I Write About Politics From Time To Time.

Introduction – Kerry’s Chance To Surge Ahead

The Democratic National Convention will be held in Boston beginning next Monday and ending on Thursday with John Kerry giving, he hopes, the speech of his lifetime.  This is the Kerry campaign’s shot to pull decisively ahead of Bush in the national polls.  It is not unusual for the first national convention to vault the nominee to a 10-15 point lead over whichever candidate’s convention is held afterward.  But can the Kerry campaign pull it off?

Historically, the announcement of the challenger’s vice presidential running mate gives the nominee a big bounce in the polls.  Yet after Kerry announced John Edwards as his VP choice, he got only a modest bounce, as discussed below.  So next week is Kerry’s very best shot at surging ahead after running only neck-and-neck with Bush for months now, and despite all of Bush’s troubles.

A lot is at stake as the Dem’s convention unfolds next week.  And I mean more than simply whether or not Kerry surges ahead.  To be sure, the investment markets will be very sensitive to what happens next week.  Kerry has promised to raise taxes on those making $200,000 or more a year.  Edwards is a trial lawyer who made himself millions by suing doctors and large corporations.  If they surge ahead in the polls next week, the equity markets could react negatively.

The Kerry campaign has a delicate balancing act on its hands next week.  They have to juggle several balls successfully and pull off several illusions.   First, they must NOT come across as the #1 and #4 most liberal Senators in the Congress, as they are.  Second, they must NOT let the Clintons overshadow them, but how do they stop them?  Third, Kerry absolutely must unveil a resonating VISION for why he would make a better president than George W. Bush.  And, finally, the Kerry campaign must control the “Hate Bush” crowd (ACT, MoveOn.org, etc.) as they have at last realized they can’t win by simply trashing the President.

So, this week we will look at the issues going into the convention, what to watch for and how to judge the reaction.  We will also look at the latest polls showing a disappointing VP bounce for Kerry.  We also look at what influence the Clinton’s will have on Kerry’s chances during the convention.  And there’s more, including my “P.S.” at the end to my critics, so let’s jump right in.

Losing Their Spots

The first thing John Kerry and John Edwards must do next week in their national showcase is to avoid coming across as the ultra-liberals that they are.  Kerry is consistently rated as the #1 most liberal Senator in the Congress.  John Edwards is rated the #4 most liberal Senator in Congress.

These rankings are NOT, mind you, from some conservative organization.  These rankings come from the National Journal, a supposedly non-partisan (but often left-leaning) political watchdog group.  National Journal bases its rankings on the actual votes cast by Senators and Representatives in the House.

So, the first thing Kerry and Edwards have to do next week is appear to move to the center.  Lose their (liberal) spots, if you will.  As I reported in this E-Letter on June 1 - CLICK HERE - the Democrats understand that 74% of Americans are either conservative or moderate, while only 20% are liberals (source: Pew Research Center’s most recent national poll).

Not only do they have to appear to move to the center, but I would even wager that they will try to come across as conservatives to a degree.  I would also bet that you won’t hear a peep about Kerry’s intention to raise taxes on “the rich” – certainly not during the prime time events.

Keeping The “Hate Bush” Crowd Silent

Next, Kerry’s handlers have finally realized that a “Hate Bush” agenda alone will not win them the election – as I have said all along.   They absolutely must appeal to the swing voters, the vast majority of which do not hate Bush.  So, the Kerry campaign must not only move their candidate to the center, but they must also largely silence the Hate Bush groups (ACT, MoveOn.org, the Whoopi Goldbergs, etc., etc.).  The Hate Bush venom and vitriol does not play well to swing voters who have yet to make up their minds.

This is, no doubt, a delicate balancing act for Kerry, Edwards, the Clintons and the other speakers at the convention.  They have to criticize Bush, but their overriding theme must be one that is positive, uplifting and not simply a Bush bashing frenzy.  Can they pull it off?  We’ll see.

What Will The Clintons Have To Say?

The truth is, there is no love lost between John Kerry and the Clintons.  After all, it was the Clintons who pushed Wesley Clarke into the Democratic presidential race in an effort to stop Kerry from becoming the nominee.  That effort failed miserably, of course.  So why did the Kerry campaign invite Bill to be a keynote speaker at their convention?  And why did they flip-flop under pressure last week and ask Hillary to be a prime time speaker?  

The answers are quite simple, actually.  Bill Clinton is a “vote hog.”  Without a doubt, Bill Clinton, with his stature and charisma, has the potential to appeal to many of the swing voters – depending on how strongly he endorses Kerry.  That remains to be seen.  Whatever happens, it will be good for Clinton’s book sales.

There are several theories as to why the Kerry campaign didn’t invite Hillary to speak.  Many believe it was because it is no secret that Hillary wants to run for president in 2008.  The official Kerry campaign story was simply that she “didn’t ask” to speak at the convention.   Yeah, right!  But then amidst enormous pressure from the DNC and other groups, the Kerry campaign waffled and gave Hillary a spot in prime time.

I find it interesting that Hillary’s “spot” in the campaign is to introduce her husband on the opening night (Monday) of the convention.  Don’t you find it a little odd that the most popular Democrat in the country would be – first not asked to speak at all – and then relegated to introducing her husband?  I’m actually surprised that Hillary didn’t insist on a speaking spot later in the convention, say Bill Richardson’s spot on Wednesday night.

In any event, it will be most interesting to see and hear what Bill and Hillary have to say.  I’m sure they will be positive, but it remains to be seen just how positive.  Maybe this explains why they will speak on the opening night, just in case their endorsements are short of “ringing.”   Give swing voters time to forget the Clintons by the time Kerry gives his acceptance speech on Thursday.

Not Being Overshadowed

Along this same line, Kerry runs the real, but unavoidable, risk that he will be overshadowed by several of the other speakers.  Clearly, Bill Clinton has the potential to overshadow all of the other speakers, including Kerry.  Hillary could do so as well.  This was another reason to not ask her to speak, but now that she is, then get it over with on the first night.  [I wonder if the Clintons will allow anyone to “clear” (approve) their speeches ahead of time.]

Then there is Al Gore, who many Democrats still believe to this day should be the president and running in this election for his second term.  Gore has said some outrageous things about the Bush administration over the last couple of months.  Unlike when he ran against Bush, Gore has been very animated of late and he, too, could overshadow Kerry.  He could also come off very, very negative.  There again, have him speak on Monday and get it over with.

And finally, there is John Edwards.  Say what you will about Edwards, but he is a very good speaker (most successful, rich trial lawyers are).  Very positive and uplifting, yet also very effective in his criticism of Bush and the Republican party.  It actually might be better if Kerry spoke on Wednesday night and Edwards on Thursday night, but that won’t happen.

Bottom line: Kerry has to give the speech of his lifetime on Thursday night if he is to get the big bounce he needs. 

The Disappointing VP “Bounce”

Several political analysts have reported that when Bill Clinton announced Al Gore as his running mate, he got a 15-19 point bounce in the national polls.   They also reported that when Gore announced Lieberman as his VP in 2000, he got a bounce of 12-14 points in the polls.  Kerry’s choice of Edwards did not give them the bounce they had hoped for, despite the media going ga-ga over Edwards.  Here are the latest national polls:  

Wash. Post/ABC:

Kerry 46%, Bush 46%, Nader 4%

CNN/Gallup:

Kerry 50%, Bush 45%, Nader 2%

CBS/NY Times:

Kerry 45%, Bush 42%, Nader 5%

Rasmussen:

Kerry 45%, Bush 47%

 

Prior to the Edwards announcement, Bush was neck-and-neck (within the margin of error) with Kerry.  In the last two weeks, Kerry has improved somewhat, but the race is still within the margin of error in three of the four polls above.  Kerry’s best showing is in the CNN/Gallup poll, which is close to the margin of error of plus or minus 4%.  And in the latest Rasmussen poll released on Monday, Bush was back ahead 47/45. The VP bounce was not nearly as large as hoped for.

In the state-by-state polls, there has not been a great deal of movement since I handicapped them in this E-Letter two weeks ago - CLICK HERE.  Kerry has pulled ahead in MI by 3% to 7%, depending on the poll.  Kerry also moved ahead in PA by 5%. Kerry now has a margin of error lead in FL.  So Kerry has improved in the state-by-state rankings since he announced Edwards, but he needs more to win.  By the way, Edwards’ home state of NC is still very “Red” with Bush still solidly ahead.

The Kerry campaign is largely abandoning the South, except for FL, to concentrate on MI, PA, and OH. Actually, this may be a smart move.  MI and PA are MUST win states for Kerry.  These states should not be in play now, but they are.  They need them more than they need the South.

The Truth About The Yellowcake Uranium Fraud

Since we’re talking politics this week, I want to be sure you’ve seen the latest revelations on the controversy surrounding Iraq and the African “yellowcake” uranium. The media and the Democrats assailed President Bush for claiming that Iraq sought to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, a type of uranium used primarily in making nuclear weapons. The basis of the argument against the president came from former ambassador Joe Wilson, who was sent to Niger to investigate the validity of the claim.

Following his investigation, Wilson said publicly that his trip had not turned up any evidence that could connect Niger and Iraq with respect to yellowcake uranium. He, in so many words, called President Bush a liar and claimed that the information was twisted to suit the administration’s political ends (ie – the basis for going to war).

Wilson’s statements were immediately seized upon by the DNC and the entire Democratic apparatus and carried like a crusade cross against President Bush. The following quote expertly illustrates the completely manufactured campaign against the president:

“ … the Democratic National Committee (DNC), in a television ad, mentioned the ‘yellowcake’ reference in the president's 2003 State of the Union, adding ‘the administration knew it wasn't true ... It's time to tell the truth.”
The DNC Web site also informed readers about the administration’s “year-long campaign of deception involving a bogus intelligence report on Iraq’s nuclear program.” DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe huffed, “This may be the first time in recent memory that a president knowingly misled the American people during the State of the Union address.”
According to John Kerry, Mr. Bush “misled every one of us.” Sen. Joseph Biden believed the administration “hyped [the intelligence] ... to create a sense of urgency and a threat.” Sen. Carl Levin said, “The statement that Iraq was attempting to acquire African uranium was not an inadvertent mistake. It was negotiated between CIA and National Security Council officials, and it was highly misleading.”

These trumpeted claims are now a major problem facing the Democrats and Joe Wilson. The Senate Intelligence Committee and the British Joint Intelligence Committee have found these claims by Wilson and the Democrats to be utterly false as represented by these excerpts from their respective reports.

US Senate Intelligence Committee (SIC) report:
“… no evidence that the [intelligence community’s] mischaracterization or exaggeration of [Iraq’s] weapons of mass destruction capabilities was the result of political pressure ... The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”
British Joint Intelligence Committee report:
“We should record in particular that we have found no evidence of deliberate distortion or of culpable negligence [on the part of the Blair administration]. We found no evidence of [Joint Intelligence Committee] assessments and the judgments inside them being pulled in any particular direction to meet the policy concerns of senior officials on the JIC.”

Both reports found that there was never an attempt, in any way, to twist or misshape the information regarding the Niger/Iraq uranium linkage.  While the actual value of the intelligence has since been questioned, it was represented at the time as solid and credible.  Mr. Wilson also claimed that the Bush administration “outed” his CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame, to Robert Novak as political payback for his “truthfulness” in reporting on the scandal.

The SIC report found that there was no political retribution by the Bush administration, and that Mr. Wilson was actually recommended for the Niger assignment by his CIA wife, a claim he denies to this day.  Mr. Wilson, once a darling of the left and the Kerry campaign, has faded into obscurity.   His attempt to cast the entire Bush administration as a den of crooks and liars has failed.  His intentional misstatements and outright lies have now been totally discredited.

The current Dem mantra calls for President Bush to “take responsibility” for the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks. After all, Tony Blair has done so, in a fashion, in the UK. But then Tony Blair has been the Prime Minister of Great Britain for seven years.  Clearly, some intelligence breakdowns in the UK intelligence services did occur on his watch.

So, why shouldn’t Bush do likewise and take responsibility for the intelligence breakdowns that led to the terror attacks of 9/11?  Because George Bush had been in office for only eight months when the attacks occurred.  The US intelligence apparatus decayed for eight years under Bill Clinton. Why is it we never hear about that? 

George Bush had few of his political appointees in place when the terror attacks occurred on 9/11 due to blockage by the Democrats.  For example, the US had no United Nations ambassador on 9/11 because the Dems wouldn’t approve Bush’s new choice for the job.  They had to hurriedly approve him on 9/14.

Yet Bush is supposed to take responsibility for both the breakdown in intelligence and the terror attacks on 9/11 after only eight months in office?  I don’t think so.

I bring this to your attention because, as usual, the media has given it very little attention.

Conclusions   

Given all the bad news George Bush has endured this year, John Kerry should be ahead by 10-15 points in the national polls.  Even with a modest VP bounce, he is still even or marginally ahead of Bush in the national polls.  He is still well behind in the state-by-state electoral vote.

Kerry’s best chance to pull ahead will be next week at the Democratic National Convention.  Kerry has to hope the Clintons will be more than just kind to him in their convention speeches.  He needs a ringing endorsement from both.  We’ll see if he gets it.  Listen closely.

Kerry also has to hope he is not upstaged and overshadowed by the Clintons, by Al Gore and/or by John Edwards.  He has to give the political speech of his lifetime on Thursday night next week! 

The Kerry campaign desperately needs to leave their convention with a minimum of an 8-10 point lead in the polls.  The Republican National Convention is August 30-September 2 in New York, and the Bush campaign will almost certainly get a bounce of 8-10 points or more.

The next six weeks will be a fascinating time in the world of politics!  Stay tuned.

Very best regards,

Gary D. Halbert

P.S.  Every time I write an E-Letter that focuses on politics, I get dozens of e-mails from readers who do NOT agree with me (and many others who do) and question WHY I write about politics at all.  I guess Investment Advisors aren’t supposed to have political views.  Well, this one does!  Actually, political trends can, and do, affect the investment markets.

A few readers have written to say, essentially, that I am nothing more than a “shill” for the Republican party.  While I am not a member of any political party, and never have been, my views tend to be very conservative on most issues.  If that currently aligns me more with Bush than #1 liberal John Kerry, so be it.

With that said, however, I do not hesitate to publicly criticize Bush and the Republicans when I believe they are wrong.  I criticized Bush for steel tariffs, the bloated farm bill, big spending and deficits and other issues.

I will vote for President Bush in November, primarily because I want to see the War On Terror continue aggressively.  I do not think Senator Kerry will keep the WOT on the front burner.  I definitely do NOT think we should agree to ask permission from France, Germany and the UN to continue the WOT, as Mr. Kerry alludes.

Finally, I do appreciate your e-mails and comments and suggestions – whether you agree with me or not – so long as they are civil.  We do our best to answer all that request a response.

SPECIAL ARTICLES

A chance to bounce or tumble.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.witcover19jul19,0,486702.column?coll=bal-oped-headlines

The hate Bush folks can't be taken seriously.
http://www.townhall.com/columnists/michaelbarone/mb20040719.shtml


Read Gary’s blog and join the conversation at garydhalbert.com.


Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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