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Jewish World Review August 13, 2004 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5764

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Turning point? | Have we reached a turning point in the presidential election? Or have we just reached a turning point in how the press views the presidential election?

Or is that the same thing?

On Tuesday, Charlie Cook, a highly-respected non-partisan political analyst, wrote in his column for the National Journal that things are looking bad for President Bush.

Cook's chief point is that while Kerry holds just a slim lead in some polls, there are very few undecided voters out there and that Bush realistically can expect to get no more than 25 percent of them.

Which would mean a Kerry victory in November. Cook is not foolish enough to predict this and, of course, he includes the usual language about how things can change. But here are his concluding thoughts:

"…President Bush must have a change in the dynamics and the fundamentals of this race if he is to win a second term. The sluggishly recovering economy and renewed violence in Iraq don't seem likely to positively affect this race, but something needs to happen. It is extremely unlikely that President Bush will get much more than one-fourth of the undecided vote, and if that is the case, he will need to be walking into Election Day with a clear lead of perhaps three percentage points.

"This election is certainly not over, but for me, it will be a matter of watching for events or circumstances that will fundamentally change the existing equation — one that for now favors a challenger over an incumbent."

The following day, The Note, which is the highly-influential on-line political newsletter of ABC News, reprinted those paragraphs from Cook and added its own conclusion: "…the reality is — as amazing as this seems — this is now John Kerry's contest to lose."

The Note then listed some reasons, which include:

"Forget the hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs and Team Bush's inability — so far — to enunciate a second-term jobs/growth agenda….

"Forget the fact that that we still can't find a single American who voted for Al Gore in 2000 who is planning to vote for George Bush in 2004.

"Forget the fact that California, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey…aren't in play and never were.

"Forget the latest polling out of Ohio (and perhaps Florida).

"Forget the extraordinary anti-Bush energy that exists on the left and the 'how-do-we-whip-our-folks-up?' dilemma that exists on the right.

"Forget the various signs that the Democratic challenger is playing in battleground areas for the middle and the President seems geographically and issues-wise to be still shoring up the base.

"But remember the poisonous job approval, re-elect, and wrong-track numbers that hang around the President's neck to this day…."

Both articles will be influential within the press not just because the authors are respected, but also because neither publication is known as being anti-Bush.

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And for them both to reach the same conclusion — the "existing equation" now favors "a challenger over an incumbent" in Cook's words and "this is now John Kerry's contest to lose" in The Note's — is a startling departure from the "political stalemate" view which many in the press have held so far.

As I said, this week may go down as the turning point in this presidential campaign. Or it may be the turning point in how the press views this presidential campaign.

Or is that the same thing?

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