Coming off a successful convention in Boston, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry now has a substantial number of people thinking he can win in November, and more than a few who are certain that he will. I still think George W. Bush will be victorious in the end, but there is no question that Kerry has narrowed the gap and made himself an extremely viable candidate.
The main reason why I think Bush will win is that by historical standards, the economy is doing well enough. The evidence of past elections is that the pocketbook issue always dominates voting, even in wartime, and voters are wary of changing horses in the middle of a stream. Hence, they are reluctant to risk economic conditions that are good on the chance that a new administration might do a little better. After all, they might do worse. So voters usually conclude that it?s better to stick with the devil they know than one they don?t.
For this reason, every political/economic forecaster who has looked at this question has concluded that Bush will win easily in November. Macroeconomic Advisers, a St. Louis consulting firm, predicts that Bush will get 61.9 percent of the two-party vote, Yale economist Ray Fair predicts that Bush will get 58.7 percent, and the giant economic forecasting firm Global Insight predicts 56 percent. Economy.com is predicting that Bush will get 54 percent of the vote and gain 373 electoral votes.
It?s important to note that none of these forecasters has any political orientation. They are simply looking at the data for the benefit of their clients. Moreover, there are no forecasters using similar methods currently predicting a victory for John Kerry. And it is highly unlikely that any will, barring an unprecedented economic collapse between now and Election Day. At present, every economic variable that the forecasting models use is expected to be positive for at least the next three months.
Of course, the models could be wrong, as they have been in the past. But in previous cases of error, the predicted margin of victory was very narrow, as was the case in 2000. This year, however, there is a very wide margin of victory estimated. Thus the models would not just have to be wrong -- every one of them would have to be spectacularly wrong for Bush to lose.
Obviously, these results run counter to recent polling data, which show Kerry with a lead of about 5 percent. However, much of this is a convention bounce that will probably dissipate and be offset by Bush?s bounce following the Republican convention later this month. Most political observers see the race as roughly even.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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