Matt Towery

With the 2004 presidential election coming up one year from this week, let's use information and analyses from prior editions of this column to predict who might win.

President Bush will be the Republican nominee, of course, so let's focus on the Democratic field of candidates. We were ahead of the curve months ago when we revealed a survey showing former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was the surprise leader of the pack. Many thought Dean's quick rise would be brief, but clearly, he is the real thing.

In another column, we noted the sudden emergence of Wesley Clark mania and questioned whether his political inexperience and lack of a clear, well-articulated message might make him more a flash in the pan than an enduring, middle-of-the-road alternative for Democratic voters. To date, that assessment has proven more or less on the mark.

Absent a major misstep -- or a sudden manifestation of charisma by one of his Democratic opponents -- Dean's early momentum makes him the odds-on favorite to face Bush. Remember that the nature of the Democratic Party's presidential nomination process heavily favors the selection of more left-leaning delegates to the national convention. Advantage, Dean.

So assuming that Dean will be the nominee, let's move on to another recent column. Even before conservative Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia revealed to talk-TV superstar Sean Hannity that Miller would be supporting Republican Bush for president, we alerted readers to be on the lookout for loud repercussions to the release of Miller's new book, "A National Party No More." In it, he argues that the Democratic Party is held hostage by liberal special interest groups that force the party to take positions and nominate candidates out of the political mainstream. Miller makes no bones about his belief that Dean is Exhibit A in illustrating the point.

So Bush's re-election is inevitable, right? After all, the economy is clearly on an upswing that even the most virulent naysayers now admit is at least partly the result of the Bush tax cuts. This newfound optimism may even bolster the Christmas retail season and sustain the bullish stock market.

As for Iraq: Yes, the situation is deteriorating, but even prior to the initial invasion, we reported that most Americans expected the conflict to last a year or longer. Hence, the public's unwillingness -- so far -- to let bad news from Baghdad cast a shadow on renewed good times at home.

Still, a wrinkle remains in this upbeat forecast for the president, and it's less about the content of his political stands than their presentation. In short, the wrinkle is the news media. Look at the measurements they often use to measure the nation's progress and well-being.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery