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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Blogging the US election - VII
Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson is keeping a weblog as the US prepares to go to the polls on 2 November.

He'll be recording his thoughts and observations - both serious and not so serious - as well as finding answers to your questions.

Why not bookmark this page and come back to it for the latest updates?

25 October


Another topic of debate on the Sunday political shows was whether the election would end on time or whether we are likely to see something like the 36-day legal battle of 2000.

There are so many scenarios that could send this election into overtime, so many things that the Republican and Democrat legal teams are watching, ready to pounce, that it sometimes seems difficult to see how the presidential election will be done and dusted by 3 November.

Early voting
Even with electronic voting, it may take weeks to count all the ballots
"You can almost hear the Gulfstream jets warming up and the lawyers getting ready," said Time magazine's Michael Duffy on ABC.

Let's look at one potential polling pitfall: provisional ballots.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 was meant to solve some of the problems of the 2000 presidential election, but it might end up causing a few problems of its own.

The act allows voters who believe they are eligible but aren't on the voter rolls to cast a provisional ballot.

First off, it might take days if not weeks to count and determine the validity of these provisional ballots.

As George Will pointed out on ABC, two years ago in one congressional district in Colorado, it took election officials 35 days to validate and count 3,000 provisional ballots.

And he added that in Los Angeles County alone, in the 2000 election, there were 101,000 such ballots cast. Extrapolate that out for the entire country.

In a close election, legal challenges to these provisional ballots could make hanging and pregnant chads look like a simple electoral mess.

The lawyers are practically counting up the billable hours right now.

Oh, and that is just one potential problem. I've got five or six more to go.

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Well, lots to note from my Sunday cup of coffee with the pundits.

They aren't usually shy about making predictions, but all of us media types are feeling a little performance anxiety after the 2000 elections, so we're all being very noncommittal.

Sophocles writes the Tragedy of George W Bush?
However, the talk around the water cooler here in the Washington bureau was that the pundits on Sunday all seemed to have been close to saying that they thought possibly, maybe, that John Kerry had, maybe, not the Big Mo but Just Enough Mo to win this one.

Not to beat a dead pollster again, but the national polls show Kerry trailing by as much as five points, though the pundits noted that the John-John ticket was winning where it counted, in the battleground states, by one to eight percentage points.

And, guess what, pundits are already licking their chops over a potential helping of irony.

There are more than a few scenarios where John Kerry wins in the Electoral College and loses the popular vote.

So, yes, as David in Cardiff points out, George W Bush could find himself as the Al Gore of 2004.

"That is how Sophocles would write it," said Time's Michael Duffy on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

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24 October


Less than two weeks to go and the parties are not talking about issues of weighty substance. No, it is battle to the death of animal metaphors.

The Republicans have unleashed a pack of wolves. Well, more accurately, they are running an ad with menacing wolves grouping in a forest as a metaphor for skulking terrorists.

A woman narrator says ominously: "In an increasingly dangerous world, even after the first terrorist attack on America, John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America's intelligence operations by $6bn.

"Cuts so deep they would have weakened America's defences. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm."

Many have compared this to a classic of campaign ads - the bear spot the Reagan campaign ran in 1984.

The lumbering bear in the woods then represented the menacing bear of Soviet Russia.

The Bush campaign said that when they focus-grouped this ad, it was so effective that they held the wolves in reserve until the home stretch of the campaign.

On the Democrats' side, it is the eagle versus the ostrich.

"The eagle soars high above the earth. The ostrich buries its head in the sand," the ad says.

"The eagle knows when it's time to change course. The ostrich stands in one place. Given the choice, in these challenging times, shouldn't we be the eagle again?" the ad asks.

Most thought that the bear ad was more frightening than the wolves, but not Gwen Ifill of Public Broadcasting's Washington Week.

She said on NBC's Meet the Press that she was scared by the wolves, and that it was an apt metaphor of the "hydra-headed threat of terrorism".

Conservative columnist George Will said on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos that it showed that 9/11 may have changed some things but it hasn't changed politics in America.

"The Democrats charge that their opponent will throw grandma out of her wheelchair and cut her Social Security. The Republicans say their opponent is too liberal. Has anything changed?" he said.

What do you think? Surreal last minute jabs by the campaigns or an apt metaphor that focuses your thinking about the candidates?

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A number of you have told me to check out a study done by the Program on International Policy Attitudes called The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters.

I still remember, and have made mention before in the blog, a conservative commentator noted earlier this year that the divide between Republicans and Democrats wasn't caused because they weren't talking to each other, they were actually talking past each other.

John Kerry and George W Bush
Supporters of John Kerry and George Bush see two different worlds
It was more than having very little common ground. They didn't even see the same world.

And this poll goes a way to proving that, at least on foreign policy issues.

In light of reports over the past few months from the Senate Intelligence Committee and the heads of the Iraq Survey Group, David Kay and Charles Duelfer, the pollsters asked Bush and Kerry supporters what these reports said about weapons of mass destruction in pre-war Iraq.

Findings in the Duelfer report say that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before the war, yet 56% of President Bush supporters still believe that most experts say that Iraq did indeed have WMD before the war.

But, amongst John Kerry supporters, 56% believe that most experts thought Iraq did not have WMD.

Interesting details

And the poll has also found differences between Bush and Kerry supporters over the impression of the 9/11 Commission report.

The commission found no operational link between al Qaeda and ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

However, 43% of President Bush's supporters believe that the commission said that Saddam Hussein gave al Qaeda substantial support.

Only 27% of John Kerry's supporters believed the commission found evidence of Iraqi support of al Qaeda.

There are lots of interesting details in the polls.

A majority of both Bush and Kerry supporters believe that if the US had known that Iraq had no WMD, then the US should not have gone to war. The figures being 58% of Bush supporters and 92% of Kerry supporters.

The president's supporters also believe the he has widespread backing for going to war in Iraq.


But in a recent poll by an ad hoc group of international papers of eight nations, there was only one country giving a majority support of the war and that was Israel.

The study's authors try to draw some conclusions on why the president's supporters' perceptions don't square with reports from the ISG and the Senate.

I might argue that a lot of people outside of Washington don't pay as much attention to these things as we do here, even though they are on issues as important as war and terrorism.

But the study's authors say: "Apparently, to avoid this cognitive dissonance, Bush supporters suppress awareness of unsettling information."

I've included a link below so you can check out the report yourself and come to your own conclusions.

Read more: [External websites]

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

I've long been disappointed by the trend of both sides to retreat to spewing slogans and rationalising or dismissing anything said by their respective oppositions. Truly, the democratic dialogue was replaced with duelling monologues since the Reagan era, with neither side listening to the other except to look for ways to test their opponents' words. But it's only getting worse. The Republicans literally now claim that anyone who disagrees with them are guilty of treason. And with computerised voting being implemented (with major computer voting machine manufacturers owned by influential Republicans), we may very well be seeing the twilight of democracy in the USA.
Sean Springer, Hudson, NY, USA

I read in today's BBC campaign column that the electoral college delegate does not have to vote according to the will of the voters he is representing. Please explain how this is democratic. It seems like the worst medieval patronage to me.
Mark, Paignton, UK

You say the pundits are leaning Kerry's way in the battleground states, how'd you explain that Zogby, who is most assuredly not a subsidiary of the Bush-Cheney 2004 Campaign unlike Gallup, is suggesting a mini-Bush surge in those areas? What is going on?
Peter Morgan, Penarth UK

Mr Anderson, could you do a little research and give us an overview of the political beliefs of reporters at the BBC. From my perspective they seem to be socialist in nature, have disliked Bush since the beginning and are actively trying to portray Kerry in a positive light. For instance the highlighted "campaign" headlines for Kerry are almost always positive in tone while the ones for Bush are negative.
Eric, Princeton, NJ USA

Kevin I appreciate your comments as they come from an "outsider". It is something of a reality check for the "decided" voters of this country. The undecided voters may be the same people who can not decide what colour socks to wear in the morning. From where I am standing, the Bible thumping fundamentalist Republicans are waging a Jihad against common-sense secularists who recognise the value of the separation of church and state. Those who see the governance of the most powerful nation in history through the foggy lens of religion should scare the heck out of the rest of the literate world.
Everett Weniger, Silver City, New Mexico, US

As an American diplomat living overseas, I've already cast my absentee ballot for Bush. The simple fact is that although Iraq and America's relations with the rest of the world are important - they are not the primary issue in this election. What will impact the future of the US more is how the next president manages the US's increasingly large entitlement programmes as well as what sort of Supreme Court judges are appointed. Bush, for all his cowboyisms, is right on these complex and critical issues. John Kerry is not.
Rick Peters, London, UK

Kevin, as a publisher of a blog, I appreciated your comments on the impact of blogs and the reservoir of ill feelings between members of the mainstream media and bloggers, and vice-versa. However, unlike my mentor Kos, who got me into this almost two years ago, I don't have any resentment or aggravation towards print reporters or the J-School graduates. I don't think of myself as being on the cutting edge of anything, at least not yet, and I try and not get an attitude about what I am doing and any impact that I may have on the race. I just wish that more reporters were better informed, more inquisitive, and more willing to challenge the White House. Too many reporters are lazy, but then I don't walk in their shoes or deal with their editors or publishers. Anyway, thanks for the comments.
Steve Soto, Sacramento, CA, USA

This is the first election in which I am eligible to vote. I was very excited about the prospect about casting a ballot. I am a strong Kerry supporter and I cannot believe that half of the American people are willing to trust that given another four years in office President Bush would fix the problems that he alone has created. I am trying to remain hopeful until I hear the results of the election; but, I am considering moving abroad should on 2 November President Bush be declared the winner of this race.
Karin Worley, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

When you are 77, and have served your country in war, it is rather amazing to see some of our youth turn their backs on their duty to their country and support so many special interest groups. General Eisenhower and President Reagan, both Republicans, did a great deal for the world. The French have let us down a great deal and will also let the European Union down when the chips are down. The great Republican George Bush is doing what is best for the world and deserves great credit. Europe would be foolish to support anyone one else.
Gerald P Monks, Houston, Texas, USA

It's amazing how many contrasting realities can come from the same event. Bush supporters can't even entertain the fact that they may have supported an unjust war so they shout louder and louder to drown out the truth - namely that there were no weapons of mass destruction and there was no link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Bush supporters must be completely brainwashed not to see this.
Hannah, London, UK

They say an economy cannot be built or destroyed in one administration. Well hmmmm, under Reagan there was huge deficit, under Clinton, a big surplus, under Bush? Wow, amazing, another huge deficit! My guess is that even the experts can be wrong.
Elizabeth, Louisville, USA

If the courts once again decide who is president, then it is time to throw out the electoral collage and return to a simple majority vote. Otherwise, democracy is dead in America.
Jerry Simpson, Whitewater, WI, USA

As a university student here in Pittsburgh, I'm sitting in the middle of a full-fledged campaign advertising blitz, but lately there's been quite a shift -- fewer and fewer Bush ads, except for one about the Kerry healthcare plan. Do you think Bush is giving up on Pennsylvania (as I hope he is), or is he simply concentrating on the more rural, traditionally Republican parts of the state?
Will Gardella, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

I saw an FT Story saying thanks to large leads in safe Republican states with narrow Kerry edges in Battleground states there is a real chance Bush could be in Al Gore's situation, is this really the case? Can you also say will this Colorado Law splitting its votes get pas the Courts, if it had happened 4 years ago Gore would now be president, right? Cheers.
David Morgan, Cardiff UK

I think you did an excellent job on presenting the US electoral map, along with a little historical background on our states. Mr. Anderson, is there anyway you can get BBC to draw up a map of the districts in the UK and how they "typically lean" in past elections and how they could in the 2005 Parliamentary Elections? I would love to see how the British Parties are represented, geographically! Thank you for taking the time to read my question.
Guy Gregory, Rapid City, South Dakota, USA

Vote USA 2004







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