US presidential race comes down to the wire

Tom Greene makes rash prediction

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Tom Greene tries his hand as psephologist. Early indications are not encouraging ...

Today, a portion of the US electorate not seen at the polls since 1968 is expected to cast ballots in a presidential election characterized by what we're told are razor-sharp margins.

Opinion polls are riding the edge: none favours either candidate by more than its own margin of error. Everyone insists that the race will be whisker close and cannot be called in advance.

Nonsense, we say. America is a land where miracles occur daily: George W Bush is the President; Halle Berry has an Oscar for best actress; John Updike is a best-selling author; Mark Wahlberg and Ben Affleck are film stars; Justin Timberlake has a lucrative career in music; Jesse "The Body" Ventura is (or was) the Governor of some flyover state...

At the risk of public disgrace, and in spite of what the polls and wiser heads say, The Register anticipates a true American miracle ending in an impressive victory for Kerry in both the popular and electoral votes. Here's why:

Republican disappointment

We expect solid Republican turnout, but not spectacular turnout. There are two reasons: First, while Kerry has not attracted much in the way of devotion, he is not much hated, either. People are generally lukewarm in both their support and their disapproval. Thus there is not a significant body of Americans determined to see him lose.

Second, Bush has alienated a number of conservatives with his misguided nation-building in Iraq, and with his incontinent deficit spending. "Tax and spend" is bad enough to conservatives; "borrow and spend" is appreciably worse.

Thus there is a solid group of Republican conservatives who, while they would not go so far as to vote for Kerry, will not go to the trouble of voting for Bush. They'll show up if an important legislative or state seat is in jeopardy, and if not, sit this one out and let nature take its course. And among those who do show up, a decent percentage will close their eyes, hold their noses, disdainfully vote for Kerry, and then vote Republican down the line.

Democratic anger

On the other hand, we expect Democrats to flock to the polls. Many still harbor deep resentment over the 2000 presidential election, which they believe was hijacked by a Republican Supreme Court. Many others suspect they were disenfranchised by Republican dirty tricks. Democrats resent and despise Bush with a special passion that few Republicans feel towards Kerry.

Whether fairly or not, many Democrats believe that Bush is a dangerous religious fanatic, a dunce, and a malevolent, childish megalomaniac. They may not be enamoured of Kerry, but they loathe Bush so deeply, and resent him and the 2000 elections debacle in Florida so intensely, that they will vote him out of office, come Hell or high water.

Better educated Democrats are concerned about the chance Bush may get to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing Neanderthals of the Scalia/Thomas variety, and fret much about America's loss of international prestige and her loss of support among allies in the hands of the Bushies.

They may be sophisticated enough to see past the Bush stereotypes, and they may not be altogether delighted with Kerry, but they know that Kerry will ensure a liberal majority on the SC; will work through international institutions to build alliances in the fight against terrorism and therefore do better than the isolationist Bush; and will actually raise the money he spends, which, while it might slow the economy, is immensely preferable to borrowing, which will eventually crush it.

Catholic skepticism

Finally, Bush carried 50 per cent of the Catholic vote in 2000, chiefly on the strength of his rather empty pro-life chatter (the abortion rate has been rising since he took office). He's not going to do so well this time around, since the Pope bluntly condemned the Iraq war. And a number of Catholics will be pleased simply to see a brotha in the White House for only the second time in US history. The choice in 2000 was between two Protestants, neither of whom inspired much enthusiasm in any voting bloc, much less among Catholics. Things have changed. More Catholics will vote for Kerry than voted for Gore.

We predict that Kerry will win New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The momentum will carry itself west, giving him the battleground states of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. As the momentum builds, he will pick up New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. We call it 310 to 228 - a blowout.

Tomorrow, the returns will be in, and the details of voting patterns across the US will be available. We are going to have great fun, either crowing about our prescience, or sheepishly explaining how we got things so comically wrong.

Stay tuned. ®

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