Monday, January 26, 2004

You can bet on it: someone will win! Media Log bravely predicts that many people will vote in the New Hampshire primary tomorrow, that there will be a winner, and that there will be losers.

The tracking polls are all over the place.

The American Research Group this morning has John Kerry ahead of Howard Dean by 18 points, which seems to match up with what most other pollsters are reporting. Yet Zogby is showing a last-minute surge by Dean, who's supposedly closed within three. Zogby's reputation is for being either spectacularly right or dreadfully wrong, which doesn't exactly help in figuring out what's going on. Regardless of the final tally, Dean does seem to have recovered somewhat from his third-place finish in Iowa and The Scream, which, idiotic though it was, struck me as more of a media obsession than anything real.

Given such volatility, the best analysis you can read today is this, by David Rosenbaum in the New York Times, who shows why polls in New Hampshire are worthless.

No surprise, but it's nevertheless impressive the way Kerry was thrown on the defensive the moment he regained his long-lost front-runner status. The attacks have been flying since last week. Can we look forward to a revival of last summer's Great Cheez Whiz scandal? For my money, the Times' Todd Purdum does the best job of explaining what Kerry can look forward to if he holds his lead. The problem is that Kerry has been a senator for 19 years. It's hardly a shock that he would have cast some votes that he might wish he hadn't, and cast others that seem contradictory.

I think his votes against the Gulf War of 1991 and in favor of the war in Iraq in 2002 are going to be particularly difficult to explain in a sound bite. I mean, it can be done: the 1991 resolution was for war, right then, with no further negotiations or peace-seeking efforts; the 2002 resolution laid out a series of steps that George W. Bush was supposed to take before invading Iraq. But try making a good case for consistency when you've got Tim Russert yapping in your face. (Here is how Kerry tried to explain it in Nashua yesterday.)

For instance, at the Weekly Standard you can already read Fred Barnes's gloss on Purdum. A better headline: "Anti-Kerry Talking Points for Idiots."

Anyway, Media Log is currently in NH overload. Too much to read! Too little time! Former Boston Globe columnist John Ellis is back to blogging regularly. His anti-Kerry stuff is well worth reading, not only because he's smart, but because it may reflect what The Cousins are thinking.

And if you didn't catch it, you can watch Kerry's interview on 60 Minutes here. My verdict: presidential but cold, even with the show of emotion over Vietnam and with the presence of his wife, Teresa Heinz. Is Oprah Nation ready for a president who doesn't double as First Pal?

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