Something fishy appears to be going on in the presidential campaign.
If I didn’t know better, I would think a conspiracy was afoot among Gore
supporters — and that many Beltway Republicans were part of it.

The media are reacting with disbelief to Gore’s upsurge in the polls
since the GOP convention. Isn’t this strange, considering they predicted
it? Don’t you remember them discounting earlier polls showing Bush
ahead, saying voters didn’t pay attention until Labor Day? Gore, they
said, is predestined to win because the economy is soaring. Besides, a
group of genius professors decreed Bush’s defeat based on their
infallible statistical models.

Why are they acting so surprised at Gore’s resurgence when they
predicted it? Is it because they didn’t expect such a dramatic
turnaround? Hold on a minute.

It’s not so clear that Gore has acquired a significant lead; he may
not be ahead at all. The polls range from Gore being up by 14 points
(which is patently absurd) to Bush being ahead by 3. If polling is a
science, can someone explain the disparity in these numbers?

Even in the polls showing Gore way ahead in the popular vote, his
electoral vote advantage is not substantial. The Battleground poll,
which has Bush ahead, is unique in that it is the collaboration of
Republican and Democratic strategists. The pollsters don’t poll on
weekends, believing it’s impossible to get accurate results. They also
make a genuine effort to measure likely voters.

Many analysts seem so constrained by political superstition that they
are incapable of escaping into original analysis. Regardless of how many
“ironclad” rules have been broken already this campaign season, the
media still cling to “conventional wisdom” as if it were astrologically
preordained. Thus, I’ve heard a hundred times that Gore must win because
the candidate who is ahead on Labor Day almost always wins. Sadly, many
conservatives are falling prey to this melancholy determinism.

I don’t deny that Gore has built-in advantages. He is an incumbent
during times of peace and prosperity. He is backed by the mainstream
media, who do his bidding by chasing after bogus and collateral stories
(“RATS” and “a–hole”), while decrying the candidates’ failure to focus
on the issues. The media won’t even criticize Gore for ducking them
about his latest scandal: the trial lawyer quid pro quo. Nor do they
tenaciously pursue him. Though Gore should be disqualified on character
grounds alone — both for enthusiastically endorsing Clinton’s worst
crimes and committing his own — he benefits from the true Clinton
legacy: a public that has grown cynically numb to scandal.

Yet, through all of this, guess who is forging ahead with an
undeterred confidence? George W. Bush. Doesn’t it say a great deal about
Bush’s optimism and leadership that he is standing tall right now —
especially given his allies’ participation in the pessimism?

Bush is trying to get his message out against the biased filter of
the media. He has wisely begun to focus on illuminating the contrasts
between his and Gore’s respective proposals. In a speech to the
California Republican convention, Bush portrayed Gore as the
big-government Democrat that he is. The sharper Bush can draw these
contrasts, the better he will be. Don’t believe the media when they tell
you the issues (the elitists call them “the internals”) favor Gore. If
they believed it themselves they wouldn’t be concentrating so much
energy on non-issues.

The media would have you believe that Bush’s problems are occurring
at a fundamental level — that he is losing ground in each of the swing
states — and that this trend is driving Gore’s reversal. Many political
scientists say it is the other way around. A candidate’s national
momentum will affect his standing in the states. A minor shift in the
national momentum could have major consequences in the swing states.

Gore has plenty to be worried about. Bush performs best as the
underdog. Remember how he responded to the McCain challenge when all the
Beltway soothsayers were forecasting his demise?

Recently, one Washington publication smugly observed, “The question
is no longer whether Gore will win, but rather whether he will win by a
coattail-producing margin.”

Wouldn’t it be sweet to see the smirks wiped off their faces in
November? Keep the faith.

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