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Between the Lines

August 26, 2004

The tipping point in Najaf

The bloody battle to oust cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia from a sacred shrine in Najaf has reached a critical moment. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has entered the city, while thousands of civilian followers wait on the outskirts as he seeks a peaceful settlement to the standoff between al-Sadr on one side and the provisional Iraqi government and U.S. troops on the other.

Posted by tbrown at 11:34 AM


Is Kerry blowing it?

It's been clear for at least a few months now that this election was John Kerry's to lose. And losing it he may be. The latest L.A. Times poll (free site registration may be required) shows Bush edging narrowly ahead of Kerry for the first time this year in the Times poll:

For the first time this year in a Times survey, Bush led Kerry in the presidential race, drawing 49% among registered voters, compared with 46% for the Democrat. In a Times poll just before the Democratic convention last month, Kerry held a 2-percentage-point advantage over Bush.

That small shift from July was within the poll's margin of error. But it fit with other findings in the Times poll showing the electorate edging toward Bush over the past month on a broad range of measures, from support for his handling of Iraq to confidence in his leadership and honesty.

I'll offer the usual caveat: any single poll is just a snapshot of a moment in time and is not definitive. But any way you look at it this is bad news for Kerry. He is paying the price for his vagueness, which is letting his opponents define the campaign.

Here's a link to a pdf with all the poll details.

Posted by tbrown at 11:33 AM


Some voters are less than fired up

Alaskans, for example. Our neighbors to the north had a primary this week and the turnout was a whopping 25 percent. As in one-quarter of registered voters.

Election officials point out that the figures are skewed to some degree by laws which make it difficult to purge voter rolls an important consideration in a state that's more transient than most:

Those figures don't accurately represent true voter turnout, according to election officials. Alaska cannot purge its voter rolls unless it gets a response to mailed notices, and some registered voters have not cast a ballot in eight years, Elections Director Laura Glaiser has said.

As a result, the number of voters on the rolls is high, and voter turnout is generally understated.

Still, these are pretty dismal numbers. Maybe they're just waiting for November.

Posted by tbrown at 11:30 AM


Watching the watchers

The Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk Web site has a pretty good piece on how the mainstream media blew the story on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

In the end, as always, the information that voters receive depends entirely on the way in which the press frames the story. The problem is that once an easy storyline is entrenched -- that Kerry and his detractors disagree -- too many reporters fail to press on. In this case, they neglected to either test the veracity of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth or to compare their ads with those financed by other 527s like MoveOn.

There have been dozens of press failures during this presidential campaign. But this one, even given the [New York] Times' and the [Washington] Post's belated efforts to get to the bottom of things, has to rank as a low point.

To Bush's benefit, it would appear.

Posted by tbrown at 11:29 AM




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The tipping point in Najaf
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