One particular polling result has been stuck in my head, so hunted down the link
so I could share it with you...
This is dated from June 1. For a quick reminder, this is the absolute height of the Abu Ghraib story and before President Reagan passed. Edwards had pretty much made himself the lap dog of the Kerry campaign, so the presumption was that Edwards was probably going to be the Democrats' VP nominee.
A quick look at the polling results from that time
shows that the Gallup poll which came out only days later had Kerry up by 6 points...
But "Would You Consider Voting For" result has always struck me as particularly significant. Why? Because it sets a cap on the vote totals for each candidate. In this particular poll 54% would consider voting for Bush while only 49% would consider voting for Kerry.
What has happened since then in Kerry's favor or conversely to Bush's disadvantage? Nothing...On the contrary, quite a few things have moved in Bush's direction: President Reagan's death, the successful handover of sovereignty to Iraq, a decline in American casualties, the 9/11 Report showing that Bush did not lie or pressure the intelligence agencies, and the Abu Ghraib report showing that the abuses were not systemic or ordered from the Pentagon.
On the other hand: Kerry had a convention devoid of discussion of the issues of this campaign, the Swift Vets and Kerry's thin-skinned response, Teresa's various comments ("Shove It!", etc.), the fake Wendy's stopover, "sensitive war", etc.
In short, I don't see anything which would have moved Kerry's position from that June 1 position upward. I also don't see anything which would have moved Bush's position downward. If anything, things have moved in the opposite direction for both candidates. Gallup's latest poll showing President Bush up by 3 would prove my point: a net swing in Bush's favor of 9 points
I say that only by way of illustration, so back to the original "Would You Consider Voting For" results. Using the 54/49 as a baseline, it's pretty clear that Kerry reached his maximum vote potential in the days immediately following his convention.
Rasmussen's Presidential Tracking Poll
backs this up. Kerry bumped up against 49% but never broke it.
I'd have to doublecheck my history, but I believe that the high point of every challenger's campaign is after accepting their nomination. Even if that challenger went on to win, their ultimate polling numbers were somewhat less the numbers they received immediately thereafter.
In looking at the other polling results, I see only a couple of outlying polls which showed Kerry polling above 49% at any point. Coincidentally enough, the only polls which show this are: Zogby, Democracy Corps, and Newsweek - and they seem to be consistently polling Kerry higher than any other polls conducted at the same time by about 3%. (At least they're consistently biased.)
On the other hand, President Bush has a potential reach of 54%. With polls showing Bush polling 48-50% going into his convention, he has the potential to pick up 4-6% in the days following his convention.
I believe this is the maximum vote potential for President Bush.
In March, I predicted that President Bush would win with 53% of the popular vote.
That is within the 54% number that Rasmussen's poll revealed in June and given the general meltdown in progress in the Kerry campaign while Bush's convention is still on the horizon - I believe it more likely than ever.
Time will tell, and unforeseen events could still shape the election. But if you're the gambling type, here's where I'd put my money: Bush 53%, Kerry 46%, Nader 1%