Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Sad wagon.

From tomorrow's Post ...

Bush's aides predicted victory when talking on the record, pointing to polls showing that the race remained a tossup, both nationally and in key states. But despite the insistence that all was well, the erosion in the moods of Bush's inner circle over the past two weeks was unmistakable. Several of his close advisers said they were concerned because the president had achieved no last-minute momentum, and Democratic turnout was looking as if it might swamp the Bush-Cheney campaign's projections.

A GOP official who is privy to Bush-Cheney strategy and polling said that as the incumbent, Bush should be further ahead of Kerry in polls. "Some of them have been moving in the right direction, but it isn't enough," the official said. "Karl [Rove] is a big believer in the bandwagon effect, but there has been nothing over the past week for the president to use it to turn it around."

The reports I get from sources inside that operation paint a similar picture. <$NoAd$>In particular, the numbers aren't panning out.

House-keeping: Of late, many of you have written in to note (i.e., complain) that cutting and pasting on TPM has become weirdly difficult. The reasons for this are too complicated to go into (i.e., I don't even understand it myself). But the short version is that it was a trade-off with changes that were made to make the site download more quickly. We're working on a fix. But for now, if you want to copy some text for whatever reason, click on the 'print' link up at the top right hand side of the post. That will take you to a version where cutting and pasting is as easy as, well ... cutting and pasting.

I must say, when they're cruising through elections, it's all inclusion and compassion and 'reaching out' (as that idiotic phrase has it). But when things are going south the GOP is truly the party of Jim Crow. There's no other way to put it -- out on the Indian reservations in South Dakota, in the inner city neighborhoods across the upper Midwest and in various other ways.

I like to think of myself as fairly hardened to this stuff. But it's bracing to actually see it happening, even though it's all from the Rove playbook. You can see on the commentary this evening that Bush is hemorrhaging. But these guys aren't prepared to lose. And they are going to amazing lengths that even I have a hard time believing.

It's ugly. And it's all starting to come down tonight.

In any case, as nearly as I can tell, the Democrats are on top of the situation and mobilizing rapidly. The key is that folks should just go to polls and vote. They won't have any problem.

The aim here is to create rumors and a perception that people will have problems and in so doing get a lot of them not to show up at the polls at all. The truth is that people will be available to make sure things go smoothly and that folks won't have any undue difficulties.

Go to the polls, vote, and let President Bush know that democracy starts at home.

We'll try to have more updates on this stuff this evening.

We've all heard these stories about folks getting ejected from Bush-Cheney events for wearing Kerry-Edwards T-shirts or not signing Bush loyalty oaths. This story at ABCNews.com has some elements of false parity between Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards in the way the piece is structured (especially the lede). But on balance it's a clever and very revealing piece.

ABC got a group of its producers to go to Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards events wearing the other campaign's T-shirts. The rules were to get the tickets completely legitimately and maintain entirely courteous behavior at the events.

In other words, the only issue was the T-shirts.

At one Kerry-Edwards event, the BC04-clad producers were surrounded by sign waving Kerry supporters, in attempt to make the purported Bush supporters invisible to the press. In this case, one of the volunteers later said, "My job tonight was to run interference so that we didn't have any negative situation on our hands ... Our job was to stand in front of them and make sure that, number one, that press had access to Kerry stuff and not necessarily Bush."

At another event, a Kerry campaign worker approached the producers and told them that they had the right to eject them if they made any disturbance. The guy in this case told them, "We hold the right to remove you, but other than that, enjoy and hopefully at the end of the event you'll want to wear a Kerry T-shirt."

You could say it didn't go quite so well in Bush-Cheney land. When the producers tried to get into a BC04 event, they simply weren't allowed in at all.

A campaign volunteer told them: "I'm sorry, but they're Kerry shirts ... We were told not to let people with Kerry shirts into the rally."

And then this happened ...

And as they approached the gates of the stadium, Lance "Chip" Borman, a Bush campaign worker and attorney who worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, directed them toward the Brevard County sheriff's deputies waiting at the exit.

"Hey folks, it's a private event," he said. "Can you find your way to the nearest exit? Maybe some law enforcement can help?"

Maybe some law enforcement can help. That's adorable.

When some others slipped into their Kerry-Edwards-wear when they were already inside, this happened ...

A second team of ABC News producers waited until entering Space Coast stadium before showing its Kerry-Edwards T-shirts, but was still quickly spotted and ordered out by Borman, who identified himself as working for the Republican National Committee.

He said the rally of some 18,000 people was a "private event," and it made no difference that producers Christine Romo and Jessica Wang had tickets and remained silent and respectful.

"But you wore the shirts; you wore the shirts," Borman said. "And honestly, if you would have come without the shirts and sat quietly, you would have had a fun time and enjoyed it, but I mean it's not that kind of event." He then instructed the sheriff's deputies to escort the ABC News team out to the parking lot.

A bit different, no? But I guess that's the leadership principle for ya ...

Earlier today in the Philadelphia suburbs, the Bush-Cheney campaign was running robo-calls to voters with the following script.

Hello. John Kerry's trial lawyer allies have a scheme to keep you away from the polls tomorrow as part of their hardball strategy. Democrats are trying to intimidate Republican election workers. They're hoping to win through fraud, harassment and law suits what they know that can't win at the ballot box. Don't let them get away with it. Remember that tomorrow is election day and only you can make sure Kerry's hardball tactics don't work. Only you can make sure that the American People—not trial lawyers, not foreign leaders—decide our next president.

Just one of those warm and fuzzy <$NoAd$>Orwell moments ...

More evidence of the small, but discernible Kerry trend in the final 72 hours.

As we reported in the earlier post, the Sunday CBS/NYT poll, which gave a three point margin to the president, was one of the oldest of those released yesterday. It had calls from Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Today, though, CBS/NYT came out with another poll. And this one has Bush over Kerry by only one point.

But that's not the most important detail. If I'm reading the polling analysis correctly, CBS/NYT took those first three days of calls (totalling 920 people) and added one more day of calls on Sunday. The total at the end was 1,345 people.

Since that one additional day moved the numbers two points in Kerry's favor, that suggests that Kerry's numbers on Sunday were very good.

Late Update: In the interests of completeness, the tracking polls today show a more muddled and slightly more Bush-friendly picture. Zogby and WaPo both went from a tie yesterday at 48% to one up for Bush today. Rasmussen went from Bush up 48.1% to 47.1% to Bush up 48.8% to 47.4%. (When he includes 'leaners', he gets Bush 49.4% to Kerry 48.8%.) And Tipp, which had been trending against Kerry, went from Bush up by 5% yesterday to Bush up 2% today.

It's nice to see the ridiculous Neil Cavuto, Fox News anchor, catching some heat for quipping that bin Laden was wearing a Kerry for President button in his recent tape.

It's embarrassment after embarrassment for Fox. Of course, the prerequisite, I guess, would be being capable of embarrassment. So, I guess not.

Feeling jittery? Don't be.

The main danger for Dems at this point is that they'll get knocked off their stride in their ground operation by sundry Rovely shenanigans and razzmatazz. In particular, I'm thinking of various hijinks meant to sap Dem morale.

Here's my brief for very cautious optimism for Kerry supporters.

In the last 24 hours 6 independent national polls have been released. (For the moment, I'm excluding tracking polls; but as of today they're basically a wash.)

Here they are, with readings for likely voters, not registered voters or final projections. (I've included a seventh poll, ARG, because their poll covers the same time period even though it was released more quickly) ...

Marist ... Kerry +1 Fox ... Kerry +2 NBC ... Bush +1 Gallup ... Bush +2 ARG ... Tied CBS/NYT ... Bush +3 Pew ... Bush +3

The best thing these numbers show for President Bush is that 4 of 7 show him in the lead. And his leads are a tad more sizeable than Kerry's.

But look more closely and you see things more favorable to Kerry. The first is that not one of these polls has the president over 49%. And still more telling, if you look at how I've ordered the numbers, it looks like I've arranged them from most Kerry-friendly to most Bush-friendly. But I haven't. I've ordered them by how recently they were taken.

All the Marist poll calls were made Sunday. Half the Fox calls were made Sunday. On the other hand, Pew and CBS stopped calling on Saturday. NBC and Gallup both ran Friday through Sunday.

With the obligatory caveat that the margins are small and within the MoE, the pattern is hard to miss. The more recent the poll, the better margin for Kerry. And in the two most recent ones, he's ahead.

So, on balance there's a movement in Kerry's direction, albeit one which is quite small because so few voters are any longer up for grabs.

Then there's the other issue -- turnout and the ground operation.

That is really the whole issue, as far as I'm concerned.

It's a general rule of thumb that the higher the turnout in an election, the better it is for the Democrats. That's true for a number of reasons, but largely because Democrats do better among 'peripheral constituencies', demographic groups that don't vote consistently.

If you look at the polls above, most of the ones I was able to find 'registered voter' numbers for actually had Kerry beating Bush, by equally narrow margins. That cleavage between likely voter and registered voter tallies means that the president's tiny leads rest on the pollsters' likely voter 'screens'. And that's where turnout and the ground game come into play.

Most of these pollsters have models based on a conventional election, not one in which turnout patterns move in one marked direction. (Folks like Ruy Teixeira argue that they don't even reflect the turnout patterns of recent elections, let along one with a spike in turn-out.)

Democrats and Dem-leaning groups have a massive get-out-the-vote operation this season. The Republicans have a big one too. But Democrats believe that their operation is light-years ahead of what they had in 2000. And it was the ground operation that won the popular vote in 2000.

After talking to friends whose opinions I trust, I *think* it really is that good. And the sizeable Kerry margins among early voters in Iowa and Florida lend support to that judgment. (See this too from Ed Kilgore, re: early voting.) But who knows? I don't know. And they don't either. No one really does. But if the Dems' ground operation is really as good as their people say it is, I think Kerry will win tomorrow. If he doesn't, we'll know they seriously over-estimated it's strength.

Finally, I've spoken to maybe a half dozen Dems whose opinions I trust at a gut level. And each of them has what I'd call a feeling of cautious optimism. For them too, I'd say it comes down to whether that ground operation is really as good as we've heard.

So am I confident, sure Kerry's going to win? Not at all. This is way closer than I would have liked. And I've always tried to be honest with myself about Kerry's stubborn inability to open up any statistically significant lead against the president.

But what I see right now is a incumbent president who can't get past 49% and a dead-even race that seems to be trending ever-so-slightly in Kerry's favor. And on top of all that I think -- for the reasons I noted above -- that the Democrats will win this one on the ground with a mix of better organization and greater determination.

As I said a couple days ago, if you're part of the ground operation, this is in your hands.