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Here are the big dirty little secrets about the election, all guaranteed to be true and (almost) all guaranteed to make every one of our sources angry.
1. Whoever wins the electoral votes of 2 out of 3 (or 3 out of 3) of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida will be the next president of the United States.
2. By keeping his physical and psychic distance, John Kerry has fostered less Stockholm Syndrome among his regular traveling press corps than any Democratic presidential candidate since.. well … since Al Gore. (Kerry's ways make the relationship between Walter Mondale and Lee Kamlet look like that between John McCain and Tucker Carlson, if you know what we mean.)
3. A lot of Democrats — including some of the smartest ones we know — look at the latest polling data and claim to think that the election is all but over.
4. Note to Devenish and Cutter — get used to it. The dominant political press narrative creators have locked in. President Bush will never be held to the same standard as Senator Kerry on flip-flopping and Senator Kerry will never be held to the same standard as the president on saying careless/wrong things for effect.
5. The central theory of the Bush campaign is that winning depends on destroying John Kerry by making him unacceptable to the American people as a commander in chief, someone to have in their living rooms for four years, and a liberal, flip-flopping, pessimistic tax increaser.
6. Bush advisers who are putting all their chips on the Iraq handover leading to an improvement in right track/wrong track and the president's job approval are (semi-)secretly worried that — even if the facts on the ground improve — public opinion and perception will lag and not improve commensurately (and enough) by November to make a difference — a la 41 and the economy in '92.
7. Most Democrats are fraidy cats who don't think in their hearts they can win the White House or, if they win it, don't think they can hold it for any length of time — and/but John Kerry is an conspicuous exception to this.
8. Nearly every political reporter in America is having the same experience — they keep finding Republicans who say they will never vote again for President Bush (over the the war and the deficit, usually) but they have a heck of a time finding anyone who voted for Gore in 2000 who are now certain that they will vote for Bush (and Gore apparently won the popular vote).
9. Beyond a core group who has known him for years, would walk through walls for him, and respects how tough he is, Kerry's staff evinces less respect for him and less fondness for him than Gore's people did about the 2000 standard bearer.
10. There will be less national debate this year about what the agenda of either Bush or Kerry for 2005-2009 will be than any of you can imagine.
11. There is absolutely no way of knowing until election day if the Republicans' 72 hours program, or either parties' 527s, or the virulent anti-Bush animation will produce on-the-ground practical results or tidal waves or not — the only index that matters is winning.
12. For reasons both tactical and strategic, ABC News continues to leave unpublished the names of a lot of Democrats who are secretly working for John Kerry's veepstakes operation. But, don't be under any illusions — we know who you are.