Monday, November 01, 2004

the tipping balance

Last night's Panorama stuck to the general consensus that the US election race remains a dead heat, which makes the Guardian's implying that Bin Laden's video had had a positive and near decisive impact on Bush's campaign over the weekend all the stranger. Current polls suggest it remains close. But Panorama did seem to suggest that Bush had the means to win, and if he does mobilise his voters, then he should win it tomorrow. I hope to god it doesn't pan out that way. But there did seem to be several reasons to worry.

The show revealed that 4m evangelicals neglected to vote in the last election (the late disclosure of Bush's drink-driving conviction putting paid to their support) and emphasised that - under Bush - the peculiar re-alignment of the Latino vote has solidified since Jeb Bush's re-election in November 2002. Republicans can now rely upon the support of Florida's large Cuban American vote (no surprise, then, to see Bush lambasting Castro yesterday, and even implying that the US under a second Bush term would consider intervening in Cuba). Although there's little evidence that the hispanic vote as a whole has transferred allegiance in this way, Jeb took 56% of the overall Hispanic vote in 02. If such a switch is played out over the country it would be a disaster for Kerry.

Of course, he retains the black vote, but it was salutory to note that the Hispanic population in America now outnumbers the African-American one, making it the single largest minority in the land. The thought of Bush mobilising this base is very worrying indeed, as is the prospect of those 4m evangelists responding to the president's moves on abortion and stem cell research and returning their support to to the republicans.

All this, to me, looks like Bush edging ahead, despite what the polls say. I hope not. The consolation is that pollsters have little access to first time voters. Young Americans, disilussioned by Bush, could yet tip the balance - but until election day we won't know how many will come out to vote. Their intervention could be crucial. Either way, I'm getting nervous. I though the balance was tipping Kerry's way. Now, I'm not so sure.

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