AlterNet.org blogger Jan Frel asked Friday why "the big names in the Democratic Party have even lower numbers than Bush -- is that because everyone's ignoring the crisis in our politics?" He frets over the fact that both John Kerry (26%) and Al Gore (28%) trail the president by five and three percentage points respectively in a recent NY Times/CBS poll. But fret not, Jan, for there's a very logical, statistically valid reason for that: Americans do not get juiced by a presidential election 2 1/2 years ahead of time, and couldn't care less right now about the '08 hopefuls. Their focus is on Bush, Congress, the Iraq war, gas prices, massive debt and corruption. That's what explains both the president's abysmally low poll numbers and why no one's quite yet focused on Gore, Kerry, Hillary and 2008.
More to the point, as of this moment, Gore is not an official candidate for the presidency. He has not campaigned; has not released any official policy positions to voters; has made no promises; and has given the electorate no particular reason to focus on him as a candidate. Similarly, Kerry has not officially announced or campaigned either. Both men are merely speculative names on a writer's page. What should concern Democrats at some point is if both polled lower than Bush, or the eventual Republican nominee, after they announce their candidacies, policy positions and make their campaign promises.
Frel writes that "the Times called Gore one of 'Bush's more vocal critics'. What does that mean? Let's be pragmatic. For starters, it means that Al Gore and John Kerry are big losers in the public eye; they weren't the guys at the inauguration. Even though the results of the 2000 and 2004 elections have been contested and remain in dispute, the truth is that neither Gore nor Kerry ever commanded any kind of massive public support for their positions." I beg to differ.
In 2000, Gore received 51-million votes, more than any other Democrat candidate in history at that time, more than any Republican except Ronald Reagan in 1984, and 500,000 more than George Bush. Just think of the numbers he could put up after eight dreadful years of Bush. He lost by five electoral votes in a highly controversial contest. As for Kerry in 2004, the numbers get even better at 59-million votes, more than any presidential candidate in U.S. history except his opponent Bush, who received 61-million. With just 60,000 more votes in Ohio, Kerry'd be president right now. Not exactly what I'd call "losers...without massive public support."
Frel writes that even Hillary Clinton, who enjoys early frontrunner status, polls at just 31%. So what exactly is Frel's main point, that 2 1/2 years out front it already appears that no one in the Democratic party stands a chance at polling higher than, or beating, a Republican? Studies consistently show that a majority of voters do not begin to percolate over the presidential race until the start of the new year and that they've made up their minds by their July 4th BBQ's. I have a lot of respect for Frel as a writer, but on this one he's suffering a case of premature electorate-ation.