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Hannity

The Campaign According to the Pollsters

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 6, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Some new polls indicate that the Democratic nominee has some work to do. If the election were held today, the most recent "Newsweek" poll shows in a three-way race, Bush holds an 11-point lead over Kerry.

The latest Gallup poll released just this afternoon gives the president a seven-point lead over Kerry among likely voters.

But can the president keep that lead going until November? Will John Kerry close the gap?

We're joined by Opinion Dynamics pollster Larry Shiman.

Larry, thank you for being with us. Is this just typical post-convention bounce or is there something else going on here?

LARRY SHIMAN, OPINION DYNAMICS POLLSTER: There might be something else going on here. Remember that this election has been very, very unusual in the amount of stability that there's been throughout the campaign.

If there really is a sizable Bush bounce, and remember, there are a lot of polls yet to come. But if this is real, then it might be very meaningful, because it might be a little more permanent.

COLMES: You still have the base to come. And by the way, if you look at this poll, we're talking about among registered voters, Bush is only ahead by one point among registered. Not likely but registered voters. What does that mean?

SHIMAN: There's a lot of different ways of looking at this. And you can't just look at one number and assume that because Bush is up by six in one poll or 10 in another, that that is actually the way it is.

There are a lot of different ways to look at it. There's likely voters; there's registered voters. There are voters in the swing states, voters in other states. So it is very important to look at a lot of different numbers, not just one number in any of these polls.

COLMES: Doesn't it make sense, because there is an electoral college, and where really it boils down to 16 or 17 swing states, those are the voters and the independents who the ones not leaning or the once that aren't leaning but haven't really decided.

Doesn't this really boil down to a relatively small group of voters, and shouldn't that be where the polls be focused?

SHIMAN: Well, yes and no. On the one hand you're absolutely right. Since this is an electoral college we should be looking at a state-by-state basis. But if you only focus on those 15 or 16 states you might be missing a big story in another state that is supposed to be one way or another but actually might be in play.

COLMES: What has to happen? Could you turn everything around? I mean, I know that Kerry is making some changes in his staff, but what changes these numbers? What kinds of events change them?

SHIMAN: up to now, very little has changed them. We've seen very little change from advertising.

But there might be some events coming up that might really change things. The debates are certainly one thing that could change these quite a bit.

Now, if there is some big event, whether it's a terrorist attack or something of that nature, it's not at all clear how exactly that might play out. People assume it's going to help either the president or not help the president, but again, from the polls that we've been seeing, it's not clear.

COLMES: You say there are little changes from advertising but haven't the Swift Boat ads had an effect?

SHIMAN: You're right. That's been the one exception, but even in that case, it was only a three or four-point swing. But still, that had more of an effect than absolutely any other advertising campaign throughout the year.

TRACE GALLAGHER, GUEST CO-HOST: The Democrats are glossing over the fact that there was virtually no spike in the polls after the Democratic National Convention.

In fact, I think it was the USA Today poll that said he actually went down. You know, I'm really struck. I think this is huge news, is it not because Terry McAuliffe said that neither party should get a bump and yet the Republicans are enjoying a significant one.

Isn't that a huge story?

SHIMAN: It could be a huge story.

But again, I would caution to wait for some other polls including the Fox News/Olympic Dynamics polls later this week. If Bush's lead turns out to be increase eight to 10 points it has to concern Senator Kerry.

On the other hand those people who have recently switched perhaps from supporting Kerry to supporting Bush were probably people who were on the fence anyway and those are the people that Senator Kerry does have at least a chance of winning back.

I have heard it said presidential elections are not decided now. They're decided in late September, even early to mid-October. It could be really bad news that President Clinton, who is now going to be recuperating from his successful heart surgery today, is out of commission and won't be able to campaign on behalf of John Kerry.

Polling wise, Clinton really was going to play a big part in that story, wasn't he?

SHIMAN: Well, Clinton is still actually very popular in terms of what his job approval rating and looking back years later, a lot of people have a favorable opinion of him.

On the other hand, it's really questionable when you look at the polls how much impact any kind of endorsement from someone outside of the ticket really has on the campaign.

GALLAGHER: It looks like all of Senator Kerry's numbers are down, in almost every category. If you were John Kerry's pollster is there anything in the polling data you've seen that you could be optimistic about on his behalf?

Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. A number of polls also in the Gallup poll that came out today, people still trust Senator Kerry more than the president on certain domestic issues, including the economy and health care.

And if John Kerry can focus on one or two of these issues and really make people focus on those things that they trust him for more than the president then I think he really has a chance. I think you have to move it away from terrorism and those issues.

I'm still stunned from Bob Beckel earlier, who talked about how unlikable President Bush is and how likable, I guess, John Kerry is. Likeability is such an important part of polls data.

GALLAGHER: In your view is there that an aloof, arrogant, decidedly non-likable guy like John Kerry can do to turn it around and make somebody like him?

SHIMAN: I think so. Even in the primaries there was talk about that and he came back and won people over. If you look at their favorability ratings they're not that different between Senator Kerry and President Bush.

In the long run, one of the key things to remember is a lot of people are voting based 0 on their opinion of the president and not so much whether they like John Kerry as a person and that might continue.

GALLAGHER: Maybe warm fuzzy sweaters will be the order of him for the fall and day to try to soften his image?

SHIMAN: It could be enough.

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