Why Bush Will Win in 2004

Many political junkies are following the democratic primaries with much interest. I have watched a few of the debates, but I donít think they matter. First of all, I think Howard Dean will win the Democratic primary by a large margin. I expect Dean will move to the center after winning the primary. I do not underestimate him, I believe Dean is as canny a politician as Bill Clinton. While he lacks Clintonís charisma, he also appears to have more self-control. So he is probably the best chance the Democrats have in 2004.

Despite my respect for Deanís abilities, I also donít think it matters who the Democrats put up against Bush. I have a theory that any presidential candidate with a job approval rating above 47% in the third year of his first term will win reelection barring vary abnormal circumstances. I have drawn my hypothetical line of reelection in this chart.

Since 1963 (the earliest data that I reviewed), six presidents have had job approval ratings above 47% in the third year of their first term. Our current president is one of these, so there are five historical examples from which to learn. Three of them (Nixon, Reagan, Clinton) were easily reelected by very large margins. JFK would probably have been reelected as well, but he was assassinated before he could be reelected. George H.W. Bush was the only president with a high job approval rating to lose reelection. Why?

The common wisdom (and Bill Clinton) says ďIt was the economy, stupid.Ē Thus, if the economy is poor in 2004, Howard Dean should win. Otherwise, President W. Bush will be reelected. The common wisdom is wrong. While the economy was a factor in the defeat of Bush, Sr., it was not the only factor. In my opinion, the most important factor in the Bush/Clinton election was Ross Perot. Studies have shown that Perot voters disproportionately drew from Republican voters and the split gave Clinton the victory. To a lesser extent, Ralph Nader repeated this circumstance and probably cost Gore the election in 2000.

Unless the Republican vote is somehow split in 2004, I expect George W. Bush to easily win reelection even if the economy goes into another recession. The economy is important, but its importance in national elections is overstated.


I think it's a typo, "George H.W. Bush, 2003"...but anyway...doesn't that kind of throw the whole hypothesis out the window? He had 59% in his third year...more than anyone else on the chart, and yet lost.

Posted by: dowingba | 11/03/2003 - 01:56 PM

Thanks for the input, yes that was a typo. It should say 1991. I'll fix it tonight when time permits.

But my theory has two key points.

1) The incumbent must have a high approval rating in his third year (above the hypothetical line of reelection)


2) The incumbent's core supporters do not split their vote

George H.W. Bush met the first criteria, but not the second since Ross Perot split off much of the Republican vote.

Unless an independent candidate runs in the 2004 election who will siphon Republican votes away from George W. Bush, my theory predicts the reelection of President Bush.

Posted by: Admiral Quixote | 11/03/2003 - 02:06 PM

In viewing the current Democratic field, plus the absolutely ridiculous level of irrational hatred for Bush right now, I increasingly believe that Dems are headed for a horrible ass-whupping next year. I mean, an ass-whupping so bad their noses bleed buttermilk. As in, not just an electoral vote map that runs red, but Senate and House victories that make them shriek in pain.

I may be wrong. You may be wrong. But Jesus, what a mess the donks are right now. And they only have themselves to blame.

Hey. 20 years from now it may be different. No party holds power forever. But Jesus, talk about handing the sceptre to your enemies.

Well, maybe I'll look a fool this time next year.

Posted by: Dean Esmay | 11/03/2003 - 02:21 PM

Update: The typo has been fixed (Thanks dowingba).

Dean, yes, the Democrats seem to be in self-destruct mode. However, the power of incumbency is so great I doubt they will lose too many Senate seats. Although if they keep retiring like Bob Graham, they might. Hopefully the Democrats will kick out the leftists who have ruined the party and eventually reform as a constructive party again. However, I donít expect this to happen quickly.

Posted by: Admiral Quixote | 11/03/2003 - 10:08 PM

Excellent analysis. I agree with both points of your hypothesis. Everyone points at H. W. Bush as foretelling how the next election will go. I think Dean's prophecy is a better prediction of what we are going to end up seeing.

Posted by: King of Fools | 11/05/2003 - 10:39 AM

I agree with you so much about Ross Perot. He got 19% of the vote! Everyone writes about the similiarities between George Sr losing and George Jr's poll numbers without factoring in a third party candidate siphoning off a huge chunk of the vote. Perot's performance also dims Clinton's star. He had no mandate either.

Posted by: George Woodard | 11/05/2003 - 03:40 PM

You fail to mention the importance of George H. W. Bush's "read-my-lips, no-new-taxes" promise made in 1988, broken in 1991 which made Ross Perot's candidacy possible. It is arguable that without that broken promise, either Ross Perot would not have run, or GHW Bush would have steam-rolled over Clinton and Perot both.

Posted by: RadTechTraveler | 11/06/2003 - 05:13 AM


I agree with you - Bush, Sr. created a lot of his own problems. I also think he might have had more success if he had removed Saddam at the end of the Gulf War; stopping short of this demoralized his core base as much as the tax increase IMO.

Of course all of this is indirectly covered by my theory ;-) While it is nice to learn why a third-party candidate is motivated to split the vote, the only important part (from a theoretical perspective) is knowing that the vote will be split.

Posted by: Admiral Quixote | 11/06/2003 - 11:49 AM

If Howard Dean is nominated to run for the dems, that might be motivation in itself for a third-party candidate; seeing as Dean represents so few of democratic voters' wishes.

Posted by: dowingba | 11/07/2003 - 02:56 AM

i think the president bush would win the realection becouse he is good president he care about the america people not like other president especial the democrat they promise and they dont anything after sadam huusen capture bush would win.

Posted by: frank | 12/14/2003 - 03:19 PM

The Republicans are so scared of Howard Dean that theyíre trying their best to make sure he doesn't even get the nomination. I've never seen fear like this before; it's blatantly so obvious. Mr. Rove hasnít a clue what to do about Dean's huge Democratic base; all it does is grow. Republicans have to remember, after loosing the 2000 popular vote, itís hard for the majority side to comprehend their rhetoric, it just doesnít work.

Posted by: TIM | 12/29/2003 - 07:15 PM

Wonderful Bush, always looking out for us little people. Why are so stupid people, just one little example of what a murderous theif this guy is:

He has just raised 120 million for his relection-- his goal is 170 million and this needs to be spent in the primary's where he has no oponent?

Dean has raised 40 million and that is the most of all dem. canidates.

Please give your money to Bush party--He needs you don't

Posted by: soozie | 12/31/2003 - 10:04 PM

You guys are all messed up. Bush will win because it is God's plan. GW Bush is a man of integrity. I am so sick of the democrats poking fun at the current president. They have nothing substantial to say, i guess.

Posted by: wasp | 01/04/2004 - 03:39 PM

All the people who disagree with Dean's theory seem to lack basic communication skills. I'm just waiting for Admiral Stockdale to check in! Bush will win in a landslide in 2004.

From A Native Vermonter,


Posted by: Trevor Olson | 01/07/2004 - 08:19 PM

OOPS! I meant Admiral Quixote's theory!

Posted by: Trevor Olson | 01/07/2004 - 09:00 PM

What a difference three months makes! Dean managed to self-destruct in a way that I had to see to believe. However, I stand by my theory. Unless Bush manages to hack off enough conservatives that a Perot like figure runs, Bush should win in November.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 02/06/2004 - 02:04 PM

most of these postings are outdated i.e. dean is out. i predict that bush will lose in 04. be barley won the last election...or did he. and this time yes he does have a strong following but more importantly he has a very strong opposition. more people hate the current president on not just on policy issues. they hate him on a personel level. expect to see a record number at the polls in 04. people who never voted before are going to suprise the nation with their votes against bush and we will all watch as the little man is botted from the white house

Posted by: adam | 02/24/2004 - 07:59 AM

You may be right, but we shall see. For me, I stand by my prediction because nothing has changed on the Bush side of the equation.

You are obviously correct that Bush is hated by many on the left and this may make a difference. However, I heard the same stuff from Clinton-hating Republicans when Clinton ran for reelection. And while Clinton did not receive a majority of the vote either (just a plurality), he easily won a majority of the electoral votes.

The advantages of incumbency are great and I still expect to see Bush win decisively in November. Only two things would change my mind. 1) Something unpredictable occurs (e.g., Bush self-destructs like Dean did, the economy collapses, etc.) or 2) A conservative independent runs for office and siphons away some of Bush's core votes.

I think Bush's victory will be quite decisive should Kerry wrap up the Democratic nomination. I think Bush would still win against Edwards, but that would be a closer race. Kerry raises as much disdain among the military as Bush does amongst the left.

Posted by: Don Quixote | 02/24/2004 - 08:53 AM

Excellent points. I agree completely with you and the other person who commented on the split of the Republican vote due to the broken "no new taxes pledge". Bush has a 54% approval rating (Gallup) and an 8 pt lead among likely voters with 30 days to go. Kerry, a Northeast liberal's liberal won't do what has not been done since 1960 (by JFK): be a Northeastern democratic senator to win the presidency. The last person to do it was John F. Kennedy, an inspiring, young, articulate and charismatic leader. None of the above describes Mr. Kerry. Raising taxes on the small business owners aka the "rich" means reducing the amount of new jobs created since most new jobs are created by small businesses who file taxes individually. Further, no other nations (certainly not Germany or France) are willing to add in their troops (Germany and France say they would not regardless of who the American president is) to what Kerry calls a "grand diversion" and "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" in order to join the ranks of the "coerced and bribed" and be "window dressers". This is not the way you build international consensus which Kerry claims is his strength! He said in 1971 he wanted to eliminate the CIA (whose budget he has consistently voted to cut) and only disperse American troops at the discretion of the UN (aka League of Nations II) (2/3 of whose members are socialists). His views have not changed since then. Most Americans recognize that in a post 9-11 world that we cannot afford to have a president with this kind of foreign policy.

Posted by: Robert { | 10/02/2004 - 05:24 PM
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