Too Soon

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It’s only May.

This is just a cheerful reminder that you need not pay any attention to presidential polls, approval ratings and such stuff. It’s way too early. Political junkies and television talkers pore over these polls like tea leaves, but springtime is too early for them to have any meaning for a fall election.

Traditionally, the majority of Americans don’t start thinking about the presidential election in a serious way until October. What people are thinking in October will be a pretty good indicator of how they will vote on Nov. 4.

What they are thinking in October will this year be based on events largely uncontrollable by the president and certainly by his opponent. Will the economy be good or bad? Will the situation in Iraq have calmed down, or will there still be conflict and chaos? Will high gasoline prices be followed by high heating-oil prices? Will we take another hit from terrorists? Will a new scandal emerge?

Every presidential election is a referendum on the incumbent. This year, the Bush team is spending millions of dollars in attack ads in an attempt to focus attention on his opponent, Sen. John Kerry. In the long run, the strategy won’t work, because if the people are dissatisfied with the Bush administration in November, they will vote against him even if they have to hold their nose to cast a ballot for Kerry. To be a bit more precise, if the majority of the people are unhappy with the state of the union and the direction of the country, they will blame President Bush, whether he deserves to be blamed or not. That’s the price of being the incumbent.

What’s going to happen between now and Nov. 4 only the Lord knows, and he has not talked to me. I certainly don’t know. My guess is that the Iraq situation will not be any better and could be worse. For a whole year, the Bush people have bungled the occupation, and I don’t see any reason for them to suddenly gain wisdom.

Their original plan in handing over phony sovereignty June 30 was to then start troop reduction and fool the American people about how long they planned to really stay. They didn’t count on resistance getting worse. It was one of many things they hadn’t counted on. Now they are trying to find a way to put more troops into Iraq rather than taking some out.

As for the economy, my guess is that a summer of high gasoline prices will be kick-starting inflation. Everything we consume is moved by internal-combustion machines. The price increase of gasoline and diesel fuel will surely be passed along to the consumers. Summer travel and the energy consumed in trying to keep our homes and offices cool will surely keep the prices high. As for acts of terrorism and other unforeseen disasters, your guess is as good as mine.

As for polls, if they are done correctly, they can offer a fairly accurate picture of what people think at the moment the poll is taken. Of course, the people might change their minds the next day. Choosing the wrong sample or wording the question in a prejudicial way can skew the results. It’s also a fact that some people lie to pollsters just for the fun of it. I think polls are practically useless, as far as ordinary people are concerned. The news media love them, because to the media every campaign is just a horse race, and it gives media members something shallow to write and talk about.

I personally don’t care what other people think, and never have. It’s not a factor in my own thought process. I was reared to be an independent thinker and to listen to my own conscience, even if the whole world disagreed. That’s not to say I don’t listen and learn from other people. I do. But only facts and logic appeal to me, not the number of people holding an opinion. After all, in 1491 a majority of Europeans would have told a pollster the world was flat. Good thing for us old Columbus was an independent thinker.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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