The first presidential debate on international issues and the war on terrorism has kept the race going, said Cook, at a time when the Kerry candidacy was getting clobbered by the Bush campaign, which is the best he has ever seen.
Bush needs to be worried about parts of the country where “the economy has not come back all the way,” said Cook, and some of them are the battleground states.
With casualties jumping back up in recent weeks, Iraq is also a possible source of growing voter discontent, he said. “There is no clear evidence it is hurting Bush yet, but it is getting worse.”
Another “mind-boggling” disadvantage for the Bush campaign, he said, is that it has been outspent by the opposition. “A financial advantage for Bush hasn’t materialized,” he said.
Kerry, on the other hand, could stumble because of his “inability to connect with people on a personal level,” an undistinguished record in the Senate and the Swift Board ads, Cook said.
There is “no chance” that the Republicans will lose control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November, Cook said, but they should be worried about prospects for 2006 when there are expected to be an inordinate number of GOP retirements.
He predicted that there is a 70%-75% chance that the Republicans will hold onto their majority in the Senate.
A good reason to stay up late watching the returns on election night, Cook said, is the race between Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota against Republican challenger John Thune. The final tally “will come down to 1,000 votes either way,” he predicted.
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