Charles E. Cook Jr.
Political Déjà Vu, but Will It
Be 2000 or 1992?
© 2004 by The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology
The Washington Quarterly • 27:3 pp. 177–184.
THE WASHINGTON QUARTERLY ■ SUMMER 2004
Charles E. Cook Jr. writes weekly columns for National Journal and CongressDaily AM,
published by the National Journal Group. He is a political analyst for NBC News and
editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report, a Washington-based, nonpartisan
newsletter analyzing U.S. politics and elections.
Although the Democratic and Republican National Conventions
will not take place until later this summer, the 2004 presidential election
field is set, and the general election campaign is well under way. In many
ways, Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic Senator John
Kerry of Massachusetts are fighting on the same playing field that Bush and
then-Vice President Al Gore fought in 2000. Of course, that year Gore won
the popular vote by one-half of 1 percent—48.4 percent for Gore, 47.9 per-
cent for Bush—but lost the Electoral College balloting by 5 votes—271 for
Bush, 266 for Gore. The president’s 537-vote margin of victory in Florida
provided his win in the Electoral College. The only real logistical difference
this year is that, as a result of the decennial reapportionment process, if
Bush were to win all the states that he won in 2000, he would have 7 more
electoral votes, giving him a 278 to 260 win in the Electoral College.
Of course, even though the playing field is largely the same, the political
climate and the candidates’ profiles have changed a great deal since Novem-
ber 2000. Bush is now an incumbent president with four years in the Oval Of-
fice under his belt. Kerry is not the vice president, but he also is not handicapped
by having served closely with a president whose record in office had been tar-
nished by both scandal and innuendo. The economy slid into a recession and
has since emerged. Bush’s tax cuts have successfully stimula