After 3 Debates And With 18 Days To Go, Who Will It Be?
This week, the Herald provides its readers with a virtual "absentee ballot" to make a choice between the candidates of the Republican Party, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their Democratic challengers, John Kerry and John Edwards. For the nearly 4-million American citizens resident in Puerto Rico, it may be the closest that they can come this year to selecting their nations leadership and the commander-in-chief for the next four years.
In many places in the United States, voters have already cast their ballots for who will be President and Vice President during the 2005 2009 term. The "absentee ballot" has become more of a presence in U.S. elections than previously observed. Generally viewed as a good thing, many states have relaxed the reasons voters must provide as to why they wish to vote before Election Day this year on November 2nd and some jurisdictions require no reason whatsoever. There is even a movement to permit Puerto Ricans residing on the island to use the absentee ballot to vote in mainland districts, if they had previously been registered to vote there when they resided on the mainland.
No longer a voting option solely for travelers and U.S. citizens stationed away from their home precincts, it has become a choice for the elderly and infirm, a hedge against foul weather on Election Day and, in some cases, simply a convenience for those who have already made up their minds and wish to get the voting process out of the way. According to a study done by the Los Angeles Times, an estimated 15 percent of votes cast in the 2000 presidential election were absentee ballots, and that number is expected to rise to 30 percent or more in this years voting.
By some estimates, roughly 10% of the electorate is still holding off making its choice, carefully weighting domestic against foreign policy issues, character against experience, campaign promises against candidates track records. Most observers agree that the election has come down to such factors as who can best protect the nation against terrorists, what is the best plan for Iraq, how can a new administration best reduce nuclear proliferation, create domestic jobs, provide better and more extensive health care, improve public education, reduce the tax burden and check the growing federal deficit.
As of this writing, the subject of Puerto Ricos political status has not been mentioned in the debates or in any prominent way "on the stump" by either campaign. Unless some "undecided but leaning" invitee to tonights town meeting debate can get a question on the subject accepted, it is unlikely to emerge as an issue. Any hope that either candidate would be proactive on the subject has been abandoned by advocates. Both major political parties have assumed ambivalent and politically safe platforms about Puerto Rico and are considering the issue in terms of "damage management."
Tonight, President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry will cross swords in their second of three face-to-face debates. It is to be in St. Louis, Missouri and will take the form of a "town hall" meeting. A specially invited audience of "undecided voters" will submit written questions to moderator Charlie Gibson of ABC News, who will pose them to the candidates. By prearrangement, the questions will be evenly split between audience members "leaning" towards either Bush or Kerry.
If the first debate between the two presidential candidates is any guide, the St. Louis face-off could determine the results of the election. Polls show the two as virtually even as the Herald goes up on the web this week but, before the two met last Friday in Miami Bush had enjoyed a 5-point lead in most polls. John Kerry distinguished himself in that debate while President Bush faltered. In the spirited war of words between the Vice-Presidential candidates held last Tuesday night in Cleveland, most observers felt that Vice-President Cheney and Senator Edwards battled to a virtual tie.
There is to be a third debate on October 13th in Tempe Arizona, hosted by Bob Schieffer of CBS News, ostensibly on the subject of domestic affairs. Since it is generally conceded that John Kerry will have the advantage in this area, it is all the more important that President Bush make a good showing in St. Louis. All pundits agree that the debates this year will be the key factor for the nations "undecided" to move towards one candidate or the other.
On three occasions during this election year, the Herald has invited readers to send in a virtual "absentee ballot" to reflect their preferences for a presidential ticket. Now, with some 26 days remaining before the nation goes to the polls, the option is again presented, as it will again on for the days immediately before the election.
In previous polls, Herald readers from the mainland have preferred the Kerry/Edwards ticket by an average of 8 percentage points while islanders have held the same opinion by the wider margin of 13 percentage points. Overall, the advantage for John Kerry over George Bush has been 10%. It should be noted that, in the earliest poll (March 5, 2004), John Edwards had not yet been selected as Kerrys choice as Democratic candidate for Vice President but it was assumed that Dick Cheney would continue as George Bushs choice to repeat in the number two spot on the Republican ticket.
The following chart offers a comparison of Herald reader response to the three previous polls on Presidential preference.
COMPARISON OF POLL RESULTS FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Herald Mainland Readers
Mar 5th* -- Jul 9th -- Aug 6th
For Bush/Cheney -- 42% -- 42% -- 44%
For Kerry/Edwards -- 51% -- 53% -- 50%
Undecided/Other -- 7% -- 5% -- 6%
Herald Island Readers
Mar 5th* -- Jul 9th -- Aug 6th
For Bush/Cheney -- 46% -- 36% -- 40%
For Kerry/Edwards -- 45% -- 61% -- 55%
Undecided/Other -- 9% -- 3% -- 5%
Herald Overall Results
Mar 5th* -- Jul 9th -- Aug 6th
For Bush/Cheney -- 43% -- 41% -- 43%
For Kerry/Edwards -- 50% -- 55% -- 51%
Undecided/Other -- 7% -- 4% -- 6%
*On March 5, 2004, John Edwards had not yet been selected for VP candidate by John Kerry
Cast an "absentee vote" for the next president of the United States. Which ticket do you prefer?
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