Writing in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, former Bush strategist Karl Rove made a direct comparison between the two cycles, and concluded Mitt Romney is currently in a much better position than Senator Kerry was.
At this point in the race in 2004, he noted, the composite average of national polls showed Bush narrowly leading Kerry, 48.9 to 45.8. By contrast, today’s composite average shows Mr. Romney leading President Obama, 48.9 to 46.7. (The current Real Clear Politics average of polls shows less of a difference, with Mr. Obama and Romney currently tied at exactly 47.1, while in 2004, the RCP average had Bush at 48.8 and Kerry at 46.)
Earlier this week, however, the liberal blog Daily Kos made the opposite case. It compared the Oct. 20 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which showed Obama and Romney tied at 47 percent among likely voters, with the Oct. 20, 2004 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which showed Bush and Kerry tied among likely voters at 48 percent – an almost identical result. But among registered voters, the 2012 poll showed Obama up by 5 points, while the 2004 poll showed Bush up by just 2 points, which led the site to argue Obama is actually in a slightly better position than Bush.
A more important difference than variations in the national polls, however, may be differences in individual states – since, in order to win the White House, a candidate must get to 270 electoral votes.
The RCP poll average for Ohio right now has Obama up by 2.1 – which happens to be exactly the same margin Bush held in the RCP average for the final week of the campaign in 2004 (and his actual margin of victory in the state).