Ellis Oster sends this email reconcilling yesterday's conundrum:
Here's an article about a Frank Luntz focus group in OH that liked Bush's speech. Also, Washington Post's focus group contained people from NM, NH, and MO, all swing states, but as you know, each not of the same category as a OH. NM went to Gore and will most likely go to Kerry this year (plus, did you notice that one of the NM "swing voters" already decided he's not voting for Bush, and is choosing between Kerry or Nader, so of course Bush's speech ain't gonna make him vote for Dubya). NH went to Bush but
most polls show that it will go to Kerry this time (it's the New England thang), which doesn't matter at all so long as Bush wins every other state he won in 2000 plus recent polls show him ahead in WI and PA, wish the Post had some swing voters from these states). As for MO, probably the most influential of the states in this focus group (Bush is leading in MO and will most likely win it), the Post doesn't go much into what these swing voters said about Bush's speech, other than they gave him high marks for his personal appeal.
Anyway, to reconcile the Post focus group and the latest Time and Newsweek polls, just remember: focus groups mean squat and are not as accurate as polls (actually, read that to be not accurate at all, let alone compared to polls, because the news organization can pick and choose who it wants for the group, no random selecting). Wait for more polls with a Bush bounce to be released on Monday. If they are weekend polls, add a point or two Bush's way since weekend polls tend to disfavor Republicans. Not saying that Bush nailed this election yet, but certainly changed the pace right when he needed to: the Labor Day mark.
Take care, Ellis
P.S. Concerning Bush's speech, I definitely agree with you about his big government proposals (read Bob Novak's Friday column about this, it's a great piece). That being said, he hit a home run. He did what every single commentator thought he should do. He laid out his domestic agenda for the next four years (granted, ain't a fan of all the spending proposals, hope he's lying about 'em, but at least he set out an agenda with specifics, which he had not previously done). He turned the election around from the economy (where Kerry slightly edges Bush, except on taxes)to the war on terror (where Bush kills Kerry, except on Iraq). And he had great personal appeal. Right after Bush's speech, Bill Kristol correctly pointed out that while Kerry's speech was hailed by all the pundits, it did not resonate with the voters since he seemed so artificial. Bush was definitely not artificial at all.