Off The Record: Yard placards, bumper stickers are signs of the times

October 25, 2004|HERB BROCK

Observations, illuminations and obfuscations in the stretch drive of Election 2004, written on the back of one of those thousands of candidate calling cards stuck in my front screen door:

DEMS SEEM TO LEAD IN YARD SIGN, STICKER WAR ... Polls indicate that the Republican candidates for president and U.S. senator hold big leads in Kentucky. But if yard signs and bumper stickers spotted around Danville and other central Kentucky areas are any indication, then George W. Bush and Jim Bunning might be a tad worried. Their Democrat opponents appear to be winning the sign and sticker war.

This observation is not scientific. It is based soley on my walks and drives around Danville, a couple of other area towns and Lexington. However, I can say that I have seen a lot more John Kerry and Kerry Edwards signs and stickers than those for Bush and more signs and stickers for Dan Mangiardo than for Bunning.


What makes the relative profusion of Kerry signs and stickers even more impressive is the fact that many of the people sporting them have had to buy them over the Internet and lap up them the limited number available at county Democratic Party headquarters, which has had to buy them as well.

The Democratic National Committee and the Kerry campaign long ago decided they had little chance in Kentucky and, thus, did not bombard this "red state" with free campaign signs and stickers, like they have states in which they believe they are more competitive. That meant Kerry supporters either had to purchase the materials over various Web sites or get them from state or local headquarters, which had to pay for them themselves.

But while it has appeared that Kerry and, to a lesser extent, Mangiardo, are winning the sign and sticker war, that doesn't mean the commonwealth will be defying the pollsters and pundits and end up among the "blue states" on Nov. 2. If signs and stickers were reliable indicators of who wins elections, then we would have had several "winners" who never served in public office. Remember U.S. Sen. Harvey Sloane or Gov. Steve Beshear?

Also, GOP sources tell me that the party will do as it did in 2000 and create an explosion of signs during the last few days of the campaign. It is meant to psyche out the Dems and pump up fellow Republicans - and depress citizens who consider yard signs colorful litter.

HIGH TURNOUT EXPECTED FROM RECORD REGISTRATION... Let's hope the election officers working at Boyle County's precinct polling stations get a lot of rest over the next week. Based on what County Clerk Denise Curtsinger is forecasting, they should be very busy.

A record number of Boyle Countians - more than 19,000 - are on the voter registration books, and Curtsinger expects more than 70 percent of them to cast ballots. By the way, the number of Republicans continues to grow. Some 30 percent of the more than 19,000 registered voters in Boyle, or more than 5,000, are Republicans. Slightly under 70 percent are Democrats, while a small fraction, some 1,200, are "other," most of them being independents.

The reason for Curtsinger's high voter turnout expections are due to the fact that the Boyle ballot not only will contain the races for president and U.S. Senate but also the hotly challenged contests for state representative and city commission and council. The ballot also contains a vote on the highly controversial state consitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

In November 2000, some 68 percent of the registered voters cast ballots in that year's presidential election, Curtsinger said. With very competitive local races, the constitional amendment and the presidential and senatorial races on this year's ballot, the veteran county clerk is confident the 2000 turnout percentage will be easily surpassed.

Curtsinger said a fairly reliable predicator of turnout is the number of absentee ballots that are cast. The total in November 2000 was 535. As of Oct. 18, there were more than 400, and Curtsinger expected the number to surpass 500 by the end of the week or early this week.

AND THE WINNERS ARE... If you thought my yard sign observations relative to election outcomes was unscientific, well, here's something even dopier - my periodic poll. If you want a more scientific pulse of the electorate, feel free to consult Gallup, Harris, Zogby and the other famous pollsters. If you want to have little fun, you've come to the right place. I periodically conduct highly unscientific polls based on phone calls randomly made to area listings and responses from people who claim to be of voting age and registered and otherwise are breathing and semi-coherent. I recently conducted such a poll in the presidential race. Here are the results, based on the first 50 people who answered their phones, had a pulse and could string two words together:

George W. Bush - 22

John F. Kerry - 15

Ralph Nader - 3


Ernie Fletcher - 4

Jacques Chirac - 1

Ashley Judd - 1

Sean Penn - 1

Brad Pitt - 1

Arnold Schwartzenegger - 1

Bart Simpson - 1

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