Linda DiVall Has Answers

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Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante brings a top political expert into the Smoke-Filled Room each week to answer your questions. Republican Pollster and CBS News Consultant Linda DiVall has the answers to your questions in this special edition of Smoke-Filled Room.

Plante: Our first viewer D.M. writes “I’ve heard of post-convention bounces in the polls, but didn’t Bush get a big pre-convention bounce? Does it mean anything long-term?”

DiVall: Well, actually the polls show Bush maintaining the same margin he’s had for the last for or five weeks – anywhere from six to ten points. There’s one poll that shows it to be a little bit larger than all the others - which we kind of discount those out line polls. The fact of the matter is; Governor Bush has consolidated his base. He’s in a position now to reach out to the key swing voters and we have to hope we can maintain this edge after the Democrats conclude their convention. As you know, whoever heads into Labor Day with the lead has won the Presidential election for about the last fifty years. So that’s the trend we have to hope we can duplicate.

Plante: ”I’m like the only person I know who’s going to watch the conventions,” notes Lily. “So do they really matter when November comes?”

DiVall: Well I think that for those people who tune in, particularly those who decide to watch this year’s conventions, are going to see a different type of Republican Party, a much more optimistic, inclusive party. I think you’ll hear that with Colin Powell tonight, who will also issue a challenge to Republicans to be more inclusive and to take on more responsibility. I think there is something there. Obviously not all Americans are going to watch it, but I think that for those who do, it does form an initial impression of the party and help them consider the nominee under the particular image they see during the convention.

Plante: Is Dick Cheney a help or hindrance to the ticket? Annette Louise wants to know.

DiVall: I think he is a significant asset. He represents the establishment, conservative wing of the party. He is going to help us address our problems on the governance issue. He’s a solid campaigner, but more importantly, people have seen him as Secretary of Defense, someone who is the voice of reason, somebody who has the quiet authority that he exudes. He knows how Congress operates, and that will be a significant plus for Bush, once they win the election.

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Plante: S. Fierstein wants to know what you think will be the defining issue of the campaign?

DiVall: That’s an interesting question. I don’t think there is a defining issue at this moment. I think there perhaps is more of a theme or an attitude, if you will. I think that what’s going to be interesting to note at the two convention is how they include people in dealing with other people’s problems. The Democrats tend to look at the government. Republicans are saying faith-based institutions, charities, different community programs can also address problems. I’m not sure there’s a defining issue, so much as a sense of “we can do greater”. The Bush theme is renewing America’s purpose; that we can take on more responsibility, that we can help others. I think it’s that kind of tone that is strikingly different from Republicans in the past. We’ll see if a defining issue emerges in the next three months of the campaign.

About Bill Plante
Bill Plante is a three-time Emmy Award winner who joined the CBS News Washington Bureau in 1976. He has been covering national elections since 1968. In 1984, he was part of a CBS News team that captured an Emmy for coverage of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Plante is one of the most knowledgeable and respected political correspondents in Washington. (He'll do just about anything, including bungee jumping, to get a good story.)