Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell suggested that the recently released videotaped message from Osama bin Laden will benefit President George W. Bush's reelection campaign -- despite polling data suggesting that the opposite is true.
Meacham and Mitchell made this suggestion on a special pre-election edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, which aired at 9:00 p.m. ET on October 31. By that time, only two daily tracking polls had been conducted in their entirety since the October 29 release of the bin Laden tape. Both showed a trend toward Senator John Kerry:
• The FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted October 30-31 shows Kerry with a two-point lead. A FOX News Channel poll conducted October 29-30 showed Kerry and Bush tied at 46 percent to 46 percent; its poll conducted October 28-29 showed Bush with a two-point lead over Kerry; and its poll conducted October 27-28 showed Bush with a five-point lead.
On Hardball, Mitchell claimed that "the Osama bin Laden tape ... could have helped the president in the last 48 hours." Craig Crawford, MSNBC political analyst and special contributor to Congressional Quarterly, said: "I don't think we've seen the numbers to the extent that that conclusion could be drawn clearly." Meacham replied: "I think there are two numbers in the NBC poll: 49 percent say terror and social issues are more important, 39 percent say health care and the economy. And of the people who say the tape affects them, it's 24 [percent to] 12 [percent] more likely [to favor Bush]."
Both Mitchell and Meacham referred to the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted October 29-31, which indicated that the bin Laden videotaped message made 24 percent of voters more likely to back Bush and 12 percent more likely to support Kerry. But as Hardball host Chris Matthews accurately pointed out, 62 percent of those polled said the bin Laden tape, in Matthews's words, "doesn't affect them at all." The video's impact is further diluted by the fact that, according to the poll, "only 4% of voters in the survey said they had made up their minds [about which candidate to vote for] in recent days."
Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg's Democracy Corps poll, conducted October 29-30, specifically questioned voters on their view of the tape. It found that 46 percent of respondents said the bin Laden tape "makes me think that George [W.] Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan and diverted resources to Iraq," compared with 36 percent who said: "It underscores the importance of George [W.] Bush's approach to the war on terrorism."