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    Optimists Rule!

    Why? They win elections.


    Here are some examples analyzed from Bush's convention speech:

    "Too many American children are segregated into schools without standards, shuffled from grade to grade because of their age, regardless of their knowledge. This is discrimination, pure and simple, the soft bigotry of low expectations."
    The statement identifies the cause of a problem, but so vaguely that it's hard to imagine a solution, so Fresco gives it a 12.

    "We have seen a steady erosion of American power."
    The statement implies that things are pretty bad in American, but blames the Democrats, so Fresco gives it an 11.

    Next, some examples from Gore's convention speech:

    "I'm not satisfied with . . . the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs."
    This is a fairly clear, limited problem with at least an implied solution (lowering the cost of drugs), says Fresco, who gives it a rating of 7.33.

    "The other side will not [fight for prescription drug benefits.] Their plan tells seniors to beg the HMOs and insurance companies for prescription drug coverage."
    Again, Gore addresses a focused problem and implies he has the solution. Fresco gives this statement another 7.33.

    (To compare the candidates' complete speeches, see Bush's Acceptance Speech and Gore's Acceptance Speech.)

    Overall, Fresco's team rates Gore 9.3 and Bush 10.0. Says Fresco, "It's going to be a nail-biter, and a fairly close election, but Gore's margin is statistically significant." As close as it sounds, the difference is bigger than can be explained by chance, Fresco says. It's close to the difference between Jimmy Carter (8.05) and Gerald Ford (8.97) in 1976. Carter won that election with 50% of the popular vote to Ford's 48% (2% went to third-party candidates).

    The contest between Bush and Gore certainly looks closer than the last election, in which Clinton got a pessimism rating of 9 and Dole scored 12. "Dole emerged as a real sourpuss," says Fresco, especially when focusing on character issues. "Why have so many political leaders -- and I do not exclude myself -- been failing tests [of proper conduct]?" Dole asked. On top of that, he blamed the government "for the virtual devastation of the family," while Clinton talked of ways to address the deficit.

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