Despite his low and shrinking standing in the polls, there are at least three1 scenarios in which GW Bush could still win his first Presidential election.
But first, the good news.
It's been obvious for some time that if the election is based on any of the traditional fundamentals, Bush is toast. The big question mark counterbalancing this fact was Bush's apparent financial advantage (not to mention the subsidies that always flow with incumbency), especially if it allowed him to define his opponent. The relative failure of the recent $50+ million Bush ad campaign — leaving the field open for Kerry to use the convention in the traditional way, as his introduction to the American people — suggests that Bush's (diminishing) financial advantage is primarily good for stemming the wounds, holding the base, not for making gains with the independent/undecided.
Importantly, a segment of the press (only part — the big cable networks remain solidly owned by zealots) and a much larger segment of the Establishment have decided that Bush is dangerous to the increasingly Argentinian economy, to the US's hard power (the army is hurting), and now to its soft power (whatever claim it had to moral standing in the community of nations). That is not an atmosphere that leads to the press Gore-ing Kerry, and Kerry's too disciplined and experienced to make a serious error likely.
Indeed, one thing that impresses me about Kerry is his political discipline and toughness. He stayed the course in Iowa, when the pundits and the futures market had written him off. He laid low this last six weeks, raising vast — impressively vast — amounts of money, when the chattering classes were out there pushing him to do or say silly things. He had the self-discipline to lay low, let events take their course, let Bush self-destruct, and not look like he was piling on. Most importantly, his campaign seems to have learned important lessons from the Gore campaign — and not just the dangers of letting your opponents define you: Kerry has been playing nice with reporters on his campaign plane, spending social time with them; this matters too much. Kerry's new plane has an airborne reporters' bar — this can only be good. Most importantly, the campaign is working for the long haul, and worried about peaking too soon, right after the convention. That was one of Gore's mistakes, one that people forget—in part because his decline was so visibly helped by the media echo chamber's repeat of lies and distortions such as “Al Gore said he invented the Internet”..
OK, now the bad news.
Here are three scenarios in which Bush pulls it out.