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Latest Evidence on Bush Vulnerability

Two new national polls provide an abundance of evidence that Mr. Will-Automatically-Be-Reelected-Because-of-9/11 just might not be. To begin with, both show Bush’s approval ratings falling–again. The Quinnipiac University poll has him down to 51 percent, from 53 percent in mid-September. And the Gallup poll has him at 53 percent, down from the 55-56 percent ratings in early to mid October (these were the ratings that were responsible for all the talk about the “Bush bounce”–see DR’s October 15 demolition job on that particular meme).

The Q poll also shows Bush leading specific Democratic candidates by margins of only 4-6 points; in mid-September, Bush was leading by margins of 11-15 points.

On the economy, the Q poll has Bush’s job rating at a predictably dismal level: 39 percent approval, with 55 percent disapproval. And at this point, the public is convinced, by 18 points (54 percent to 36 percent) that a new Democratic administration would do a better job on the economy than the current Bush administration.

Furthermore, Bush’s job ratings on foreign policy and handling the situation with Iraq aren’t really all that much better than his rating on the economy: 44 percent approval/48 percent disapproval on foreign policy and 45 percent approval/50 percent disapproval on Iraq. And on handling the situation with Israel and the Palestinians he gets just 37 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval.

Of course, his rating on the war against terror is higher, as we’ve seen in other polls, but the Q-poll does a very interesting thing here, asking separately about the struggle against terrorism abroad and at home. Intriguingly, Bush’s rating on handling the war on terrorism overseas is pretty unimpressive–only 51 percent. But his rating on handling “policies to prevent and minimize terrorism at home” is much better: 63 percent. This suggests that Bush’s credibility as a terrorism-fighter is mostly being sustained by the feeling that he’s doing a good job on the home front–even while the Iraq mess and Middle East problems are diminishing Americans’ sense that he’s doing a good job combating terror abroad. It further suggests that if Democrats can knock down the first part–convince Americans he’s doing a lousy job protecting the homeland as well–Bush will be, as his father might put it, in deep doo-doo.

Bush’s sinking fortunes in the international area are underscored by findings from the Gallup poll. Remarkably, when asked the very simple question: “Do you favor or oppose the war with Iraq”, 43 percent of the public is now are willing to say they oppose the war. That’s up from just 26 percent who were willing to take that stand (with 71 percent supporting the war) in late April after the US took Baghdad. And 50 percent now say they disapprove of the way the US has handled the Iraq situation since the major fighting ended, up from 18 percent in late April.

And check out this out: more people say the Iraq war has had a negative effect on life in the US (33 percent) than say it’s had a positive effect (32 percent). Similarly, more people say the Iraq war has had a negative effect on them personally (25 percent) than say it has had a positive effect (20 percent).And a majority now say they want to withdraw either some (39 percent) or all (18 percent) US troops from the country.

But here’s the grimmest news for the Bushies: People are now split down the middle about whether the war in Iraq has made the US safer (45 percent) or less safe (43 percent) from terrorism. In late April, they thought they were safer, by a 58 percent to 33 percent margin. And the effect of the war, the public now says, has been to make them less confident (40 percent) in Bush’s ability to handle the country’s other big problems, rather than more confident (27 percent).

And foreign policy was supposed to Bush’s strong suit! The best-laid plans of mice, men and Karl Rove.....


This is pretty devastating stuff. Interesting that the poll broke down war on terror into foreign and domestic. Surely his high domestic score reflects mainly the fact that there hasn't been another attack.

Still, Clark at least has been hitting on the domestic side, at least indirectly - calling for $40 billion of his upper bracket tax cut rollback to go to homeland security; port inspections, first-responders, and such.

-- Rick Robinson

The ranking (Dem) member on the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee is Martin Olav Sabo (D-MN) and it might be interesting to get his take on what was eliminated from the Homeland Security Budget. Not that the whole wish list is necessarily necessary -- but what fairly well supported and vetted programs got left on the cutting room floor when they marked up the appropriation?

If memory serves me right one big program eliminated was food security. I believe another was the Public Health labs needed for identification of biological weapon substances. Putting a name to the things not funded, and thus not considered of high priority might be useful in knocking down that high number on the domestic side.

This information is especially damning when taken with the recent Republican recruitment concerns for in-play Seante races (Nevada and Wisconsin, for example). It seems now that, unlike in 2000, potential G.O.P. candidates may want to distance themselves from the White House this time around. Both parties are starting to realize how vulnerable President Bush has become. Both parties are starting to realize this vulnerability is more evident each day.

Building on Nick's comment I would like to see how these numbers break down state by state. We've got to start counting potential electoral votes and Senate pick ups. If we beat Bush, we cannot afford to have a GOP Senate that's not in play at least (i.e., between 0 and +2 GOP) with two or three moderate Republicans. If we do, Congress will just turn into a bunch of deficit hawks like they did with Clinton in an effort to force painful Social Security privatization.

I hate to admit it, but, I'm not so worried about another McGovern as I am another Carter. The poor guy got elected when all of LBJ and Nixon's pigeons came home to roost along with a rise in foreign industrial competition and high oil prices. Don't forget we're just at the beginning of a huge wave of IT jobs moving to India and China. Ruy had better start counting coders among his forgotten-working-class. (Unfortunately, the Democrats are as silent as the Republicans on this one.) Also, the various Demcrat tax-cut rollback proposals don't even begin to address long-term deficits.

What happens to the numbers when the Bush campaign is in full swing against Saddam Hussein? I think they floated the basis for this re-election strategy in a Friday October 31 New York Times story “U.S. Officials See Hussein’s Hand in Attacks on Americans in Iraq” by Douglas Jehl. "Intelligence" says so, you know, so the Times dutifully prints it.

My post on Deep Blade explains this further.

I do not know what the answer is here. But the results in 2002 are well known. How can the Dems avoid the trap?